In a gentler age, we would not have news reports covering an internal family squabble between the daughters of former Vice President Cheney, but such are the times that even the definition of what a family is has become politicized. In the airing of her family grievances, Mary Cheney uses all the clichés that are now standard for supporters of same-sex marriage. The most galling is the claim that advocates for redefining marriage are on the “right side of history.”The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Albrect Dürer, 1498
Meanwhile, in yesterday’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us to beware of such prophecies. The only “right side of history” is the end of time when he will come again to judge us all, and Jesus gives us clear instructions for the day of his return. He says we will be persecuted and even put to death for upholding his teachings. Like the Cheney sisters, Jesus says that siblings will turn against one another, but that we must persevere. If we really want to be on the right side of history, we must cling to God’s commandments and trust in his providence.
Advocates of same-sex marriage not only reject God’s commandments but claim to have the ability to predict the future. It is one thing to substitute one’s personal desires for the will of God. This is the nature of sin–and we are all sinners. It is quite another to claim Godly powers. We are surrounded by advanced technology which allows us to comprehend deep insights into the hidden workings of the universe, but the weatherman still lucky to be right even half the time. Nobody has come back from the future with a time machine to play the lottery.
Time goes in one direction. Every day we grow older. Every day we move imperceptibly towards the end of our days and indeed the end of days. As we approach the end of the year, it is a reminder that we are that much closer to death, to the final things. The Gospel tells us that what man has built will be swept away. “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down,” but this is not cause for despair or for decadence.
There is a tendency in our culture to avoid death. The debate over same-sex marriage is a part of this. We deceive ourselves that because we cannot judge one another in the way that God will judge us that our lives will have no consequences and that our existence will culminate in a nullity. While the things of this world are impermanent, our actions are not. What we do in life carries on after we are gone. We will see from afar, but with perfect clarity, all the effects that our lives have had on others. Death is not the end but is an unraveling of the web of lies and sin that binds us to this world.
We recently celebrated the Feast of All Saints. If we follow their example, we do have hope of journeying beyond the limits of time and space and the pain and suffering of this world. The right side of history is to spend the rest of eternity in the presence of God, surrounded by the beatific vision of all that is good and true. We must always remember that defending that truth will subject us to many punishments in this world, but that we will have our reward in the next.