Gen 2:18-24 Heb 2:9-11 Mk 10:2-16
Questioning the children before Confirmation, the Bishop asked one nervous little girl, “What is matrimony?” She answered, “A place where souls suffer for a time for their sins!” “No, no,” said the parish priest, “That is purgatory.” “Susssh! Let her alone,” said the Bishop, “she might be right, what do you and I know about it?” Yes. What do I, an unmarried, know about marriage? But I can certainly tell what the scripture readings tell us about the marriage.
The liturgy of the Word, invites all the married couples and teenagers who are in the processes of selecting their life partner, and people who are undergoing crisis in their family to reflect on deeper meaning of Marriage itself. One of the most basic words in the wedding ceremony, and in any discussion of marriage, is the word “love.” A simple word, it seems, but unfortunately a very confusing word. After all, look at the many different ways we use it in English. We say, “I love ice cream; I love my dog; I love my Mother; I love my wife; I love God.” Each of these phrases is a different use of the word “love.”
How do we reach its deepest meaning? This is where our religion gives us an answer. The Bible tells us that we came to know the meaning of “love” when God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to give Himself as an offering for our sins. We heard in the second reading: Jesus, “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels” that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Christ loves us so much that He died on the cross to save us. There is the essence of love: self–giving. We give ourselves away for the other person, even if it means (and especially when it means) sacrifice and suffering for us. The greatest symbol of love is not the heart; it is the crucifix!
This gives us the key to happiness and fulfillment in marriage. If self-giving is absent then your marriage will revolve around the ring namely suffering.
Marriage is not an outdated institution for it is a gift from God. Does not the Genesis story portray the first couple being introduced by God in person and joined with his blessing? God knew only too well that, “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). God calls the majority of men and women to become holy and find their fulfillment in marriage through a loving and loyal living together to the end. But it is sad that the rising divorce rate has become a bewildering religious and social problem. We only sympathize with all the divorcees, for marriages though “made in heaven” are lived on earth where, too often, self-giving is absent and selfishness overpower love to the extent that marital fidelity indeed becomes difficult.
However, any promise to be true has to fulfill certain conditions as in the case of a seed which is a promise but it has to be first buried in the soil and exposed to rain and wind and sunshine before it sprouts. Likewise, God’s promise of fulfillment through marriage has some conditions, namely totality in love and fidelity to the end. Hence at a Christian wedding, the couple promises each other, not a Rose Garden but the gift of themselves for ever. Therefore do not look so much at how your spouse will make you happy. Look instead at how you can give yourself away to each other. Live out the ‘I do” promise everyday.
But the Chruch, while proposing an ideal of marriage, is not unrealistic. It knows that marriage is not like the Hill of Olympus, wholly clear, without clouds. So it is compassionate as well. If the Church’s Marriage Tribunal finds that certain marriages were not true marriages, after careful examination, it is prepared to call them null and void.
A study indicated that if couples attend Mass together each Sunday they have a fifty times greater chance of having a lasting marriage. Fifty times. And if they attend Mass and pray together every day – even just prayers before meals or kneeling down at the bedside at night, the marriage is practically unbreakable. The reason is obvious. Didn’t Jesus say in the gospel today, ‘married couples’ are no longer two but one flesh? Certainly he will bless you with joy of being together. In fact the first miracle he performed was for that young couple in Cana to save their wedding reception – and he wants to give you everything you need, each day, to have a beautiful married life. Therefore never forget to be with Jesus as couples every day.