, , ,

Bride Groom Facing Cross_03

Advent is a journey toward Bethlehem to find the Christ child, to embrace Him, to make Him the Lord of every aspect of your life. Last week, we began the journey by focusing on the importance of encountering Jesus personally. This week, we will explore why it is important to make Jesus the center of your marriage. Next week, we’ll discuss making Christ the center of your family. We’ll conclude with the mission He has called you to carry out in your neighborhood and in the world.

Why put Christ at the center of your marriage?

In Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis explains that. “Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and understandings, a plan that sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love.”[1]

In other words, the more we put Jesus at the center of our lives and our marriages, the more completely we are able to give ourselves to our spouse.

Pope Francis goes on to say, “Faith…sheds light on every human relationship because it is born of love and reflects God’s own love.”[2] “The light of faith is capable of enhancing the richness of human relationships, their ability to endure, to be trustworthy, to enrich our life together.” [3] “Faith reveals just how firm the bonds between people can be when God is present in their midst.”[4]

Pope Emeritus Benedict XIV underscored the importance of a mutual relationship with Christ “It is difficult to help engaged couples and spouses to understand the sacramentality of marriages…Many of them don’t understand what the ‘yes’ before the Lord means. It means to form an alliance with him, to enter into the faith of Christ.”[5]

God promises to give us the grace to live marriage well. St. Paul is his letter to the Ephesians states…

God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us…made us alive together with Christ…that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God… Ephesians 2:4, 7-8

For by grace, we have been saved…it is a gift from God. The gift must be accepted! Are you sold out to Jesus? Is He Lord of your life? Are their areas of your life or marriage that you have not given over to Jesus? Grace comes from giving everything over to Jesus…all your fears, worries, and desires. It is in walking humbly in obedience to Christ that blessings flow into our lives and marriages. If you are struggling in some way with giving everything to Jesus, ask God to give you the grace and trust Him to do so. He never fails to give to those who ask in faith.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

The best way to divorce-proof your marriage is to focus on your shared faith. “Research has shown that couples who pray or read the Bible together daily and attend Church together weekly have a divorce rate of less than 1 in every 1105 marriages” (Retrouvaille International Handbook). Furthermore, “praying together is the most powerful predictor of marital happiness that researchers have yet discovered” (Andrew Greeley, Faithful Attraction).

God is the author and creator of marriage. He knows what will make couples happy in marriage. Marriage is so important to God that He uses it as an image of Christ’s indissoluble love for His bride, the Church.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “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… Ephesians 5:25-32

“The deepest desire of the human heart is to find love and relationships that last forever” says Dr. Ralph Martin in his classic work The Fulfillment of All Desire. Martin adds that “love and relationships that are in Jesus are the only love and relationships that can fulfill the dream of the human heart” (272). St. Francis de Sales speaks of the bond of friendship in Christ exhibited by husbands and wives in marriage as having an eternally enduring quality:

How good it is to love here on earth as they love in heaven and to learn to cherish one another in this world as we shall do eternally in the next! Here I…refer to…that spiritual friendship by which two…souls share with one another their devotion and spiritual affections and establish a single spirit among themselves.[6]

St. Francis beautifully describes what a difference it would make if couples invited Jesus to be the center of their marriages:

Would to God that his well-beloved Son was invited to every marriage, as he was to the marriage at Cana, for the wine of his consolation and blessing would never be lacking to it. The supreme reason why there is little of that wine at the beginning of married life is because Adonis is invited instead of our Lord and Venus instead of our Lady…The man who wishes to have a happy married life must reflect on his wedding day on the sanctity and dignity of this sacrament. Instead of this there are countless unseemly things done in play, feasting, and speech. It is not surprising that its effects are so disordered. What a blessing it is when believing husband and believing wife sanctify each other in true fear of the Lord![7]

We encourage you to make Christ the center of your marriage and to encourage other couples to do the same. Marriage works best when Jesus Christ is at the center of both your personal life and your marriage.

[1] Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), §52, internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20130629_enciclica-lumen-fidei.html (accessed December 9, 2018).

[2] Ibid,, §50.

[3] Ibid., §51.

[4] Ibid,, §50.

[5] National Catholic Reporter, Benedict on Marriage, John L. Allen Jr., internet: https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/benedict-marriage (accessed December 9, 2018).

[6] Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, pt. III, chap. 19, pp.174-175.

[7] Ibid., p. 220, 225-226.