The Supreme Court of the United States is hearing oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry today in what promises to be a historic case no matter the outcome. Meanwhile, supporters of marriage are marching on D.C. and Catholics across the nation are praying for religious freedom. A few weeks ago, we heard the story of the woman brought before Jesus for the crime of adultery. In it we have a reminder that what is at stake today is not only religious freedom for people of faith, but also the only sacrament to predate the time of Christ.
Whereas all of the other sacraments were instituted by Jesus during his ministry on earth, marriage was instituted at the beginning of the world and cannot be altered by any human law, and indeed is common to all civilizations. From a purely biological standpoint, this truth is so obvious as to be almost trivial. Procreation requires the union of man and woman. Even at the lowest level, every cell in the human body carries a special kind of DNA which can only be inherited from the mother. God’s handiwork is clear.Balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet by Frank Bernard Dicksee, 1884.
It doesn’t stop there. The clamor for recognition of same-sex couples is only further evidence of just how important marriage is. Just as Adam yearned for a companion in the garden of Eden, people with homosexual desires still feel this yearning for companionship. Just as Eve was created as the complement to Adam, we all desire the completeness of another person with whom we can share everything. Even in the brokenness of sin, we are made in the likeness of God, and thus we all desire to love unconditionally.
However, marriage and procreation are inseparably linked. It is not enough that we love another person. In order for the sacrament of marriage to be valid, a man and a woman can not just consent to love one another forever unconditionally and to be faithful to one another. If that’s all there was to it, the debate about gay marriage would be over. The essential third component to marriage which even transcends our human mortality itself is the openness to life, which is to say, the intention to procreate if at all possible.
This openness to life elevates marriage to the divine, because in the act of procreation, we share more than just intimacy and companionship, but indeed we become co-authors with God of the very universe itself. Just as Jesus commands us as Christians to protect the unborn, the weak, the infirm, the elderly, and the outcasts of society, this respect for life also compels us to defend the means by which life comes into existence. As Jesus tells Peter when he falls asleep in the garden at Gesthemane, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” In our depraved culture, it is easy to forget that procreation is a spiritual act as much as a physical one.
Through a respect for life and marriage, we have the power to stamp out the darkness of the Father of Lies. The 80’s pop ballad, “Love is a Battlefield” was only half right. We, the poor banished children of Eve, should open ourselves to life. We should not be fighting the battle of the sexes—which can never be won, but rather should commit ourselves to the never-ending battle against Satan and destruction in which our victory is ensured only through the Passion and Resurrection of Christ that we celebrate this week.