February 4, 2011

Seeking the Face of the Lord

A happy marriage is rooted in the love of God

I have always been amazed by how the day of a wedding seems so special to husband and wife, and yet it is just another day for folks other than the wedding party.

On any given wedding day, there are people—young and old, rich and poor, beautiful and not so beautiful—who are driving around or walking the streets looking for something to do.

They are looking for some kind of meaning in their lives. They are looking for someone who cares.

And if any of those lonely people happened to walk into a beautiful church during a wedding, what would they think?

I imagine some would think that it’s just another wedding. Some, the more romantic type, might get caught up in the beauty of the bridal couple, the wedding party and the flowers. The romantic would dream of happiness forever.

For the wedding couple, it is not just another wedding. Their wedding day will mark the calendar of their lives forever. Most couples are old enough and have seen enough suffering in life to know that they cannot live together as if it is a romantic dream that will carry them into eternal bliss.

If realistic, married couples know that when all is said and done, the meaning of their life together, the meaning of their love for each other and the trust that they have for each other, must somehow be rooted in their love for God. For they will need his blessing, over and over again.

Once, at a wedding, I asked the couple, “Do you know that your love for each other today is not enough for a lifetime? Do you know that by yourselves alone you cannot make this marriage work? Like every other married couple, you need God’s blessing for your love.”

Some years later, the groom told me that my question at the time made him very angry.

But over time, he learned that love is a fragile thing. Love needs nurturing. Trust and faith between wife and husband is something that needs constant attention. Most of all, a happy marriage needs God.

Married love on the wedding day is full, and it will grow deeper. And on that day, they promise to each other before God and family and friends that they will help each other build the trust and love they will need. They promise to stand by each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death.

Down the road, there will be difficult times. There may be some days when keeping marriage promises may seem like the only measure of their love.

Marriage, like all of life, has growing pains. But compared to the beauty of their love, the pain is nothing.

The late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, said that by the sacrament of marriage, the family in fact begins as a domestic Church.

Active involvement in the local parish ties the couple closely to the parish community. The true test of love will be living with an active faith.

Look at a happy marriage. Look to the wife and husband who reach out with love to their family and friends. Look to the couples who care for family, for their neighbors, for the elderly, and for the poor and the sick.

Love that is true is not just for wife and husband, but reaches out all around in their parish community. That 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 married love. It is the vocation of a Christian couple to reach out to those lonely people who are never far from us, to let them know God loves them because they do. That is the vocation in married life, to share love with those in need.

There is a final word that I offer to husband and wife: Don’t be embarrassed to take your love and your life together to prayer. Learn how to pray together. It works.

God loves you and loves your marriage. He is a faithful God. He will be with you not only when you are good. He wants to be with you, in love, all the days of your life. If you believe that, yours will be a happy marriage.

The community of faith is not just at a wedding to watch, not just to celebrate later. We are present to pray for and to pray with the new wife and husband.

And as their friends, we promise to be with them and support them, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, all the days of their lives. †

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