Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
The ancient Egyptians were on to something: They longed for eternal life. Not a bad thing to long for. But they longed for it in the wrong way. Instead of realizing eternal life could only come to us from the Eternal One, they conceived of eternal life as being more or less a permanent continuation of earthly existence. And so, instead of resurrection, they settled on mummification and the creation of an entire society whose greatest creative energies were devoted to the production of grave goods. It's a strange fact that the great Egyptian art we are familiar with was painted for no one to see — because it was painted or chiseled on tomb walls.
Our culture, in its own way, makes similar mistakes. We want eternal life, too — so we get Botox injections. We want eternal love, so we obsess over sex and try to pretend it's the same thing as love. But impersonal sex resembles eternal love about as much as a mummified corpse resembles the Risen and Glorified Christ. Even legitimate sexual expression (or "marriage" as it's commonly called) is not the Goal. It's the sign pointing to the Goal. For all our earthly experience of marriage, like all of Egypt's earthly experience of goodness, is not an end in itself, but a sign pointing us to the real Goodness of God. The true Bridegroom at the Wedding at Cana was not the guy getting married. It was Jesus, the Bridegroom Whose cosmic marriage to the Church is the pattern for all marriage.