They are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out ‘THE NAME,’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Gospel for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Hebrew has what they call the construct case. “Elohim Chaim” can translate as both, “Living God,” and “God of Life.” God is not the God of death, war, famine, disease, and destruction, but of life. He made us in his image. We are to be gods, little g, of life, living examples of who made us. He calls us to life, and to promote life in all of creation. That is why Jesus invokes the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
The God of Abraham. That is the God of E Pluribus Unum, from the many one. God loves our diversity and calls us to keep our various manifestations of ethnic heritage. If we do not become autonomous selves, different from everybody else, we are not fully human. God calls us to be majorities of the whole, and minorities of one.
We read that God is the God of Isaac. לִזעוֹק Isaac, means to cry. לִצְחוֹק, Isaac means to laugh. The two words spell slightly different, but pronounce the same. Life is all about both laughing and crying. This only comes from fully living life.
“Jacob” means “the heel.” We need to understand that we are not the first. One tradition states that God created man on the sixth day to teach us that he thought of the gnats and the flies before he thought of us. We come last. מָה-אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי-תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ וּבֶן-אָדָם כִּי תִפְקְדֶנּוּ “What is man that you remember him, the son of man that you think of him.” וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְּעַט מֵאֱלֹהִים “You have made him as a little less than the messengers.” We remember that we came last in God’s creation. We are humble, yet we somehow, in spite of ourselves, not because of ourselves supplant. That is how we are like Jacob.
The disciples approached Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child/peidos over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children/peidos, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Matthew 18:1-5
We all have heard of pediatrics. This is the field of medicine that deals with children. It comes from the Greek root that also means being a servant. We do not cease being peidos/children when we complete grade school, and the physical changes that come with it. “They are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.” We do not cease being peidos when we turn 18 or 21. We are peidos all of our lives. Where did we get the crazy idea that when we turn 12, or 18, or 21 boys become better than girls, or vice versa? We are all God’s children. Where did we get the crazy idea that if people have more, or less, melanin in their skin, they are more or less human, or adult? We are all God’s children. Where did we get the crazy idea that if we have more money than the other guy, we are more human, so are entitled to more? Do we not know that is the peidos, the children, who rise, and not the adults who rise. If we are not like children, seeing each other as equals in the great game of life, we are not going to heaven.
God set mankind into the garden to guard it and keep it as it says in Genesis 2:15. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 tells us to love God with all of our hearts, animate being, and measure. How do we love God? What do we give someone who literally already owns everything? We guard and keep, treasure what is his. We respect his property, in particular what is made in his image, including ourselves and each other.
Deuteronomy 30 goes on to tell us that the law is not far from us. It is within us. It then commands us to choose life. God is the God of Life and he is the living God. Life is all about finding the potential in all people, from conception to the grave. It is then helping that person to be all they can be. That is what being people of life is all about. We speak of our Catholic tradition of promoting the General Welfare, of the Natural Law, The Law of Nature. This idea ultimately comes from Deuteronomy 30. It goes through Aristotle, then through Cicero with his “Republic,” and then finds its place in Augustine’s City of God. From there it finds its way into our parish’s patron, St. Thomas Aquinas.
The great thinkers of later centuries, including John Locke/Second Treaty on Government, Montesquieu/The Spirit of the Laws, David Hume/Leviathan, all assume this Catholic tradition of Natural Law. Deuteronomy then points to Divine Law as the place from which it comes. It all comes down to promoting life, where life means life lived to its fullest for all people. It imbeds itself in Catholic tradition, in Greek tradition, and finally in our Declaration of Independence where we state all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights. It finds itself in our Constitution in the Preamble, and in Article 2 Section 8. “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare.”
As we meditate on who we are as Catholics and as Americans, preparing to vote in this election, let us remember the ultimate commandment. It is guarding and keeping the garden. It is loving God by loving what is his, in particular each other. It is being servants of Abraham, seeing ourselves in our diversity. It is being sons of Isaac, living life, with all of its pleasures and pains. It is remembering that we are the heel, created last, but being first in the eyes of God. It is remembering that we are all children, servants, doing what our parents told us to do when we were small, “Play nice.”