Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ties That Bind

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Ephesians 5: 31

There is a LOT of talk about marriage these days isn’t there?

Who should be allowed to marry? Why are people getting married later in life? Why are so many people getting divorced? What’s wrong with homosexual marriage? What’s the difference between divorce and an annulment? But are we really asking the right questions? Are we asking the foundational questions upon which the answers to all other questions can be based?

For instance, the best first question about marriage is: who created marriage? If it is nothing more than a contract between two people recognized by the state, then that leads to a host of one set of answers to the other questions we mentioned above. As Christians we do NOT believe that marriage is a human institution. We believe that marriage was created by God. In fact, we read in the book of Genesis (repeated in the passage from Ephesians above), that marriage was the first sacrament, the first sign of God’s covenant with us. Bl. Pope John Paul II called marriage the “primordial” sacrament. Marriage is a covenant between man and woman that binds them together. This covenant is the sign of God’s love for the Church and it is the first thing done after creation is complete. And nothing else in creation marries but the man and woman. No animals, no birds; only Adam and Eve who are our first parents and also represent all of humanity.

The next foundational question we must ask is: what is the purpose of God creating marriage? The rest of the world might say again, that it is a legal contract between two people, any two people, who are in love (and some might argue more than two people). As Christians we believe that the purpose of marriage is unitive and procreative. In other words, marriage is for bonding and babies. Why? In this sacrament, the one man and one woman give themselves to one another in self-donating love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful. They are bonded to one another in the sacramental grace given to them and this selfless, sacrificial love, then bears fruit in the form of another human person.

If we understand and accept the Truth of these two primary and foundational questions, then all of the other questions about marriage can be answered from a place of hope and honesty. Without the knowledge of where marriage came from and what it is for, we are left to the whims and waves of this present culture to determine for each person their own definition of marriage and how to live that out. By understanding that marriage was created by God, not man, we realize that it is sublime and mysterious and that we cannot tinker with it without dire consequences. By understanding that the purpose is to bond man and woman with God and each other in such a deep, covenantal, sacrificial, self-donating love that the marriage becomes a family and communion of intimately connected persons we realize it is more than just a fulfillment of one’s own needs or desires. Let us pray for a greater understanding of marriage and a greater desire to embrace self-donating love.

Dear Jesus, may I always seek to love others as You loved. And with Your help and grace, may the dignity and sacredness of marriage be protected and encouraged in our culture. Amen.

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