The Fight Between Carnival and Lent,
Painted by Pieter Breughel the Elder (1525-1569),
Oil on panel,
Executed in 1559,
© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’
Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached Jesus and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’
Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’
Some scribes then spoke up. ‘Well put, Master’ they said – because they would not dare to ask him any more questions.
Reflection on the Painting
A rather difficult reading today, but let us concentrate on the very last sentence. We hear how the scribes actually praised Jesus and were ok with what He just told them. Sometimes when reading the Gospels, or even in our daily lives, we tend to generalise about how we view certain groups of people: ‘all politicians are…’; ‘the scribes are…’; ‘young people nowadays…’ etc… But Luke shows us here by simply having added this phrase to this passage, that reality is more subtle and complex and that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge.
As Luke talks about the Scribes, to me this is prompting all of us lay people and religious people not to waste time and energy in non essential debates that neither help spread God’s Word nor help address real-life issues people face on a day-to-day basis. Internal squabbles whether in a parish, or the larger church, have a real danger of becoming a distraction from our real Christian duties and mission. Luke to me is stating that whilst the Scribes/we are doing important work by discussing small details of scripture, liturgy or Church life, we must never lose the wider picture of love we must hold for the Church and not create needless divisions.
A painting showing such internal divisions in a village, is this wonderful painting by Breughel, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent painted in 1559. It shows two contrasting attitudes to life, with on the left side a pub for enjoyment (lots of beer drinking going on!) and on the right a church, for religious worship (well behaved innocent children in front). In the middle we see the coming together and clashing of both sides. Despite the battles and flights they have, they are still one village, one community… one Church!
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