Wednesday June 6, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Tobit 3:1-11a,16-17a) Gospel (St.Mark 12:18-27)
The Sadducees come to Jesus with this question about the woman who married seven men. She had a child with none of them; consequently, the question is "Whose wife will she be?" The point is (it is very interesting) that they would be claiming that she would still be considered the wife of seven husbands. In other words, if the question is "Whose wife is she going to be at the resurrection?" then what they have to be saying is "She is still married to all of them." So, when they all come back to life, whom is she married to? How can one woman be the wife of seven husbands, all at the same time?
The Lord makes very clear to them that this is not the case. In fact, we see that there is a young woman in the first reading, Sarah, who had seven husbands. All of them died before they even made it to the marriage bed. We are told it is because of this demon, Asmodeus, who killed them because of a curse that had been put upon Sarah. The same question remains: Whose wife is she? As we will see tomorrow, the archangel Raphael shows Tobias how to break that curse and he is able to marry Sarah.
But today, the question we have to look at is "Why is she nobody's wife?" When they rise from the dead and they are all alive, why are they not married? The reason has to do with the nature of what Heaven is. Heaven has to do with the union of each and every one of us with Jesus Christ and with one another. Marriage is a preparation for that, but it is not the fullness. In this life, marriage stands (for those who are celibate) as a sign of what we are called to in Heaven, of the intimacy and the union that we are called to with Christ. Those who are celibate stand as a sign, to those who are married, that as beautiful as married life is, as beautiful as family life is, as intimate as that life of marriage is, we are called to something even more. The two, then, stand in a healthy tension with one another. But the purpose of why they are not married in Heaven is because they will be even closer and more intimately united than they are in this life.
Now, just like when we receive Our Lord in the Eucharist and we say, "That is just the foreshadowing and the foretaste," we cannot even imagine what it could possibly be like in Heaven if to receive Almighty God is only the foretaste. Well, imagine (those of you who are married) the intimacy in Heaven. I am not talking about the physical element of marriage, I am talking about the union of souls, the union of persons. We cannot even begin to imagine the intimacy that we are called to in Heaven if it is closer than what a married couple has. The two become one in marriage. How is it possible that we are called to something even more intimate, exceedingly more intimate? A married couple prepares themselves in this life, helping one another, developing that intimacy, that love, and that union, so that they will be prepared for an even more perfect, greater, more profound intimacy when they get to Heaven. The union of this life has to end, but it ends at death so they can be prepared for something that is way beyond what that married couple has, even in this life. Just as in this life, they are a sign of what we are called to in Heaven, of the intimacy the Lord has prepared for those who love Him.
At the same time, once that preparation is complete and the Lord calls one of the spouses home, that union ends because we are called to something even more. That is the point the Lord is getting at: "They are neither married nor given in marriage." That does not mean you will not know in Heaven who your spouse was, you will. You will know your spouse, you will know your children, and you will be even more intimately united with them. But not only with that one individual, as you are here on earth, but with every single member of the Mystical Body of Christ and with the Holy Trinity. That is what we are called to.
It is something that, especially for married couples, you can take to prayer and ponder deeply. Think about the union that is yours now and think about something that is way beyond. It is not even comprehensible to our imagination. Imagine taking that from one person to God Himself and to every other person united with Him and having that be a perfect union. No struggle, no squabbles, no difficulties, but a perfect union of love for the rest of eternity. It is not a sad thing for a married couple that they will not be married in Heaven, but rather the joy that a couple knows in this life in their union together is going to be infinitely expanded when they get to Heaven. It is something to look forward to, not something to be saddened by. But, for all of us, we can look forward to that union in Heaven where we will not be married or given in marriage to one another because each one of us will be the bride of the Lamb and all of us will be united with Jesus, and with those united with Him, in a perfect bond of intimacy and love for all eternity.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.