My wife and I just celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary. So far, for June, I have presided at three different weddings. I really enjoy presiding at weddings because I love to see the joy of the couple and I know how important weddings are to the Church. I thought it would be a great time to look at this gift that God has given us in Marriage. For us as Catholics, the Church tells us that The Sacrament of Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Church. We then immediately know that, as a Sacrament, it is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace. This Sacrament of Marriage is one part of the two “Mission” sacraments, along with the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We speak of having a vocation to Holy Orders (Bishop, Priest or Deacon) and/or a vocation to Matrimony. In actuality, deacons can have both. They both are so important in the mission of the Church. Remember that Vocation literally means a calling from God. Let us look at this special calling from God when we discern that we are called to be married.
Unfortunately today the Church has seen a drop in the number of people who want to get married in the Church. So many young people have pushed God to the side in their lives and a Church wedding isn’t that important to them. I find this to be sad, as I believe very strongly that when a couple enters in to the Sacrament of Marriage, it is a forever gift of Divine Grace to them. I certainly would not want to say that people who marry outside of the Sacrament are not helped out by God in their marriage. God works through all things. However, those people who know what Sacramental Grace is all about, would definitely want to have the Sacrament of Marriage. I also know that the Church, because it holds this Sacrament up so high, makes it somewhat hard to receive it, if the right conditions are not met. Those who have had a previous marriage know that they must first deal with that previous marriage by either annulment or “defect of form”. Each case varies so much that it is impossible to cover it all in this article, but your local priest or deacon will help you.
In the book of Genesis we hear how God first creates man and the animals but then sees that man needs something more than animals to fulfill his life. It is then that He creates woman from the very side of man (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh). Genesis also clearly states that God is VERY pleased with what He has created. Genesis also tells us that when God created man and woman He created THEM in His very image. For me, that means that if I really want to see the image of God, I cannot look at just a man or just a woman. I need to look at both of them to see His image. A man and woman joined together in marriage reflect who God is. The love and care and concern and nurturing and fruitfulness of their relationship reveal God himself. God created us as equals, but also quite different. As the French say, Vive la difference (literally, long live the difference). We cannot help but to see that the idea for marriage between a man and a woman comes to us directly from God at the very beginning of creation.
Our God is a God of LIFE! He decided that we would join in with Him in co-creating Life. He made the difference between man and woman a means of bringing forth new life. Anyone who has been pregnant or been around someone who is pregnant cannot help but to be in awe at this gift of life. When a man and woman come together to bring forth life, they are living their own source and summit of their marriage (yes, I know these words are often used concerning the Eucharist which is the high point of our Christian life and worship). It is definitely the high point of their call. However, just like God, married life should be totally surrounded by LOVE. A man and woman who are called by God to come to the Sacrament of Matrimony are called by the great LOVE that they have for each other. It is this LOVE, which is the very essence of God that brings LIFE in to a marriage.
Life in a marriage is much more than just having children, although that is certainly important. Life in a marriage means that the man and wife help to bring LIFE to each other, every day. They are there to help each grow in relationship to each other and in relationship to God. They are there to support and encourage each other and to assist each other in the ministries that God calls them to. In my marriage, each of us has different ministries. Some we do separate from each other, and some we do together. No matter what, we support each other in our ministries. Certainly one important ministry is raising our children. This is a joy filled, but difficult, endeavor. We need each other to assist one another and support one another. But, we also need to have time alone for each other. When I do marriage preparation (Pre-Cana), I always tell the couples that they need to have time alone with each other. There should always be some kind of “date night”. I know that this is sometimes difficult to do, but we really need to do it. Let grandparents or aunts and uncles or friends come in to watch your children while you go out. If money is tight, you don’t need to spend a lot. Sometimes a walk on a beach or in the woods, or downtown, is all you need. The Church realizes that the family is the basic building block of the Church and the bond between the man and woman is the basic building block of the family. We also know that marriage is a rich symbol of the relationship that Jesus, the groom, has with his Church, the bride. When we see man and wife loving each other and caring for each other and supporting each other, we can see what Jesus does for the Church.
I don’t think that it is an accident that the first miracle recorded in the Gospels that Jesus performs is the turning water in to wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana. Jesus, in doing this, shows us that with him we can have the very best wine, not just some lower grade. With Jesus in our marriage, we can have the very best marriage. One that people will recognize as a gift from God. Jesus talks about marriage in his Gospels. He recalls the Genesis account on the creation of woman and said that “therefore a man must leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH”. He then tells them that “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” This is why the Church takes such a tough stand on divorce.
Marriage, as good as it is, is still difficult at times. Having two different people living together in the same space and having to make important decisions is not easy. That is where God’s grace comes in. I have no doubt in my mind that if my wife and I hadn’t invited Jesus in to our marriage, we would not be together today. Now, after 47 years of marriage, I can tell you that even counting the difficult times, it is the best thing that I have done. I give thanks to God for the way He works through both of us and I pray that you, in your marriage, will open yourselves up to inviting Jesus in more and more each day. With Jesus, marriage can be full and sparkling and enjoyable, like the very best wine.