Sunday, October 7, 2012

In Defense of Marriage (Somewhere Over Cincinnati)

"But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." (Mark 10:9)

Last night when I was celebrating Mass for the team, I spoke to them about the beauty of marriage and its place in God's plan for our salvation.  Because my time was limited, I couldn't get too deep into what I wanted to say.  I kept remembering a homily that I preached three years ago on these readings and on marriage.  God created everything so perfectly.  He created us male and female so that one may cling to the other so that they are no longer two, but one flesh.  He created this beautiful bond between man and woman that we call marriage so that we may express to each other the love that God has poured out into our hearts.  It really is all about love.  Selfless and self-giving love, and really, is there any other kind?  It is a love so powerful that when you go before the altar of the Lord to consecrate yourself to your husband and wife in marriage:  you should see the face of God in your beloved!  You should be able to peer into the eyes of your spouse and see the depths of Christ’s love.  And it shouldn’t be just on the day of the wedding, but every single day thereafter when you wake up with the person God himself has chosen for you.

Three years ago, I quoted Brad Paisley’s song, “Find Yourself” to illustrate this point and related the lyrics to marital love:

"When you meet the one
That you've been waitin' for
And she's everything that you want and more
You look at her and you finally start to live for some one else
And then you find yourself
That’s when you find yourself"

Marriage has everything to do with living for someone else, thinking first of someone else and dedicating your whole heart, mind and soul to someone else.  That's how we achieve salvation and that's how a married couple achieves salvation.  Each was chosen by God for each other to share the love that God has poured out into their hearts with the other.  The moment they stop to live for each and start to think of what they as individuals need and not what they as a couple united in Christ needs then things slowly start to fall apart because the marriage has lost the solid foundation which is the love of Christ.  That is why the first thing a married person should ask the moment they wake up each morning is "What does my spouse need this morning?  How can I demonstrate the depths of my love to my spouse this day?"  

Unfortunately this marital love that our Lord created has come under attack by a society that easily discards that which doesn’t work or by those who have been living together in a relationship outside of marriage and one day decide to throw a big party and call it a “wedding.”  Some of the most blessed moments of my priesthood have come at the altar witnessing a couple who “gets it” exchange wedding vows, but on the other side of the coin, some of the saddest moments of my priesthood have come when I have had to witness the exchange of vows of two people who have been living together for a while, are doing this to make their parents happy or to give her the wedding she has always wanted, and after this charade is over, they go back to living the life they were living before they signed a paper that made them someone else’s husband or wife.  This is not what our Lord had in mind when he instituted the sacrament of marriage and why the Church, outdated as some think it might be, continues to insist that her children remain chaste and living apart until the day that Christ bestows his blessing on their union.  This may sound archaic, but it is TRUTH!  And people don’t believe me when I tell them that there are committed couples that remain chaste until the night of their wedding.  These are the ones society mocks or labels as myths of yesteryear.  We must uphold Church teaching because those very couples that are “living in sin” (and yes, we still use that term) double their chances of ending in divorce.  If they couldn’t keep Christ’s commandments before their wedding, how much more difficult will it be to keep Christ at the center of the marriage after the wedding?  Holy Mother Church is 2000 years old.  Let the world call her antiquated.  Let the world call me “out of touch” as a priest.  What the Church wants for her children is what God wants for his children:  the joy and love that his Son left us.  That love is shared perfectly in the married love of one man and one woman.  We must defend this sacrament our Lord instituted.  We must cherish and uphold its sacredness.  As I wrote three years ago:

We must pray for our married couples.  We must pray for our engaged couples.  We must pray for our young people who are seeking out that person that God has chosen for them.  Marriage is a total consecration of one person to the other.  United by Christ, the couples themselves become part of something as sacred as that which is reserved in our tabernacles because Christ is present in that love a couple shares, in that gaze that pierces the depths of each other's souls, and in the simple act of being able to wake up each morning to simply tell your spouse, "I love you."