There’s a joke about this young couple who were on their way to their wedding, and on the way to the wedding, they both got in a car accident and died. A funny joke so far, isn’t it? They ended up in heaven, and they walked up to the Pearly Gates and they find Saint Peter. They come up to him, and they look at each other, and they say, “I can’t believe you made it.” And she says, “I can’t believe you made it.” They look at Saint Peter, and they say, “Well if it’s possible, we’d still like to get married.” Saint Peter looks at them and says, “Well, there’s no marriage in heaven but let me see if I can find a priest to do it.”
So, Saint Peter leaves, and he’s gone for a long time. Hours passed, and days passed, and finally, after three days, he came back. He says, “You’re not going to believe it; I found a priest.” In the meantime, they’ve been talking, and they said to each other, “Marriage on Earth is one thing; it’s until death does us part. But marriage in heaven is forever. Do you think we really want to be married forever?” They looked at Saint Peter, and Saint Peter was all excited because he’s got this new priest with him and he looked at them, and they said, “Well, we want to get married, but we want to find out if you can also get a divorce in heaven.” Saint Peter says to them, “It took me days to find a good priest. How many days do you think it’s going to take to find a good lawyer up here?”
How do we deal with the reality that there will be no marriage in heaven? I don’t know about you, but that strikes me to be kind of sad, especially if you love the one that you’re with. If you don’t, you’re going to be relieved, but if you love the one you’re with, you kind of hope that it will go on for all eternity. Marriage is a sacrament, as is the priesthood.
It’s interesting because these two sacraments come up in the reading today. The Sadducees are coming up to Jesus, and they don’t believe in the resurrection. In this debate that they’re having with Jesus, they don’t really want to know what Jesus has to say. They’re just trying to tell Him, “Hey, it’s not possible to have a resurrection.”
So, they tell the story about this poor woman who has husband after husband, who dies, and then when they’re all together in heaven, how is this going to work out? Is she married to all of them? How’s that going to work out? He’s trying to trip Jesus up with some foolish thing. Jesus says to him this very interesting phrase: the children of this age marry and remarry, but to those who are deemed worthy to attain the coming age and the resurrection of the dead neither marry or are given in marriage.
We hear those two things. We hear about marriage, but then we also hear about somebody who does not marry or is not given into marriage. So, we hear about marriage and celibacy.
It’s interesting because both of these things are very much attacked in our society today. We all know that there’s a great attack on marriage going on in our society, and there’s also a great attack on celibacy going on.
You may not know this about a priest, but people like to tell us what is on their minds all the time. One of the things that drive me nuts is that people will come up to me and say to me, “Don’t you think there should be married priests in the church?” I just look at them, and I think, why not just say thank you for your gift of celibacy? It’s like a dagger. It would be like going up to a married couple and saying to them, “Don’t you think that you should be able to be with whoever want? Why do you just pick one person.”
Marriage is difficult, right? It is a sacrifice. I look at celibacy too. It’d be nice if somebody said, “Thank you,” as opposed to, “Why aren’t there married priests?” It’s a sacrifice.
But Jesus says that those that are neither married nor are given in marriage can no longer die. They’re like the angels, and they’re like children of God because they are the ones who will rise.
Celibacy is supposed to be a sign of the Kingdom to come. That is the Kingdom of God we will be so united with Him.
I know that I’ve told you about my spiritual director for my annual retreat, Monsignor Esseff. He’s the 95-year-old priest from Scranton. Padre Pio was his director. He’s the Exorcist. He can read souls. The first time I met with him, and he was reading my soul, he looked at me and said to me, “You could never be married.” I looked at him and said, “Thank you.” Then he goes, “Your love for God is way too strong that one woman couldn’t handle it.” He looked at me and what he was trying to say is that the gift of celibacy and our love is so strong between God that it’s an image of what will come.
Going back to marriage and celibacy in the Kingdom of God to heaven, marriage between the two of you who come together as husband and wife become one body so that you are no longer two but one flesh. It’s the reading we often hear at weddings from Ephesians, where He says, this is a great mystery of which I speak of. It’s a mystery of Christ’s marriage to the church. So, Jesus is married to us as the church, and in heaven, that’s going to be our mystical marriage. We’re going to be married. We’re going to be totally united with Christ. There will be no separation.
Sometimes we might think, “What about marriage? What about the ones I love? What about my children?” If there’s anything you think of heaven and it seems bad to you, that’s not heaven because heaven is a fulfillment of all of our desires.
So, we will be with the ones that we love, but we will love them and God in the purest way that we can, and Christ will love us back. There will be no more sin. There will be no more pain. There will be no more hurt. There will be no more separation.
I want you to think especially of the ones that you have lost as we remember here the Book of the Dead in our prayers in November. One day we will join them again in heaven, and this love will be so pure and so good that there will be nothing between the love of Christ and His church. He will fulfill us in such a way that we will stand in awe of the Glory of God. That goes beyond even the sacrament of marriage and even the sacrament of priesthood. All the sacraments only point to that love that He wants to make a reality right here in our lives.