Luke 20:27, 34-38
God's Definition of Marriage
by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

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 out '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."

This week's Gospel reading begins with Jesus being approached by the Sadducees.  Theirs was a philosophical school of Judaism that rejected oral traditions and interpretations of the law favored by the Pharisees, and accepted only the authority of the written Scriptures, in particular the Torah, the five Books of Moses.  In fact, they are using the Mosaic Law - the law of "levirate" ("brother in law") marriage - as a basis for rejecting belief in the resurrection of the dead.  Our Lord responds by saying that they understand neither the resurrection nor the nature of marriage.

With regard to the resurrection, Jesus cites the Book of Exodus, where God identifies Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.  These men lived centuries before Moses, and yet God remains their God.  Our Lord concludes by saying, "He is not a God of dead people but of living people, because for him all are alive" (Lk 20:38).  In other words, the great patriarchs may have passed from the earthly scene, but God has the power to raise them up to new life.

Regarding marriage, Jesus tells them, "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" (Lk 20:34-35).  If we think for a moment about the two ends of marriage, we can begin to understand Jesus' answer.

By "ends of marriage" I mean the purposes for which God instituted marriage.  The first of those ends is the sanctification of the spouses.  In marriage, husbands and wives are meant to walk with each other on the way to the kingdom of heaven.  Marriage is intended by God for the sharing of life and love.  As the Anglican rite of marriage states it so simply and beautifully, "The union of husband and wife in heart, body and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity."  The second end of marriage is, of course, openness to having a family and forming children in the Catholic faith.

Heaven is ultimately about seeing God, what we call the beatific vision.  As John states it in one of his letters, "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is."  But, the beatific vision is more that simply "seeing" God.  We possess Him and He possesses us.

The beatific vision is about a complete and total union with God.  The first end of marriage, the sanctification of spouses, is no longer necessary because we shall see God.  The second end of marriage, the need to be fruitful and multiply, is no longer necessary because in that kingdom there will be no more death.  Hence, in the resurrection, there is no marrying or being given in marriage, for God will be all in all.

That does not mean we will not see each other again in heaven.  In heaven we will enjoy the companionship of Mary and the saints, including our family members and friends who preceded us into that kingdom.  Husbands and wives who have faithfully loved and served one another will be united with each other once again, though it will be a more perfect communion of life and love.  Through God's love and mercy, we will be a part of that vast crowd that John saw standing before the throne of God and the Lamb in the Book of Revelation.

Thus Our Lord teaches the Sadducees - and us - a profound lesson about the resurrection and marriage.  He knows about heaven because He came from there to lead us there.  He alone opened the gates of heaven to us through His death and resurrection.  Through the cross, He even teaches us the way by which we can follow Him into the heavenly kingdom.  Christ was obedient, even unto death.  Our Lord said His greatest joy and His purpose was to do the will of His Father.  If we wish to follow Him we must take up the cross, too.  In marriage, a husband and wife put into practice a sacrificial, self-giving love that last into eternal life.

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