In our American society today, there seems to be skepticism about the goodness of marriage. This is also a reflection of our skepticism about the world in general. As the Catechism quotes from Vatican II, “The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life” (CCC 1603). Marriage is a human reality even before it is a Christian reality, but the degradation of the esteem in which marriage is held has serious consequences for us as Catholics, because this sacrament is a great source of grace for those who need it.
Marriage is hard. It is a way that most people in our Church are called to lay their lives down in service of God and his Church. Since God never expects us to do the impossible, we can know that he gives the help that is needed to live out such a sublime calling. Without the eyes of faith, it may be easy to discount the value of marriage as a simple social construct (even though this is not true). For Christians however, marriage is a source of incredible grace.
When two Christians enter into a marriage, a special, invisible bond is formed, and this bond is the source of strength for the married couple. This covenant between the spouses does not remain simply on a human level but is “integrated into God’s covenant with man: ‘Authentic married love is caught up into divine love’” (CCC 1639). Christ dwells in a special way with a married couple. The graces that Jesus gives through the sacrament of matrimony are quite remarkable: “Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to ‘be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,’ and to love one another with a supernatural, tender, and fruitful love” (CCC 1642). Marriage sounds like quite the sacrament! Couples who choose to forego marriage in favor of simply living together are forfeiting all of these possible graces, and sadly the results often reflect this.
True love is found in commitment. It can be very attractive to keep our options open indefinitely, and never make a true life commitment. But true freedom is found through giving ourselves away in love. This is true for married couples, priests, religious, and for all of us who are generous with ourselves in any way. “It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s love. Spouses who with God’s grace give this witness, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial community” (CCC 1648).
I used a lot of quotes from the Catechism this week, because I thought that these quotes expressed the great value of marriage so well. Let us give thanks to God for all the wonderful examples of married love that we have in our parish and in our families!