Fairy tales always end with the prince saving the princess and the two living happily ever after. It is the same in movies: in a happy ending, the guy gets the girl or the girl gets the guy. Our culture associates happiness with romantic love. This is what most young people hope for in their life – finding that special person and spending their entire life together.
The problem is, there are many who never find that special someone – is their life necessarily sad and unfortunate? There those who were married and are now widowed or separated from their spouses – does their happiness depend on marrying again? If the Catholic Church does not permit same sex marriage – does it mean that gays and lesbians can never ever find happiness?
It is true that all of us need to love and feel loved – but it is important that we understand that there are many more ways to experience love than only romance and marriage.
In the Gospel, Jesus gets drawn into a debate. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection after death – and to prove their point, they create a hypothetical situation of a woman married seven times – if they rise again, she will have seven husbands – an absurd situation.
Jesus responds by teaching that marriage will no longer exist in the resurrection. This would have been quite shocking to his Jewish companions who highly valued family life. Jesus teaches that “happily ever after” is something else. Jesus teaches that in the resurrection we will be sons and daughters of God.
We indeed are sons and daughters of God. This is what defines heaven – our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is what gives us happiness ever after. It is also what defines and gives meaning to our other relationships. Regardless of our marital status on earth – as sons and daughters of God we are part of a family – God’s family, the Church: where we can give and receive love.
Marriage, if lived properly, can help us to grow as children of God – to become more generous, patient and merciful – like our Father in heaven. By receiving children from God and raising them in the faith, God’s family grows. Thus, marriage can be a path to happiness, a path to heaven. Yet if marriage is lived wrongly – it can become an obstacle to my happiness. If I put my spouse or my children in the place of God – expecting to find my happiness and fulfillment in them and not from God – I am creating an idol and am bound to be disappointed and discouraged. No human being can truly satisfy the human heart – only God can.
We all need to love and be loved, yet there are so many ways in which we can give and receive love without having a romantic partner. We all need good friendships – someone to lending a hand or an ear, accompanying one another in life. There are the may relationships of family life – siblings, parents, cousins, extended family. How often are single persons the fun uncle who spoils his nieces or the trustworthy sibling who everyone trusts to share their problems with. Generally, single persons have more free time or flexibility to make themselves available to be of service to others in the community or their family. They can dedicate themselves more fully to their professional work, to study or prayer – sharing the riches of their reflection with others. Single persons – whether they are gay or straight, whether they were divorced or widowed, whether they never ever marry or marry latter in life – all are sons and daughters of God. All have a place in God’s family.
It is true that single people may face times of loneliness. They may wonder what is their vocation in life, their place in society, their place in the Church. They may feel their contributions are not appreciated or reciprocated. As a Church and as families, it is important that we appreciate to contributions of singles persons and encourage them in their efforts to follow Jesus.
One of the things that impressed me when I started working with the immigrant community in our parish is a real sense of family – many have left their extended families behind and thus the parish now becomes their family. After Mass, you really feel a sense of community because they don’t leave right away, but stay behind to converse. Many of them participate in small communities – groups who get together to read the scripture together, pray together and support one another. We say that the Church is a family – but I am sure not everyone experiences it that way – it is important that we create opportunities for friendship and community. I hope that our parish can be a place where all experience what it means to be a child of God, where all feel loved and have an opportunity to love others.
Happily every after is knowing that we are God’s children. We are loved by him and invited to share that love with others. Let us each work together to make our parish and community a place where all feel loved and have a chance to share that love with others.