This morning we’re going to talk about marriage. Marriage is especially of interest for those that aren’t married—I get a lot of questions about marriage from students. Taking our cue from the readings today, we’ll talk about marriage in three ways: first by it’s foundation, secondly by what marriage is, and finally a few tips on dating.
What is the foundation of marriage? Marriage is a naturally occurring relationship that is raised up by Christ to be a Sacrament. The Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation and all the other Sacraments do not exist in nature, marriage does. Before Jesus Christ there was marriage, before Jesus there was no Eucharist. We see how marriage is the one gift left to Adam and Eve after Original Sin. Before sin, they enjoyed free eating of the fruit of the land, they enjoyed harmony with God, life without death, and their marriage to each other. After Original Sin, they had to eat by the sweat of their brow, they lost harmony with God, and they were to die. But marriage remained.
Everywhere there was some notion of marriage even if it was not everywhere lived well with full respect for those involved. So marriage is something inherent in human hearts that is elevated by God and strengthened by His grace. This has implications. Mainly, marriage is something that we can purify but not modify. We are called to purify our understanding and living out of marriage. Polygamy is bad, serial divorce is bad, women have rights to choose a spouse, men should live in chastity. As one author says: “Christianity taught that men ought to be as chaste as pagans thought honest women ought to be.”
If we can purify but not modify marriage, what is this purified understanding. Catholic marriage is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Before the vows at a wedding, A “free” marriage is not a “free wedding” but one that is entered into without reservation. If you’re someone who thinks that you can’t be happy without a spouse, then are you free to choose marriage? If you’re entering into marriage because “I guess that’s what people do,” then are you freely choosing? The free choice implies that you understand what you are choosing: to bind yourself to someone for the rest of your life with no guarantee that they will return their promise to you.
Catholic marriage is “total” in that it encompass the whole of your relationship. You cannot enter into marriage with something set aside. That is why a “pre-nuptial” agreement is a serious sin on marriage, because it sets a boundary on something that should not be bounded. Catholic marriage is “faithful” because it is exclusive and permanent. Finally, Catholic marriage is “fruitful,” it is open to life and children because they are a natural crown on marital love. A couple that cannot have children or is delaying children is still open to this fruitfulness by their generosity to the Church and the poor.
A final word on the origins of marriage. As Catholics, we believe that marriage is something natural that is purified and elevated by Grace. Meaning that non-Catholics and non-Christians can know and benefit from these four truths of marriage. So when Catholics enter into the public debate about marriage in society we do not see our arguments as religious but natural.
Finally, we’ll end with a word for those who are dating. Date with the end in mind. The purpose of dating is marriage, if you’re dating someone you wouldn’t marry, why are you dating them? What are some BAD reasons to date? Loneliness, insecurity, or pleasure. If you’re find yourself lonely or insecure without a significant other, then you need a friend, not a boy/girl friend. I’m sure any of our married couples have been lonely. Start by looking at someone you are friends with when you’re looking for a spouse. Have you ever been in a relationship where you’ve shared lips before you’ve shared dreams? That is not a healthy relationship and is not headed in the right direction.
Have you looked for someone you can pray with? What makes you think that if you can’t pray before you married that you’ll be able to pray AFTER you’re married? Is it someone you can go to Mass with? Someone who will help lead your children in prayer? Is it someone who will pray for your soul as you breath your last breath? At the end of the day, marriage is about the gift of eternal life. Will this person assist my soul through the gifts of prayer, unity, and children?
Marriage is one of the greatest gifts God gave to the human race. One that was not lost by sin but was retained as a comfort during our exile from Eden. We must protect and cherish it as a great gift so that our Lord will see a profit of souls when he returns.
Posted at Newman Center Site, too!