We live in a crazy, mixed up world. What is up is down. What is down is up. There is no area of greater confusion in our society than in the area of marriage and family. If we do not understand marriage, we will never understand God. A lifelong, committed, chaste, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman is thought to be old-fashioned. Relationships are just another means of recreation, for immediate self-gratification and nothing more. People are just objects to be used for one’s own personal gratification. If a relationship is not meeting your needs, just throw it away and move on to another.
If marriage is temporary, is it any wonder that people today cannot comprehend an all-loving, faithful God? Marriage is a dominant theme throughout Scripture. The Bible begins with the marriage of Adam and Eve in Genesis (Gen 2:18-23) and ends with the wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation (Rev 21 & 22). Smack in the middle of the Bible we find the Song of Songs, beautiful love poetry which images God’s relationship with His people as a courtship and marriage. God’s love is described as “stronger than death” (Song 8:6), an image of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross for His bride, the Church.
The Old Testament prophets used marriage imagery in describing God’s relationship to Israel, His chosen people (see Isa 56, 60; Hos 2; Jer 1-3; Ezek 16, 23). In the New Testament, Jesus describes Himself as a Bridegroom that has come to wed His Bride (see Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13).
The covenant union of one man and one woman for life is used throughout Scripture as an image of God’s covenant union with His people. A covenant is a solemn promise, fortified by an oath, concerning a future action. It is an unbreakable bond between two parties. The Latin word for covenant is “testament.” Hence, the Bible has been divided into two parts, the Old and New “Covenants.” Covenant relationships are very important to God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life. (CCC, 1 emphasis added)
It is through covenant that God unites man to Himself as part of His family. In marriage, the couple “become one flesh” in the marital embrace. In the New Covenant, we become “one flesh” with Christ in the Eucharist. St. Paul in his letter to the Church at Ephesus uses the marriage covenant as an image of Christ’s union with His Bride, the Church:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church… (Eph 5:31-32)
Marriage, therefore, has to be a union of one man and one woman for life if it is to be a holy image of God’s relationship with His people. This union cannot be broken. God is always faithful to His people; in spite of their waywardness, He does not divorce them and take up with another. God is only wedded to one body, His Church. The union of the husband and wife, and any children that may result from their union, is a visible image of the Trinity. Note what Scripture has to say about the union of man and woman in marriage:
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
It takes man and woman together to image God. So if we get marriage wrong, we get our image of God wrong. This is critical to understand. It is only the union of one man and one woman for life that images God’s unbreakable love for His people. If we marry a person of the same sex, divorce our covenant spouse, remarry or marry more than one person, we are destroying marriage as an image of God’s faithful love and unbreakable covenant with His people.
It is so important for husbands and wives to live joy-filled, faithful, lifelong marriages! If the culture is to understand God, it needs holy witnesses to free, faithful, total and fruitful love. We implore you to pray as a couple, to seek God’s will for your lives, asking that He would pour out abundant graces upon you to live out your marriage covenant well. It is through frequent reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist that you will be drawn closer to God and each other, thereby giving witness to God’s love for humanity.
Lord, help us to remember when we first met and the strong love that grew between us. Help us to work that love into practical things so nothing can divide us. We ask for words both kind and loving, and for hearts always ready to ask for forgiveness as well as to forgive. Dear Lord, we put our marriage into your hands in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.