Fr. Killian’s Marriage Homily
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Given the current debate on marriage in the Congress, as well as requests of parishioners to publish my homily so that Church teaching can be more available, the homily from earlier this month is given below.
Rev. Anthony Killian November 6, 2022
Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
“Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”
Dear brothers and sisters, today’s psalm refrain is a short, yet clear statement of absolute trust in the very purpose of our lives. God made us to be happy forever with him in heaven. God made us to be saints. The old Baltimore Catechism stated it so memorably, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him, in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” Yes, we could say that this Sunday is an echo of the Feast of All Saints which we celebrated last week.
“Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.” We will be happy in the appearance of God’s glory because we are confident that he will share his glory with us. Indeed, God is eager to share his glory with us. He already has, for God made us in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26, 27). And God planted within us a natural desire for happiness. (Cf. CCC 1718) This desire is not so much due to faith as to reason. St. Augustine said, “We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.” (CCC 1718) Yet, the happiness we all seek can only be fulfilled by God himself. As St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “God alone satisfies.” (Ibid.)
As I already said, God will fulfill this longing in heaven. It is up to us to respond to what the Catechism identifies as “our vocation to beatitude.” (CCC, III, art. 2) It is up to us, with the help of God’s grace, to become saints. Let there be no doubt, God gives us his grace. He first gave his grace to all of us when we were baptized. But for some of us, indeed for most of us, God gives additional graces through the sacrament of marriage. This is the sacrament which is highlighted in today’s readings.
The Sadducees try to propose an absurd problem, hoping to illustrate that the requirement of the Law of Moses which they stipulate is inconsistent with belief in the resurrection of the dead. Jesus settles the matter on their very terms because God who gave the Law calls himself “I AM” (which Luke respectfully renders as “Lord”). I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not I was. Therefore, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive. “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”
At the same time, Jesus indirectly refers to the purpose of marriage. Marriage is for “the children of this age.” In this age, God shares his divine life and love (which are the same) with spouses in view of their mission and their destiny. Their destiny is eternal life. Their mission is to help each other get to heaven. This is their life-long task. Once life on earth is over, they no longer have that task, because in heaven human beings become “like angels.” On the Last Day, human persons will share fully in immortality and the everlasting glory of God. The difference, of course, will be that unlike angels, humans will be reunited with their resurrected bodies.
The spouses help each other get to heaven. This is the greatness of Christian marriage: the pursuit of holiness within the institution of the family. This mission entails the complete self-gift of love which man and woman express to one another in the vows, and which is lived concretely every day of their married lives. In this regard, the words which St. Paul expressed to the Thessalonians in today’s second reading have special application. “May our Lord Jesus Christ… encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” Although the Apostle is making this invocation on all of the disciples in the Church in Thessalonica, in the context of our reflection they have particular resonance for married couples as well as those preparing for marriage. It is impossible for spouses to fulfill their vocation to beatitude without the encouragement that comes from God’s grace. This grace is communicated through prayer and, above all, through the sacraments when husbands and wives receive God’s word which strengthens them and guards them from the evil one. Yes, by being devoted members of the Church they open their minds and hearts to the Lord who, St. Paul says, “directs… hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.” Thus, a sacramental life is indispensible for a successful Christian marriage. A sacramental life is indispensible for authentic married love to endure.
Dear brothers and sisters, you and I know that there are evil forces contending against the institution of Christian marriage today. Sadly, it must be said that among many Catholics there is an indifference to the sacrament. Many couples are living together without being married. Others marry outside the Church. Still others divorce and remarry outside the Church. Yet, Catholics who are called to marriage have an obligation to the sacrament. Why? Well, what is a sacrament? It is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. Thus to be indifferent to the sacrament of marriage is to be indifferent to the will of the Son of God; and to act against the sacrament of marriage is to act against the will of God. It is a loud “no”. It is a sin. It is a clear rejection of God’s plan for our happiness. And there are consequences. Persons in these situations cannot be admitted to Holy Communion.
In addition to indifference, there is in the very strong movement, which has gained legal sanction in the law, to redefine marriage for immoral ends. I mean the recognition of so-called same-sex marriage. In order to put this issue in its proper perspective, we state first of all that the Church recognizes all persons, including those with same sex attraction, as fellow human beings sharing in the same dignity. Church teaching is clear: men and women with a same sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (CCC 2358). Nevertheless, “although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” In other words, it is not a sin to be attracted to persons of the same sex. It is a sin to act on that attraction, and that inclination is very powerful. This is precisely what those who have lobbied for legal recognition of so-called same-sex marriage reject. They reject homosexual acts as evil in themselves. Such acts cannot engender the creation of human life. They inherently frustrate God’s design for human sexuality, which has as its end the procreation and education of children. And although for thousands of years, human civilization has recognized marriage for what it is – the union of a man and a woman – and, as such, is the foundation of human society, a very vocal and influential segment of our society has demanded that the definition be changed. Why? Because they want society’s approval for a lifestyle that is inimical to God’s plan. They want society to say, they want the Church to say, that their lifestyle is OK. To stand against this is to risk being called a “hater” and a bigot. To stand for the truth of what marriage really is risks active persecution.
This brings us to the first reading. It is no myth or fairy tale. It describes the reality of Jewish life under Greco-Syrian rule for twenty years in the second century B.C. During this time, King Antiochus IV – in order to enforce a common culture, language, and religion in Judea – prohibited all non-Greek cults and practices under pain of death. Worship of Israel’s God was forbidden. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, those who resisted were “whipped with rods, and their bodies torn to pieces, and were crucified while they still lived and breathed.” Today’s reading highlight’s the heroism of one family who was willing to accept torture and death because of their unshakeable faith in the love of God. As one of the brothers testified, “The King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying.”
Dear friends this is the certitude that faith in God brings. Such unshakeable faith must animate your life and my life. Thus, we come back to where we started. “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.” This expectation, the hope of our lives, must animate all Christian marriages and Christian families. For the sake of our culture and of the Church, may all our parish families be renewed in their identity as the domestic church. Let all family members stay united to God in prayer and sacrament. In this way, the Lord will encourage and strengthen our hearts for every good deed and word, and the love of Christ will grow within us. It is that, and that alone, which will enable us to withstand any opposition to the truth of our faith, to our identity as children of God, even should it include persecution. As St. Paul wrote elsewhere, Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:7-8) May God grant us the grace to remain faithful to him forever.
 CDF, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, no. 3. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html
 Jean-Pierre Isbouts, The Biblical World: an Illustrated Atlas (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2007): 251.