|2 Maccbees 7:1-2, 9-14
2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
|November 9-10, 2013, Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C|
My wife Betsy and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary this past July, so this may sound strange but I am convinced that marriage is not for me! Moreover, I hope by the end of this homily to convince you that today's Gospel makes it pretty clear that marriage is not for you either, whether you are married currently or not!
Today's Gospel and, of course, the 1st reading from 2nd Maccabees are most obviously about resurrection and life after death. I used to find it hard to remember whether it is the Sadducees or the Pharisees who don't believe in resurrection and life after death. While researching the readings, I read one commentator who said he had a friend who said they were called Sad-You-Sees because they didn't believe in resurrection. So I will never have trouble remembering that again. The Sadducees were the more conservative of the Jewish parties; as today, they tended to be the ones who had money and property and political control. They were scriptural fundamentalists: if something was not in the written Torah then they did not believe in it. They didn't believe in angels either so Jesus' response that those who God considers worth are like angels was pretty stinging. The next verse after this passage in Luke reports some of the scribes (who were most likely Pharisees) cheering Jesus' verbal victory over their rival party by say, "Teacher you have answered well!" So how did I get from resurrection and life in heaven to the realization that marriage is not for me?
It started with the fact that this scripture passage is one of the main four passages that Blessed Pope John Paul II used to build his wonderful Theology of the Body. The Theology of the Body is a reflection on what is revealed to us because we are made male and female in the image of God, and how living out that maleness and femaleness in marriage or in celibacy is one of the most important parts of God's plan for completing creation. Then I read a blog entry on Huffington Post's site this past Sunday by Seth Adam Smith. Seth shared some advice his father gave him when Seth expressed his concerns about marrying Kim, now his wife, after 10 years of friendship and dating. Seth expressed his concerns as questions like: Is Kim the right one for me? Will she make me happy?
His father's response was, basically,"You're going about this the wrong way. Marriage isn't for you. You don't marry someone who is going to make you happy. You marry someone you want to make happy. You are not marrying for you but for a family. Not just your in-laws and all that but for your children. Who do you want to help raise your children? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn't for you; it is for the person you are marrying!"
Of course, Jesus takes that idea to an even higher level. No loving relationship is about you; it is about the one you love, the one who loves you. True love never focuses on what do I get from this love but it always asks, what can I give? Blessed Pope John Paul II's reflections on these words make it even clearer, and more important. Marriage is given to human beings as a principle instrument in God's plan for salvation. Marriage, and conjugal love, at the most obvious level is participating in God's ongoing creation of human beings. But it is a sacrament, that is a sign that make real what it signifies, of God's self giving love. Those who enter into that loving relationship by fully giving of themselves, receive the grace they need to raise a family, or sometimes the solace to bear childlessness.
So marriage is not for you. And neither are any of the other sacraments. Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Orders, even Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation. They are all for everyone else, and in the most fundamental sense for all creation. Just as God has given God's own self, in Christ, to creation by emptying himself of all glory to become human and suffer and die, that he might rise again as the first fruits of resurrection, we are called to imitate this God, to become the image of God we were created to be by loving one another.
Take Baptism and Confirmation. Through these sacraments of initiation we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, the very same body Jesus promised "is given up for us". So by Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation we become part of this body that lives out the self emptying love of God incarnate. Eucharist is the same. We are formed more fully into that body that is given up, that blood that is poured out to be sent out from Mass to continue God's saving work in the world.
The paradox of course is that if we enter into marriage, or baptism, or communion or any loving relationship knowing that it is not for us, we will be blessed with a taste of heaven right here and now.
May we all be so blessed.