“The union of man and woman in marriage [is] a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies.”
Pope Francis spoke these words several years ago to highlight the importance of healthy families and healthy marriages for the good of the world. The family is the basic building block of society and serves as the most accurate barometer of how a nation is holding up. If families are generally happy, wholesome, and functional then the country will move in the same direction. On the other hand, if families are broken, dysfunctional, and sources of conflict, then it is only a matter of time before the society begins to mirror those wounds and problems. The same is true about the institution of marriage. Healthy, holy marriages make for a better society.
So what is going on in our world today??!! If marriage and family life are beneficial to society, why does our culture often undermine these crucial institutions? There is no one person or problem to blame. It is a perfect storm of many factors that have converged to make an environment that is often hostile towards married life. The truth is, God’s plan for marriage and family has been under attack from the moment Adam and Eve lived in the Garden. The problems we see today such as domestic violence, rampant divorce, casual infidelity, abortion, contraception, and same-sex unions are all rooted in the human desire to re-define God’s plan for marriage and family.
But rather than dwell on the problems that face married couples and families, I think it is more helpful to consider the many positive things Christian marriage has to offer our world. This holy sacrament provides future generations for the world. It offers a safe and stable place for children to grow and develop so they can be healthy, productive members of society. Marriage strengthens the spouses in every aspect of life and allows them to be more than they could be by themselves. It multiplies joy in good times and gives strength and comfort in the midst of adversity. At its best, holy matrimony brings husband and wife closer to God and to each other and helps spouses and their children get to heaven. It allows Jesus to be present through all of life. The sacrament of marriage is not just a prayer during the wedding, it is not just a blessing of two people, it is far more. It is the partnership of God with two people as they establish a new unit of his Church. The sacrament of matrimony establishes the home with Christ at the center. It is a bold, public pledge to live according to God’s plan. It is a solemn vow to work with God to build up His Church and serve as a living portrait of his Divine Love. That is why people get married in the Church. That is the ideal.
However, we live in a world that often gives up on ideals. We live in a world where people, good people, suffer the result of sin. "But there is disorder”, the Pharisees say to Jesus in the Gospel. The Law of Moses, after all, permitted a bill of divorce. "This was not God’s original intention”, Jesus replies. Disharmony in homes, among people, is a result of generations of sin. We have many wonderful people in our parish whose marriages have suffered. It may not be their fault; it may not even be their former spouse's fault. Many good people suffer the destruction of their marriage and the inability to form a sacred lasting union due to the effects of sin in the world. It’s not so simple as to blame it on one spouse or the other. Therefore, we need to have a special place in our hearts and in our charity for those who have suffered the loss of their marriages. They have been pulled away from the intention of the Creator by the forces of the world. They need our support and our love. As for sin and suffering, it was never in God's plan for evil to enter the world.
God never meant for people to be widowed, divorced or without a loving spouse. In God's original plan there would be no need for people to work so hard to establish and preserve their marriages. It is tragic how evil attacks something so good. The divinely created attraction of men and women to image God has been deformed into a drive for selfish gratification. Sexual intimacy is portrayed by the world as having less to do with love and more to do with pleasure. But deep down, people know better. People know the ideal of marriage exists. But they need more than the ideal. People need a living, breathing example of what this looks like.
We need the witness of your marriages as a union with God, demonstrating the Creator's Love for the world, making real what is often talked about as theology. We need the witness of your marriage, your sacrament. Your marriages are infinitely more than natural unions. You are not animals who mate for life. You are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, who are called to make God real to the world by reflecting His Love in your love for each other and for your children. The world needs the Sacrament of Matrimony. We need you to be married in the Church and to live this sacrament.
How important you are to us all! We the single, the celibate, the separated, the divorced, the widowed, need you, the married, to embrace and live the ideal of marriage. We ask God's blessing today on all in our parish who celebrate and live the sacrament of matrimony. May you have the courage and strength to give witness to the presence of God in your marriage and your family.