marriage encounter

Think about this, “All genuine love is Divine”. What makes love, genuine? There is no thought of self, involved. Very often our love isn’t all it could be because it has aspects of self in it. We love because he/she makes me feel good. I enjoy being with them. I feel comfortable when I am with him/her. They don’t put me down. These are all very natural responses. But you can see that they all have some benefit coming back to us. There is nothing wrong with that love. It’s just not divine. If our love is really genuine, then it must spring from the presence of God within us. When we are talking about Christian marriage, we are talking about a union of a couple who have a belief in Jesus, an awareness of the goodness that He brings to them. At the heart of this Christian marriage is a love of Christ, that maybe is just forming, but it is present nonetheless.

Christian marriage is not something that just magically happens when a couple says the words, “I do”. Just because they are standing in front of a priest or deacon does not make it a Christian marriage. They are married, and in time the seeds of a Christian marriage may blossom. Like life in which all growth takes time, all growth must be nourished, so too, our love, our Christian love takes time, must be nourished. We are not saints. At best, we are striving to become someone better, someone who cares, someone who feels empathy for our spouse.  This is the someone, the attitude we bring into the marriage. As the married couples’ faith grows, the more the love they have for one another will grow, as well. To love, with no thought of self, is to love completely, as Christ has shown us how to love. As the married couple open themselves to God’s love, to trusting in Him, the more they can trust and grow in the areas of human friendship and love. On the other side of the coin, the more they seek fulfillment only in each other, the more they will be in search of that very fulfillment. Fulfillment can only happen when Christ is at the heart of the relationship. For a marriage to blossom and become the beauteous creation it was intended to be, it must be founded on the love of Christ.

We said earlier that genuine love is Divine. How do we characterize Divine Love, then? Unlike our love that can be warm and hot, one day, and then tepid and cold, the next, Divine love is constant. In spite of what we say or do, His love for us is always intense, always vibrant. He did not create us, full of love, and then as we go our separate ways His love for us begins to vacillate, to waver. No. He has the same intensity of love for us at our birth, as He has for us after we have chosen to commit a selfish, horrible sin. We only know of human love and can’t imagine how constant love can possibly be. And yet, that is the love that we are called to live, to strive for. That is the love that should grow in our lives and in the course of a marriage. Will we achieve it? Probably not. But it is the aspiring to it, the striving for that perfect love which strives to imitate Christ and endears us to Him.

We would be remiss if we did not address the current world’s attitude towards marriage. Marriage used to be called a “contract”, the marriage contract. How legal, how cold that was. Unfortunately, in today’s world, many marriages are still viewed in just that way, a contract, as something that can legally be terminated by the state, or some legal department. An attitude seeming to prevail today is, “Yes, Yes, of course I will love you forever… but don’t do this or that, … or you and I are history”. Where is the commitment? Let’s put it this way. You are going on your first sky dive.  You are committed to that sky dive. You can’t wait for it to happen. Just before you get into the plane, the parachute maker comes over to you and insists you sign a paper that you will not hold him responsible, if the chute doesn’t open. How committed to sky diving are you, at that point? And yet, today we hear of pre-nuptial agreements. If this doesn’t work out, this is what we intend to do… Again,  Where is the commitment? Where is the covenant?  When God created mankind, He “wedded us for all eternity”. He entered into a covenant with us that He will not turn His back on us. He would remain faithful to us, even if we could not or would not remain faithful to Him. That is a covenant. And based on this covenant, the Catholic Church views this as the basis of marriage. That is what marriage is to be.

The mutual love that a woman and a man have for each other is intimately connected with the procreation of children. Not all couples can have children, and for those couples, their union will be a special one whose fruits will surface in the world in a totally different way. Love is by nature creative. The love that two people have for each other logically looks to the day when that love produces a child, some fruit from their relationship. Only through the wife and husband’s love for each other is there any hope that they will have children. If the married couple is not a community then how can they create an environment conducive to the child’s growth, well-being, and faith-full life? It is through the mother and father’s actions and good example, can the child begin to learn the goodness of God. The parents may or may not be learned. But it is from the goodness within their hearts that the children learn. Parents can only do what God does: offer truth and love and ultimately allow freedom to make its choice. Priest, nun, teacher all are just helpers to the parents. They, the parents, have the primary responsibility of teaching and living their religious faith.

And so, in summary, a man and a woman intend to marry. The courtship days are not spent counting the days until….  But rather they are spent evaluating the potential spouse’s good and bad qualities. Will he/she fit like a glove or will I have to cut off a finger or two to accommodate?  Is he/she striving to live a good life? Am I striving to live a good life? How deep are the religious convictions of my fiancee? How deep are my own? Do I feel comfortable in all growth aspects with him/her? Have I talked about this to him/her? Will our community be sustainable, until death do us part? Can we both be good teachers of our faith to our children? Are we both willing and desirous of growing in Christ? If we are, then we will be good teachers to our children. All of these questions and more are done to help us get ready for a life together. All of this is done to ensure each other’s happiness. All of this must be done prior to any planning for the wedding day, itself. All of this is done within the love of Christ.

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