The Sanctity of Marriage
November 19th Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.
Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them,
“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and 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 ‘Lord’
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.”
Some of the scribes said in reply,
“Teacher, you have answered well.”
And they no longer dared to ask him anything.
Tomorrow is the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Church’s liturgical year. As the weeks have drawn closer to this Solemnity, the Church has given us readings that are increasingly apocalyptic, with Christ foretelling the signs and events of the end times. However, today’s Gospel seems anticlimactic; while it does refer to the Resurrection of the Dead, it primarily focuses on marriage.
We see marriage and family so often attacked in our world today. Sister Lucia, one of the three visionaries at Fatima, said, “[A] time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family.” The Fathers of the Church saw in today’s Gospel a beautiful defense of the sanctity of the Sacrament of Matrimony, which is fitting as we prepare for Christ’s Second Coming.
“The children of this age marry and remarry.” St. Cyril of Alexandria, who died in 444 A.D., wrote that this refers to those “who lead worldly carnal lives, full of fleshly lust” (Sermon CXXXVI). Jesus then said that “those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” St. Cyril says that this refers to “those who have maintained an honourable and elect life, full of all excellence.”
God did not create the Sacrament of Marriage for lust, but rather for the salvation of the couple’s souls and to raise children to be saints, as the Baltimore Catechism says. Christ is warning against lust and reminding all those who enter into the Sacrament of Marriage of the great importance of practicing virtue in their vocation. There is no marriage in Heaven, for spouses in the Communion of Saints live in an even closer relationship with each other than that of marriage.
This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to extensively research the life and writings of St. Therese of Lisieux, as well as those of her parents, Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, the first married couple to be canonized together. They serve as a witness to the true purpose of marriage; they themselves are saints, and their youngest daughter is a Doctor of the Church. Their four children who died as infants or young children all received the Sacrament of Baptism before their deaths, and their remaining daughters all lived holy lives, with one having been declared a Servant of God. The Martin family was truly a family of saints, and this all stems from the virtue and strong faith of Louis and Zelie. They were not like the lustful “children of this age” whom Christ condemns, but rather lived for Heaven.
May today’s Gospel serve as a reminder for us all that this world is merely our ship and not our home, and lead us to cultivate virtue in our lives, that we may one day be deemed worthy to rise again with Christ.