God’s plan for marriage a reflection of his love
Last year, Mom and Dad celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. It was a day to celebrate. And so we did – “God who is love and who created man and woman for love has called them to love.” (Compendium of the Catechism, #337) Their marriage has fulfilled the plan of God for married couples: marriage is “by its very nature ordered to the communion and good of the couple and to the generation and education of children.” (#338)
Yes, their marriage and their love is a great thing – but it has never been, and is not now, easy. Would they have walked down that aisle if they knew ahead of time what those 60 years would bring? Probably, and that is the mark of their fidelity and love. Still it is a wonderful thing that God spares us the knowledge of the future. That way, we can face the joys and trials of life one day at a time.
Their marriage, and the marriages of so many couples like them, give great hope. We all need to love and to be loved. This is not just a matter of liking someone. We need truly to love, that is, to pour out our life for someone – to give away all that we are to someone who will receive our all. In that, we become fully human, fully alive. Jesus told us that the grain only bears fruit when it has died in the earth. To see married people is to know that such a self-gift is possible and to have true hope that even I can make such a gift of myself – even if, in my case, it is to Jesus and his Church.
Their marriage is also a sacrament. Along with the sacrament of holy orders (diaconate, priesthood and episcopacy), the catechism calls marriage a sacrament at the service of communion. Thus, this sacrament of marriage is not about me but rather about others – my spouse, my children, my Church, my world.
Marriage is a means by which God’s grace and life flow to one’s spouse. Their bodies, their minds, their hearts and their souls become the pathways of Jesus in their lives for each other. It is the place where spouses grow in patience, in self-sacrifice, in simple gratitude, in true humility, in generous forgiveness, in real sorrow and in genuine passion. One’s spouse is able to taste divine love because of this grace of God.
Marriage is also the God-given pathway for new life. Spouses cooperate with God and conceive a new human being who is in the image and likeness of God. Couples fulfill their natural purpose by together helping God create this person, their child, and they achieve their supernatural purpose as they help this child grow in wisdom and grace and the knowledge of God in whose image we all are.
Marriage serves the Church. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “’For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that is refers to Christ and the Church.” (5:31-32) Couples make the marriage of Jesus and his bride, the Church, sacramentally present. Their fidelity and fruitfulness point to the never-ending love and fruitfulness of Christ and his body, the Church. That is why the family is called the domestic church.
Marriage creates our world. It is the cornerstone of all society. Society furthers and supports marriage because that society wants itself to continue and flourish, because that society wants new life and wants that life nurtured by a father and a mother, and because that society recognizes that wife and husband work hard to restore unity even where there is discord, a model for how we are all to be in society as a whole.
Will mom and dad be around for their 70th? Who knows! Nonetheless, they have already achieved for each other, for us, their children, for the Church, and for our society what God intended. Thanks to them and to all married couples. Thanks be to God.