Fidelity challenges us in a particular way today because its difficulty has come to be associated with it being something unnecessary or unnatural. In fact, love draws us into a kind of commitment. God Himself shows that this commitment is fully intended on His side and generally lacking on ours. Infidelity begins when our will commits to someone else from that place within our hearts that is reserved for one alone. The vow of chastity is not just the withholding of one’s body from the marital act: it is the consecration of all the affections of the heart to God. This doesn’t produce people who are frigid, but, for those who “can accept it,” they become by their devotion tangible sparks and flames manifesting the kingdom already present now. All are loved, not for themselves, but because God is loved above all.
Israel is often portrayed in the Old Testament as a young woman or a bride pursued by the Lord. The prophets love this image, and Hosea, in particular, in today’s first reading proclaims how the Lord attempts to woo Israel over and over again. Israel’s problem is fidelity, she is like an unfaithful bride whose jealous husband is constantly trying to win her back. God gives us this image of being in a marriage bond with Israel to emphasize how important His relationship is with His people. He has not married Himself to any other people, and He is committed to this relationship even though Israel behaves like a prostitute. “If only she would listen to me.” He seems to say, “She would be persuaded by my love and fidelity.”
The burning bush is one of the most important images of God throughout revelation. Marriage is the most fundamental institution created by God: before even the fall of humanity. Jesus draws a striking parallel between the two when he explains the resurrection to the Sadducees. The resurrection is fullness of life, life beyond death, life that defeats death entirely. Marriage is seen as this kind of fullness of human life – as full as we can understand it here below. The Sadducees would argue that if marriage no longer makes sense at the resurrection, then there is a fullness of life that can never be recovered after death. Marriage is supposed to produce a certain oneness: “the two shall become one flesh.” But when one dies, the other does not necessarily die and must continue living their human life as best they can – sometimes remarrying in an attempt to recover that fullness of life. What institution will replace marriage for the resurrected?