Marriage and the Year of Faith

20 Aug

“In rediscovering (Christ’s) love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith … makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples” (pope Benedict V, “Porta Fidei,” No. 7)

Marriage is rooted in that agape love of Christ and his disciples; it is given to man and woman for personal sanctification and for providing a safe place for their children.
But is it not more? How can sacramental marriage impact our Year of Faith? (Vatican Council II, “Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People,” No. 11.)

St. Paul teaches that the love of husband and wife mirrors the love of Christ and his Church. The wife dies to self; she submits to the marriage all that she is for the sake of their union — and the husband dies to self for the sake of his wife; he submits all that he is to the marriage. It is in  this mutual dying to self that love grows and marriage endures.

The priest shortage rightfully prompts us to pray for vocations to the priesthood. However, with so many marriages “on the rocks,” I don’t sense the same anxious concern over the shortage of successful, fruitful and productive marriages. And we need such marriages for the successful mission of the Church.

The U.S. bishops have plainly stated that marriage and family are part and parcel of the mission of the Church: “A culture of witness is sustained in the Church through marriage and the family. … It is within the Sacrament of Matrimony that husband and wife evangelize, become evangelized, and share their witness of the faith to their children and to society” (“Disciples Called to Witness. The New Evangelization,” U.S. Bishops, section on “The Christian Family.”)

A holy married couple is a Eucharistic presence in the world. They mirror the passion of Christ for the salvation of the world. Theirs is a sacrament of service – caring for their own, but also enfolding friends, neighbors and needy people in their familial embrace. They provide witness to the Christian meaning of hospitality (to make a safe place) ; they embody sacrificial love; they live for one another and their children – but they live also for the world and in the world where their faith can have a tremendous impact.

Marriage brings together into one flesh, mind, heart and spirit two committed disciples of Christ. Two lay people, made one in Christ, who are “to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the world.” … “They fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, ‘that is the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 900 and 905).

Marriage is indeed a missionary, Eucharistic and evangelizing force for the Church’s mission – and, therefore, an important consideration in our Year of Faith.

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