33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that even something as beautiful as matrimony is only a means to an end, and if lived well, a happy end. The Sadducees denied the Resurrection, and by seeing marriage as an end, not a means, they couldn’t understood how the Resurrection would work, in part because they didn’t understand what the Resurrection would be, since their outlook was so worldly. The Sadducees are the distant result of the attempt by King Antiochus Epiphanes to Hellenize Jewish culture, which, as today’s First Reading reminds us (along with other readings this week) ended badly for him, but not without leaving its mark. The Sadducees see marriage according to reason and civil order: it results in an obligation to continue the family line by some member of the family marrying the widow and providing her with children who’ll care for her in the future and also continue the family line. To some degree the question degrades into being one of property law: after the Resurrection, who does she belong to and who has obligations toward her?

It’s no coincidence that when marriage vows are made today the clause is included “until death do us part”: in eternity marriage will have already served its purpose, which is the fostering of unconditional and exclusive love between a man and a woman that is often blessed by children who are loved and learn to love as well. All this is a means to enjoying an unconditional love for God and for others that will blossom in eternity. Even physical marital intimacy is a means toward that end, but, as we know, that physical intimacy has the danger of being debased, exploited, and even “weaponized”; if it stops being something good for the spouses and closed by the spouses to bringing children into the world, it becomes the means to an unhappy end. Marriage when lived well are a foreshadowing and a path to the happy and loving life to come in eternity.

Let’s pray today that all marriages be lived well and become homes and schools of unconditional love that help us love God unconditionally too. Let’s also pray for all marriages and families in difficulty.

Readings: 1 Maccabees 6:1–13; Psalm 9:2–4, 6, 16, 19; Luke 20:27–40. See also 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.