Marriage: Selfless Love Fully & Freely Given
Truth In Love – Bishop Paul D. Etienne – August 26, 2012
This Sunday, we have the final passage of Jesus’ Eucharistic Discourse from John’s Gospel. (Chapter 6) During the past several weeks, Jesus has told us how he will give his Body and Blood for our food and drink. He tells us that the bread that He will give is his flesh for the life of the world. He teaches us that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we do not have life within us.
When asked if he was serious about this teaching, he re-iterated that only by eating His flesh and drinking His blood do we have eternal life. He is not speaking symbolically. He is speaking of His passion and death. He is giving instruction to us of how we are to live. Our life is to be a communion with him so that we may live selfless lives; lives lived out of freedom and love for the common good of others. Our ability to live such a life of love is rooted in this life-giving gift of Jesus.
Today, we hear how many of Jesus’ disciples could not accept this teaching, and they left Him. However, we also hear Peter proclaim “Lord, to whom else shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
We hear from St. Paul another message, that perhaps for our time, is an equally difficult teaching to hear, and yet, when properly understood, sheds light upon the beauty of the vocation of Holy Matrimony. “Give way to one another in obedience to Christ. Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord…Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy.” (Ephesians 5)
St. Paul is teaching here central, Christian values; namely freedom and love. It is important to read this text from the broad perspective of Sacred Scripture. The whole of scripture clearly demonstrates the importance and centrality of marriage and family with regards to the human person and society as a whole.
As we know from the Book of Genesis, the couple, man and woman, form the first relationship, or communion between persons. Eve in her ‘otherness’ completes Adam, so that the two become ‘one flesh.’
In this relationship, the two participate in procreation and become co-creators with the Creator. Thus, God tells Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). The family is presented, in the Creator’s plan, as “the primary place of humanization’ for the person and society” and the “cradle of life and love.” (Christifideles Laici, 40) (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #209)
Sacred Scripture help us reclaim a proper vision of marriage within our own time. St. Paul teaches that this love between husband and wife is a communion of persons. This communion properly requires a full and free giving of self in love to another. Naturally, what is freely and fully given by one is to be freely received by the other. This communion of husband and wife, this cradle of life and love is the foundation of the family. And the family, the natural community in which human social nature is experienced makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the good of society. (CSDC #213)
Please allow me to share a few more pertinent quotes from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church as it regards the family and society as a whole.
A society built on a family scale is the best guarantee against drifting off course into individualism or collectivism, because within the family the person is always at the center of attention as an end and never as a means. It is patently clear that the good of persons and the proper functioning of society are closely connected “with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.” (GS 47) (#213)
The priority of the family over society and over the State must be affirmed… The family possesses inviolable rights and finds its legitimization in human nature and not in being recognized by the State. The family, then, does not exist for society or the State, but society and the State exist for the family. (#214)
Recognizing that the family is the foundation of society, we now move to clearly claim that Marriage is the foundation of the family. As we have seen in the Book of Genesis, the Creator is the author of marriage. In other words, marriage is not a human invention or a matter of legislative prescription. In Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus is asked about divorce, he reminds his audience that in the beginning, God created them male and female, and the two shall become one flesh. What God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:3-6)
In today’s reading from Ephesians, St. Paul teaches how Christ raises the communion of love between spouses to the level of a sacrament. The spousal love of Christ for his Church is demonstrated as the origin of sacramental marriage. The fullness of this love of Christ is demonstrated in the complete gift he makes of himself upon the cross. The grace of the sacrament of marriage conforms the spouses to the love of Christ who gave himself completely, and freely in love to his spouse, the Church.
Thus it would seem that the words of St. Peter to Christ in the Gospel today would apply just as much to our acceptance of the sacrament of marriage as it does to the Eucharist.
“Lord, to whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”