“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:31-33).
This weekend, the Church celebrates World Marriage Day. Marriage enjoys a particular privilege within the Catholic Church because it is one of the seven sacraments. Therefore, by its means, a husband and wife perfect one another with God’s grace within the context of a new family that they create.
From the beginning in Genesis, God created man to be united with a wife who complemented his life as his equal. In their differences, Adam and Eve originally found that they created a unity in their lives that they could not experience alone. That is why it was not good for man to be alone. Their relationship originally mirrored the Holy Trinity: each was made for mutual self-giving which was then meant to bear fruit in their love for one another and with God. This, in turn, would fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply as they cooperated with Him in bringing life.
We know how the original holiness of our first parents turned out, however. Because they were suspicious of God that He was holding something back from them, they failed to trust Him and failed to be obedient to God. The Fall of Adam, therefore, impacted marriage directly. Now, suspicion entered the relationships between men and women with its consequent selfishness. Selfishness breeds contempt and sin. The love seen in mutual self-giving between couples became corrupted.
Throughout the Old Testament, especially seen in the Psalms and the Prophet Isaiah, God continually calls Israel back to a special relationship with Him that He enjoyed with no other nation. God would often speak in nuptial language referring to Himself as a groom and Israel as His bride. Even though she had been unfaithful to Him many times, God promised that the original covenant that He made with His people (Israel) would not be broken. His love and union with Israel was indissoluble and fruitful. When God makes a promise, that promise is permanent. All of the prophets and kings of the Old Testament prepared for the great nuptial union that was to come: Jesus and His Church.
Jesus, of course, raised the dignity of marriage originally ordained by God and elevated it to a sacrament. He constantly in His three-year public life referred to Himself as a Bridegroom along with His Bride, which is the Church. It was no accident that the first public miracle that He performed was at the wedding in Cana. He called John the Baptist his best man. Jesus painted the images of heaven throughout all four Gospels in wedding banquet settings. St. Paul often wrote in his Letters about Jesus’ nuptial union with the Church, and the book of Revelation visualized the Second Coming of Christ as a marriage feast between the Church and the Lamb (Jesus Himself).
Consequently, the Church has given great respect to matrimony from her beginning days because she saw that the Divine Bridegroom gave over everything for His Bride on the Cross as His Sacred Heart was pierced. As the Blood and Water poured forth from His Body, Jesus had given over the very last of Himself for His Bride, and the Church was born! Her visible mission to the world would come later at Pentecost, but the permanent nuptial union that would bear fruit was sealed at Calvary on Good Friday.
Jesus promised that special graces would attend those men and women who exchanged consent in His Church as they promised to be united with one another permanently and fruitfully without placing any obstructions to their exclusive union, permanence, and fruitfulness in God (see Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9). Jesus not only restores the original meaning of matrimony as God intended, but He elevates it by first giving everything of Himself over for His Bride as the very model of husband and wife in their marriage. Jesus never asks us to do what He has not already accomplished Himself. However, He knows that we cannot on our own accomplish any holy work. We need His grace, His help, His consolation, His mercy, His strength, and His voice to keep us united in our life with Him and husbands and wives with one another in their homes.
Because matrimony is so dignified as a reflection of Jesus Christ with His Catholic Church (His Bride), it should come as no surprise that the powers of hell itself attack marriage. Marriage, by its fruitfulness, is also the sacred means whereby more souls are born into this world to be redeemed by Christ and give greater honor and glory to God. It is no wonder, therefore, that Lucifer and his attendant demons attack the unity, permanence, and fruitfulness of marriage daily. These past few years have seen the emboldened efforts to redefine marriage in any way that secular society wants. Not only is public sodomy praised as a false right of marriage, but even now more and more people—with Catholics in the forefront, unfortunately—reject marriage altogether and simply live together with no thought of God or the salvation of their soul or the souls of any children who may be born of secular unions. In addition, pornographic images, a complete distortion of the holiness of a couple’s conjugal union, surround us daily as something commonplace, and consequently, they often have to become more extreme to achieve shock value.
Nevertheless, the Bride must remain faithful to the Bridegroom. The Church always offers sanity and reason to generations that are increasingly unfaithful and malformed intellectually and spiritually. Jesus has promised that He would always be faithful to His Church, which He is. The Church also has a responsibility to remain faithful to her Spouse. She does this by living the life of Jesus directly through her seven sacraments, authentic prayer, handing down the Lord’s divine revelation both written and unwritten while interpreting this revelation faithfully, and following the Commandments. Jesus has shown us that having His presence in our life, our home, and in marriage never takes away from who we are. Indeed, we find out who are meant be in union with the Divine Spouse Himself which only brings life and authentic joy to anyone’s life and marriage. Living married life and raising children in today’s world is extremely difficult on many levels for those Catholics who take their faith seriously in Christ. They are bombarded constantly not only by a secular mentality, but even worse, by faithless and weak Catholics who have abandoned any serious relationship with God long ago and so often relish in other Catholics doing just the same.
We pray this weekend for our Catholic wedded couples who do, in fact, take their faith and marriage seriously as they grow daily in the life and love of Jesus Himself.
May you have a most blessed and holy week!
Fr. Shawn William Cutler