Submission from a friend
Welcome to the first in a series of pre-Cana conferences. I am grateful to have the opportunity of being with you as you are laying the foundations of your future as a married couple. I am sure that many of you are looking forwards to sharing the wonderful mystery that bonds a husband and wife. The vocation to the married life is a beautiful gift from God. When a man and a woman marry they are meant to be God’s gift to each other. No doubt each of you in this room can testify to experiencing God’s gift of beauty in the person you are preparing to marry. If that were not the case no one would be here in this room.
Naturally we are drawn to what is good by nature. The power of desire that draws us to what is good is what we often called love. Now when we say to someone the words “I love you” we are implicitly saying that there is something good and valuable about that person and therefore they are worthy of being loved. When we are drawn to the good in another we are seeking what we do not already possess for if we already possessed it we would not pursue it. We only seek what we do not yet have. Once what is naturally good is obtained, which was not previously possessed, it completes the person who gains it. The lover seeks the beloved because they seek completion. The goal and purpose of marriage is perfection of the spouses here and for the life to come.
In fact when the in the account of creation, presented by the Scriptures, God calls everything that He created to be good. Man is created but then God said it was not good for man to be alone. In response to that God created the first woman and established the first human marriage. It was only after this that God calls everything very good. The reason for this is that men and woman in marriage naturally complete each other. In a certain sense according to the Scriptures the establishment of marriage completed God’s act of creation and laid a foundational order upon which the entire world was created for. Yet in as much the spouses complete each other the attraction is not towards the self but to the other. While each spouse is drawn towards the good that is in the other neither spouse is yet perfect. For if that were the case each spouse wouldn’t be drawn towards each other as they would already possess all that is good and therefore would have no desire for the other. In a sense the imperfection of each spouse provides a foundational vocation for the other spouse. When we love something we desire to make it better and more perfect. If a man and a woman love each other they desire the best for each other. If spouses can obtain for the other something that is perfect and will last forever then that is what a true love will sacrifice itself for. Yet nothing that exists solely in this life will last forever. Even the most beautiful diamond ring can eventually suffer from the ravages of time and be turned to dust. The best material gift is but a mere shadow of the treasure that is fitting for a strong and deep love. If one’s love boils down to baubles and trinkets that will disintegrate with the passing of time then such a love is not lasting nor worthy of the name. If one’s love is based only on the physical attractiveness of the lover then such a love is nothing but a weak imitation of love and is properly named lust. As such it should be spurned and shunned.
An authentic love is not what usually appears in the movies. Nor is marital love merely an emotion. Such love is only for those whose feeble imitation of love is too weak to withstand the storms of life. It lacks commitment and a sense of duty. Furthermore it lacks any sense of honor or nobility as it seeks only to fill an immediate desire and gives little or nothing of itself in return. Such a version of love feeds like a parasite on its partner and when the partner has nothing more to feed off of or when it finds a more delectable host it leaves. Such is the “love” which society holds up as an idol for us these days. Such love is properly called an infatuation as it lacks a firm commitment and the self-sacrificial nature of an authentic love. Its foundation is merely a combination of utility and emotion. It will never last the all the storms of life as it is based on what the other can give and not out of a genuine concern for the other person. One should flee from such infatuous love as it feeds on the beloved like a vulture feeds on a carcass. It is only there because there is something to eat.
Real love reaches far beyond itself and seeks eternity. It drinks deeply of the dregs and gives all that is in its power to its beloved. Genuine love gives all of itself and more. Marriage is not for the faint hearted. When a man and woman come before the priest to be married they are making the commitment to become one flesh. In a certain sense they are no longer two separate individuals in regards to their earthly existence. Rather they are united so deeply and intimately by a bond that can only be dissolved by death. Yet Christ raised marriage above the earthly level of existence and made it a sacrament. In elevating marriage Christ made Christian marriage a source of graces for those whom are united by the bond of matrimony. As a sacrament the foundational purpose of a sacramental marriage is founded in and orientated to heaven.
In Genesis after uniting Adam and Eve in marriage God told them to be fruitful and multiply. One of the main reasons marriage was instituted was so that couples may cooperate with God’s creative action in bringing humans into existence. As the human person is created for union with God so marriage was created in order that those whom are united in marriage can participate in God’s plan of salvation. Having said that if a couple seeks the carnal pleasures of marriage while trying to avoid the responsibilities of marriage they cannot enter into a sacramental marriage. It would be like trying taking a car home from the dealership without any intention of paying for it. If you are not willing to live up to the obligations of buying a car then you do not own it.
In God’s plan marriage is not orientated only to the salvation of the spouses who have contracted marriage but also to their children. One of the main purposes of marriage is that married couples participate God’s plan of creation. In the act of procreation married couples participate in God’s act of creation of the human person whose intended destiny is heaven. It is God who infuses the soul into the body which the married couple has cooperated to bring into existence. By design each human person was created for the love of God. It is through a deep and abiding love that God accomplishes His plan of salvation. By nature God has designed each one of us for heaven. In a sense marriage is God’s means for creating heaven. While sadly not all souls attain heaven nevertheless it is the purpose for which we are all created.
It may seem a harsh statement that not all souls attain heaven. Yet heaven is merely another word for communion with God and therefore those who love him. No one can force someone to love them- love always involves a free choice. It would be wrong to try to force someone to love them against their will. Someone who tries to force someone to love and marry them against their will does not genuinely love that person. Yet God loves us so much that He respects our free will and will not force us to love Him if we make a firm decision not to. In heaven our love is purified and completed for each other and for God. The genuine love of a married couple for each other is but an earthly shadow of the love we are created to experience in heaven. Heaven is the full consummation of the love only foreshadowed by the love of a husband and wife for each other.
If heaven is to be a communion of persons it requires a relationship of persons. Obviously for a relationship to exist there has to be more than one person involved or else there is no relationship. If heaven is designed to be the perfection of our relationships here on earth it is a sad thing that those God created for relationship never experience its fullness. Yet what about those persons whose very existence depends upon the choices of other person’s? What of those souls God has created for the possibility of sharing their lives here on earth and whose purpose is heaven? I speak of children for they are created to be the fruits that grace a happy marriage. I say a happy marriage since to be truly happy is to love and be loved.
To love and be loved means to share one’s very being with another. Lovers enter marriage to experience this love in its fullness and God has ordained that such a love is by nature fruitful. It is to reach out through the expanses of time and space to those in a distant era. For in raising children spouses share their love with those who are to come. No wonder in the very beginning of the Scriptures it says that God said “it was not good for man to be alone.” For it is through communion with the perfect that the imperfect is perfected.
Ultimately when the world is old and tired and no longer can stagger on for lack of strength love will not die. Rather than perish with what changes love will meet its perfection. Nothing God has created will truly perish until it has attained its purpose. As God is all powerful when He creates something its eternal purpose is never is lost. As the final purpose of love is completion and union with God real love will never die for true love is only found at its source in God.
The purpose of marriage is eternal union with God not only for the spouses but for their children, their children’s children and so on. Marriage is not for the faint hearted but for those who love can meet eternity. Yet what can be said of those whose love is so feeble that it has no taste for eternity? What of those whose love can only encompass the here and now and has no vision of eternity? Such love will eventually perish for it can’t reach further than itself in the here and now. So it is with those who are unwilling to share their love with something greater than themselves. Sadly they miss the eternal purpose of love for others and in doing so they will lose it in the end for themselves.
Today as you all begin to prepare for entering the holy bond of marriage I ask each one of you to seriously consider are you willing to give of yourselves to each other for something that will last beyond your death in this life. When you come before the altar your commitment is not only to each other during your lives but also to all those who will come after you and to God Himself. If one cannot accept the whole they will lose even that part that they try to hold onto for in doing so they mar its beauty and refuse to let it take shape according to its own nature and design. In clutching the part they want they rend the very fiber of its being. this is why when a man and women come together before God in marriage they must be willing to accept all the love that God sends them. To practice contraception and sterilization is to refuse God’s entrustment of a child. In doing so the spouse seeks to destroy the very foundation that their love is built upon. A marital love that refuses to embrace the gift of a child becomes stunted and will never reach its eternal purpose. Sadly many couples these days live in such a manner but rarely do they realize what nor whom they are missing. Their happiness in this life will never be complete because someone is always missing. In heaven they may find healing for that emptiness as only God can fill such a deep hole. A job, money, travel, social class nor even friends can fill those empty seats at the dinner table or answer for our lack of love. For a married couple to reject the love of a child is to reject the God who sent them. It is to deny God the possibility of participating with the couple in fashioning a soul whose purpose is heaven.
No wonder so many who have rejected children in this manner are sad towards the end of their lives. They finally begin to realize that everything they valued most in life will have to be left behind in death. The only things we can hope to receive again after death are the love of God and those who have journeyed with us towards Him. Everything else is lost forever.
So in closing I would like to encourage each one of you to be open to God’s love and gift of children. Love begets love in truly receiving love our love grows deeper. Some of you may have many such gifts. Some may not have any. The important thing is not how many children a couple has but their openness to receiving and returning God’s love and the love of their spouse. If we do that then we should have accomplished our purpose in this life and shall attain the eternal consummation of that love in heaven.