February 9, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Married couple’s love must be rooted in God

This week, I thought I might share some thoughts about marriage.

First, there is some centuries-old advice from St. John Chrysostom: “Show your wife you appreciate her company a lot and that you prefer to be at home rather than outside, because she is there. Show her a preference among all your friends and even above the children she has given you; love them because of her … pray all together … Learn the fear of God; everything else will flow from this like water from a fountain and your house will be filled with bounty” (20th Homily on the Letter to the Ephesians).

While this advice addresses a husband, it applies equally to the wife.

When I celebrate a wedding, I am always struck by the thought that for most other people who are out and about on that wedding day, that day will come and go like any other.

As I look upon the wedding couple, I can’t help but think that there are people, young and old, rich and poor, beautiful and not so beautiful, who are driving around or walking the streets or shopping centers looking for something to do, looking for some kind of meaning in their lives.

There are lonely people who are looking wherever people are for someone who cares. And if any of those lonely people happen to walk into a church where a marriage is being blessed, what would they think?

Some might think “it’s just another wedding” and, cynically, they might add, “If marriage is the answer, why do so many marriages come apart?”

Some, the more romantic, might get caught up in the beauty of the bridal couple and the wedding party, and dream of happiness forever.

There is no such thing as just another wedding. A wedding day is not just another day. Life together is not and will not become a romantic dream. For the bride and groom, the meaning of their life together, their love for each other and the trust they have for each other must be rooted in God.

Wife and husband will need God’s blessing on their marriage over and over again. No couple should try to go it alone in marriage. The secret to a happy marriage is the commitment to have God as the mutual third partner.

It is wholesome for a husband and wife to realize that however deeply in love they may be on their wedding day, their love for each other is not enough for a lifetime.

No couple’s love on the day of their wedding is enough for a lifetime because love is not static. Love is a decision that grows and is pruned and is tempered by life’s experiences and, yes, it can falter if not re-enforced. It is spiritually wholesome for a couple to understand that almost certainly by themselves alone they cannot make their marriage work.

Recently, I received an e-mail from a friend whose wedding I witnessed 18 or 20 years ago. He wrote that I had made him very angry when I said his love for his wife on their wedding day was not enough for a lifetime. He said, “Archbishop, you were right. I couldn’t understand at the time, but our love has grown much deeper and stronger over the years.”

Every married couple needs God’s blessing for their love. It is the first reason our Church comes together to witness and bless a marriage.

Love needs nurturing. Trust and faith between wife and husband need constant attention.

And that is the second reason we come together as Church: Before family and friends, wife and husband promise to help each other build the trust and love they will need for life. Down the road, there may be days when keeping marriage promises may seem like the only measure of their love. Marriage, like all of life, has growing pains.

Do you want to look at a happy marriage? Look to the wife and husband who reach out to their family and friends. Look to the couple whose prayer together leads them to care for their neighbors; look to the couples who care for the elderly, for the poor and for the sick.

It is what we mean when we say marriage is a sacrament of the love of God. God’s love takes flesh and reaches out to others through the married love of husband and wife.

A couple’s vocation in life is to share their love with family and neighbors. And we keep in mind that Christ expanded our notion of family and neighbor to include anyone in need.

If couples pray every day, and if they attend weekly Mass and receive the sacraments together, everything will be OK.

God is always faithful. †

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