Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa is the preacher of the Pontifical Household. In a recent homily, he reflected on Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. He says that this document addresses many social issues; the most relevant and problematic is marriage and family.
Fr. Cantalamessa begins by looking at marriage and family in the divine plan of God. The book of Genesis offers two distinct accounts of creation: the man and woman being created simultaneously in the image of God (Gen 1:26-28) and in the most ancient, the woman is taken from the side of the man (Gen 2:18-25).
In the first account of the creation of man and woman, the primary purpose of their union is “seen as being fruitful and filling the earth.” The second account shows woman being taken from the side of the man as a remedy for his loneliness: “It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). Here the unitive factor is emphasized more than the procreative factor. Fr. Cantalamessa says:
Marriage begins with a mark of humility: it is the recognition of dependency and thus of one’s own condition as a creature. To fall in love with a woman or a man is to make the most radical act of humility. It is to make oneself a beggar and say to the other, “I am not enough in myself; I need you too.”
With the fall (Gen 3), God’s plan for the union of man and woman goes awry. After Adam and Eve’s disobey God, He says to the woman, “I will greatly multiply your pain in child-bearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16). “The dominance of the man over the woman is part of the consequence of man’s sin, not part of God’s plan,” says Fr. Cantalamessa. This is a serious deviation from God’s ideal of the “woman being a companion for the man endowed with the same dignity, she appears increasingly more subordinate to the man and existing for his sake.”
God’s plan for marriage is fully revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Fr. Cantalamessa emphasizes “with the words ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder,’ Jesus affirms that there is divine intervention by God in every matrimonial union.” Jesus raises marriage to the level of a sacrament, an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. It is through this divine grace that couples have the ability to live marriage according to God’s original plan.
Fr. Cantalamessa says that “defending the biblical ideal of marriage and family is the duty for Christians to rediscover and live that ideal fully in such a way as to reintroduce it into the world by deeds more than by words.” It is through the faithful and fruitful love of husbands and wives in Christian marriage that a world darkened by sin will see the beauty, goodness and truth of God’s plan for marriage.
The full text of Fr. Cantalamessa’s homily can be found here.