November 6 – Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Gospel Jesus tells us that in heaven we “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” That’s very surprising given how much emphasis Jesus places on the indissolubility of marriage, but it also reminds us of what marriage is all about.

For one thing, in heaven we “can no longer die” but are “like angels” (we don’t become angels). Now, angels don’t have babies (they’re each their own species and don’t die). Yet, humans would cease to exist if we stopped having children (because we do die). Thus we can see the nod to the fact that marriage is built around the unique capacity of a man and a woman to procreate. Nothing better explains the need for marital fidelity, longevity, exclusivity, and totality than the good of children. Nothing better explains why a government should regulate marriages and incentivize healthy marriages than children (the future citizens!). Plus, as we know, psychology and sociology unequivocally support the value of healthy traditional marriages for both children and couples. So (nuances like infertility and NFP aside), we can see that it’s self-contradictory to take procreation out of the definition of marriage. That being said, marriage offers much more than cute little look-a-like humans who push us to our limits. In fact, it takes us to the depths of love.

Couples promise a love that is full, faithful, fruitful, and freely given “until death do us part.” This doesn’t mean that marriage won’t have repercussions in heaven, quite the contrary! Marriage prepares us for heaven, and heaven fulfills marriage. That’s why marriage is God’s favorite analogy for His relationship with us and why Jesus elevated marriage to a sacrament. Like baptism, marriage is meant to be the place where we selflessly die with Christ so that we might rise with Him. Like confession, marriage is meant to be the place where the worst parts of us will surface, but are greeted with healing love and mercy. And like Communion, marriage is meant to be the place where two individuals—hearts, minds, bodies, and souls—mystically become “one flesh.”

As Peter Kreeft simply put it, while “civil marriage is made by man, sacramental marriage is made by God.” May all married couples look to heaven, face their brokenness together in Christ, and thereby reach the depths of love which is fulfilled in heaven. If you’d like to have your marriage blessed in the Church, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Father James