Pass the Ambrosia, Blessed Mother
"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."
In the past, two men have spoken to me about this gospel reading, both of them on different sides of the marriage spectrum. The first one, grieving the recent loss of his wife to cancer, railed at the idea that she would not be his wife in heaven. He limited Christ’s words to something chilling—as if all that transpires in this life is somehow destroyed by heaven.
The second man, who is still married to the same woman for many years, decided to explain to me what this gospel means for him, to wit: that once in heaven, we shall see God, and all the things that happened down here will not matter one little bit—we will be so taken with God that we will barely notice anyone else, or know who they were in our life on earth.
Both of these men, good souls too, could not have been more wrong. And, different though their concerns may appear, both of them are wrong for the same reason: because they did not take into account how much God loves us, and how important he regards all of our deeds done here while we live in this valley of tears.
Marriage is ordered to the begetting of children and the union of the spouses, who are supposed to be helpmates in each other’s conversion and progress towards God. So why would it not exist in heaven? First, because both spouses will be united in God and possess God, so that end of marriage will have been achieved. Second, because in heaven we are immortal and will never suffer pain or death, so that end of marriage is fulfilled too—no need to beget children. Our friend would have done better to look at heaven as the fulfillment of something rather than a cold denying of it.
More troubling, perhaps, is what our second friend said—that somehow being in heaven would make everything and everyone else just so much “offscouring,” to use a Pauline term, “just so much rubbish”: “Oh, yes... I believe I used to know *her* once. Now what was her name? You know I have no time for such little people now that I am here with the Trinity… Blessed Mother, could you please pass the ambrosia…?”
This denigration or putting down of our earthly existence as opposed to our heavenly is wrongheaded in so many ways, and I will only name a few here. (Before I start, you may ask if I corrected this gentleman, and I confess to a sin of omission. He wasn’t asking my opinion or advice, but telling me what was what. And, bless his heart, he can talk up a storm, and I didn’t have forty-five minutes to try and get a few words in edgewise.)
If we think of the final judgment scene, which is presented in the Gospel of Matthew, we see the Lord blessing or damning souls based on the concrete little actions they took in this world before death. The point that each of our thoughts, words, and actions is very precious to God, and that he cares a great deal about our good deeds, could not be seen more clearly.
There is a tendency among some of those of a more spiritual bent to “supernaturalize” everything. What I mean when I say “supernaturalize” is a specific thing: to denigrate everything here on earth as trivial and of little import. This is not a correct attitude. The great Dominican Thomist Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange taught that it is *sublime* to unite the highest and the lowest things into a cohesive whole. Thus, all things that are true and beautiful in the physical, intellectual, and artistic realms are precious. Even the merest blade of grass would not exist without God’s willing it, and he is able to unite it all.
In this light, it would make sense to think that, while the beatific vision—direct sight of God—is primarily what constitutes heaven, there will be additional joys there, and all of them will be experienced in God. Not a small part of this will be the reuniting of all our loved ones: husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, children, and friends. Every tear will be wiped away, personally, by God. And every friendship and relationship we had here below will be strengthened, not weakened, and this eternally. This is a good thing to think about as we proceed to vote in these next few days, if we have not already done so. Each act we do, each choice we make is something that matters a lot, because these things decide our final destination: heaven or hell. And each good deed we do, each person we help, or bear with, or love, will be eternally grateful, and that for eternity.
November is the month where we pray for the faithful departed, a fantastic thing to do, and I can only suggest you intensify your prayers, sacrifices, and works to get the souls in purgatory speedy deliverance. But may I also suggest that we pray fervently for the Unfaithful Undeparted—people who seem to be lost, and in need of our prayers. Perhaps your Hail Mary for a troubled or even evil person may be the only prayer they ever get—and maybe that prayer will save their souls for all eternity—something to think about.