“If we love one another, God dwell in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us”. (1 Jn 4:12)
It is a clear truth to the Christian that man’s basic and primary vocation is to love. He was brought into being by the Creator in His own image and likeness (cfr. Gen 1:27), a God whose very nature is Love (cfr. 1 Jn 4:8). A creature of God, man is sustained by God’s loving providence. This same God, who has spoken with and has revealed himself to man, calls his creature to an eternity of loving union with Him. In the depths of human nature, despite of the harm done to it by original sin, remains that indelible mark of love that can never be erased. Man is capable of love: it is his primary vocation.
This is seen in the First Reading, taken from the book of Genesis. Man was never meant to live alone, considering that he is called to love and be loved but he can only love and be loved by someone who is like him, and yet at the same time is distinct from him. Man’s yearning for love can only be satisfied by entering into a relationship of communion with a person like him. This is satisfied first and foremost by God, who is a communion of three Divine Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God only in whom man’s restless heart can find true satisfaction and repose (cfr., ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, Confessions, I, 1). But then, the human person also fulfills this vocation to love by entering into relationships with other human persons.
Among the many ways through which man is able to realize this vocation to love, marriage is one of the most significant and the most beautiful, as well as one of the most fulfilling. Our reflection in this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time directs us to consider once again the beautiful truth about marriage, both as a human institution (something that refers to our humanity) and as a sacrament (for the Christian, it is more than just an institution or a contract: it is also a sign of grace). It also directs to other significant truths very much related to it, since marriage is not an isolated reality, but one that should be understood in the context of life and love, sexuality, etc.
In the Gospel we see our Lord being confronted by the Pharisees, who have put out a trap for him, in the guise of a tricky question. Fully aware of their malice, Jesus not only answers their query, but transforms the Pharisees’ snare into a wonderful opportunity to affirm an important truth about man, something deeply founded in the truth of his being (in the law of nature), and revealed in Scripture. As Lord, he ratifies the teaching established ab initio, from the beginning, and raises the union between man and woman in marriage from a mere human bond into something that is touched by God. In the words of Jesus we can learn a lot concerning the truth of human sexuality and marriage.
In the first place, it is important to note that this truth does not depend upon what we make of it; we cannot change it just because we don’t agree with it, or because it doesn’t harmonize with our agenda. Neither does it come as a result of human consensus. The truth could only be proposed, and then accepted or rejected, but could never be changed. An embodied spirit, man has been created to love in a particular way—either as male or female. This distinction made from man’s origin shows that masculinity and femininity is a gift endowed upon the human person by the Creator, a gift that totally affects him. The human person is a sexuated and a sexual being; sexuality (the fact of being male or female) plays an essential role in how one relates with others, in how one perceives the world both outside and within him, and affects the way how the person loves. Man cannot love a-sexually; neither can he seek to love choosing to blur the lines of this essential distinction. It is a distinction that it very important. However, far from driving man away from woman, it rather brings them together, because it is a distinction that leads them to complement each other.
This complementarity is essential to the nature of marriage, which is a union between a man and a woman. This is another truth that we encounter, and this is something that no human legislation based on consensus could ever change, because it is something that is not only found in the nature of marriage as an institution, but in human nature itself. Only a man an a woman could ever constitute a true marriage. The complementarity between the two makes it possible for them to be una caro, one flesh. It is a union so intimate that, as the words of the Lord in the Gospel would express, only something as radical as death could ever separate them. No human law would ever unmake this bond, hence the reason for the practice of divorce as unacceptable, in view of the divine law: “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk 10:9). In this union, husband and wife need to live each for the other, both as equals in love, very much like what the lyrics of Charlie Landsbourough’s song expresses: “we’re just angels with one wing, we must cling together to fly”.
And fly upward they must. This consideration leads us finally to another truth in Christian marriage: far from just being human, the mutual union between a man and a woman in Christ must lead to Christ. Christian marriage is not just an end in itself: it is also a way to holiness. In fulfilling the responsibility to lead each other to perfection, and to be open to the gift of life that God gives to them, both husband and wife should sanctify themselves in their marriage. They have the Lord to depend on for His grace, most especially considering that married life is no mere walk through the park. It is a challenging life, not exempt from difficulties. This is why couples have to take advantage of the means to sanctity: the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance, daily personal prayer, attentive listening to the Word of God. They also have the mission to make their family into a domestic Church: a family that prays and loves, wherein the children given to them are raised as good Christians and citizens.
As we prepare ourselves to inaugurate the Year of Faith called for by the Holy Father this coming week, let us pray that this may be an opportunity for all Christian married couples to be strengthened in their special vocation, and for the Christian family to be protected from everything that endangers it, and be strengthened to give witness to the faith in Christ Jesus. May Mary, the Queen of the Family, and loving spouse of blessed Joseph, intercede for us all. AMEN.