Marriage and the Church

Marriage and the Church

October 7, 2018 | N W | Deacon Eddie, Family, Grace, Love, Mission, Sacraments, Vocations, Wedding

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 7, 2018 – Year B
Readings: Gn 2:18-24 / Ps 128 / Heb 2:9-11 / Mk 10:2-16
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

Today’s talk will be less a homily and more a catechetical teaching. I will be pulling most of the information from “The Catechism of the Catholic Church.” If you don’t have one of these, you need to get one. This is a brilliant piece of work. Any question you have about the Faith is covered in this book. It’s very well written and easy to understand.

As I was trying to think how to condense the Sacrament of Marriage down into the length of a homily, I decided to narrow it down to three different points. These are the three things that you need to understand in order to understand the Church’s teaching on marriage. This is not exhaustive; this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The first thing you need to understand is what is meant in the New Testament by the word “love.” Our English language is a strange language because we use the same word to mean lots of different things. That can cause problems when you’re trying to understand what the scriptures are saying. The New Testament was written in Greek, and the word that is typically used for the word “love” is the word agape.

It’s not what we normally think of. We normally think of love as that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you’re with your beloved. That’s not exactly what they’re talking about. Hopefully, New Testament love involves that, but it doesn’t always.

In the New Testament, it says that “God is love—Deus caritas est.” Caritas is a much closer word in meaning to agape because caritas is where we get the word charity. Charity is a closer translation for agape.

My favorite definition of love is by Thomas Aquinas. He said that love is to will the good of the other. Love is an act of the will; it is a conscious decision. It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun. But if we choose to love in all circumstances, over time, it becomes easier and we can enjoy that warm, fuzzy feeling that we think of when we hear the word “love” more often.

Marriage only works when both parties understand this and buy into this wholeheartedly. I’ve heard it said that marriage is a 50/50 proposition. That’s not true. Marriage is a 100/100 percent proposition. Only then can you realize what Jesus is talking about when He is talking about marriage.

The second thing you need to understand about marriage is sacrament. You need to understand what a sacrament is. We use the term all the time and we use it a bit flexibly. Right now I’m talking about the seven Sacraments of the Church. I call those Sacraments “Big S” because there are other times we use the word sacrament, rightly so, and we’re not referring to one of those seven Sacraments.

A Sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace. It is a sign, a special sign. It is a sign that does what it signifies: it gives grace. An important thing to know about a Sacrament is that you can’t earn a Sacrament. You can’t earn the grace of a Sacrament. The good news is that you don’t have to earn it because Jesus did that for us when He sacrificed Himself on the cross. He covered it for us. So our job is to strive to be the best person that we can, in all instances, understanding what Jesus meant when He said love: love your neighbor, love your enemies.

The next thing that you need to understand about a Sacrament is that five of the Sacraments are moments of grace. When you are baptized, you receive the grace. You receive the grace of the Sacrament and that’s it. The same is true for Confirmation. When you go to Reconciliation and the priest absolves you, you receive the grace of the Sacrament. Most of us need to go back to get it again and again, because it’s a moment of grace. When you receive the Eucharist, you receive the grace, and then you go forth.

But the other two Sacraments are a little different. These Sacraments are Marriage and Holy Orders. Those two Sacraments are actually grouped together in the Catechism, which seems odd until you understand it.

The Catechism says:

Holy Orders and Matrimony are directed toward the salvation of others. If they contribute, as well, to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so.

The special thing about Matrimony and Holy Orders is that they can be a continuous source of grace. They can be a continuous source of grace for those within the Sacrament, but that grace should flow from that Sacrament to others. Only in the measure that grace flows from that Sacrament to others does it contribute to your salvation.

The third point that you need to understand about marriage is that the Church refers to the family as the domestic church. The more you unpack that, the richer that small phrase is. Once again, from the Catechism, it says:

The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion [a special church]. For this reason, it can and should be called a domestic church. It is a community of faith, hope, and charity. It assumes singular importance in the Church as is evident in the New Testament.

This refers to our gospel today. It’s obvious that Jesus puts special importance on the Sacrament of Marriage.

The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Our God is a communion of persons. He is a family. The family is the image of that in our world today. Christianity is a faith of communion. We always say you need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and you do. But the purpose of that relationship is to join you closer to the community, because we are not going it alone. Continuing in the Catechism:

It is called to partake in the prayer and sacrifice of Christ.

The family, the domestic church, is a continuation and an outreach of this Church, this parish and this global Christian Church. The family is out in society and should be bringing the prayer and sacrifice of the Church out into the world. Often during bad times in marriage, it’s the perfect opportunity to pick up your personal cross and to follow Jesus. Skipping ahead a little bit:

The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.

Husbands, your marriage is not for you, it’s for your wife. Wives, your marriage is not for you, it’s for your husband. Couples, your marriage is not for you, it’s for your children. At its core, the purpose of the Church is the salvation of souls. That’s also the purpose of marriage. Husbands, your job is to get your wife to heaven. Wives, your job is to get your husband to heaven. Together, your job is to get your children to heaven. That’s the purpose. That’s why Christ speaks so highly of marriage in today’s gospel.

I want to close today’s lesson with a blessing for all married couples. This is the marriage blessing for renewal of marriage vows:

We praise you, O God. We bless you. Creator of all things, who in the beginning made man and woman that they might form a communion of life and love. We also give you thanks for graciously blessing the family life of your servants, so that it might present an image of Christ’s union with the Church. Therefore, look with kindness upon them today and as You have sustained their communion amid joys and struggles, renew their marriage covenant each day. Increase their charity and strength, and in them, the bond of peace, so that they may forever enjoy Your blessing. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.