Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
It is appropriate that you begin your married life here at the altar of God. It was God who loved you into existence, and since that time has not ceased to love you as only He can, unconditionally and forever, with a love you cannot earn or ever be worthy of. It was God’s love that brought you together. It is His love that brings you here today. And it will be His love, pledged to you in the Sacrament you are about to receive, that will keep you together forever.
Your whole security then rests on the fidelity of the love of God. It is the one thing in this constantly changing world of which you can be absolutely certain. As Paul says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God, made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Next to the love of God, of course, is the love that you have for one another, a love that is most evident today. Unlike the love of God, however, this love can never be taken for granted. It must be merited; you must make yourself worthy of it, and keep yourself worthy of it.
No two human beings are made for each other. Every human being is made for God. Marriages are not made in heaven. There are no prefabricated marriages. They are made right here on earth, day by day, by the sacrifices both persons are called upon to make. And marriages are not made by what comes naturally. That is important, of course, but marriages are made by what does not come naturally and that is self-sacrifice. You will soon learn that it costs to be a lover, that the language of love is sacrifice. And you will have many opportunities to speak this language.
One professor begins his class on marriage by saying that marriage is a Three Ring Circus. First there is the engagement ring then the wedding ring and then comes the suffering. And they laugh and think that it is a joke! I was giving a talk on marriage one day and quoted Chesterton as saying, “The two most incompatible people in the world are a man and a woman.” After the talk a woman came to me and said, “Father, I have been married for fifty years. I wish I had heard that when I was first married.” For fifty years she had been trying to change her husband; evidently with little success.
Your love of God, and your love for one another, must overflow to others. In marriage you leave your father and mother. Your own family now becomes your first priority. But you must continue to love and honor your parents. And you should have a special love for those who come to you in need. Our Lord identifies Himself with the least of these brethren.
Scripture tells us that in marriage “two become one”. It is this very intimacy which is both the agony and the ecstasy of marriage, its greatest pleasure and its heaviest burden. Intimacy and vulnerability go together. Love is the greatest joy, and there is no greater suffering than that which is caused by love. “Ecstasy without agony is baloney.”
In marriage “two become one” but they must remain two - two well-defined unique persons who do not try to manipulate the other or seek to be submissive. Each must respect the uniqueness, the freedom and the conscience of the other, and share equally in the responsibility.
Marriage is a career. And like all careers it demands long preparation, hard work and self-sacrifice. Marriage is not only a career it is a multiple career. Teaching, for example, is a great career. There is no teaching done anywhere, in the elementary, secondary, college or post graduate systems, not all of it put together, can come close to the teaching that is done in the family, especially in the first three years of life. Or think of a sculptor. What is a human figure chiseled out of a cold block of marble, even Michelangelo’s statue of David, compared to giving flesh and blood and immortality to a child? Marriage is the greatest participation in the creating power of God.
Marriage is a multiple career which demands multiple skills. It demands the patience of a teacher, the technique of a psychologist, the diplomacy of a statesman, the justice of a judge, the humor of a comedian, the mercy of a confessor, and the philosophy of the salesman who says that the customer is always right.
The family is the first society we belong to. We are born into a family not into the Church. Our very name identifies us as a member of a family. The rite of Baptism, which ushers us into the Church, says that the parents “are the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they also be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” This is confirmed by science today which tells us that the first three years of life are the most important in the development of the person.
The family is the fundamental unit of society and of the Church; as the family goes so goes the Society and the Church. And the Society and the Church are not going well today because the family is in crisis without precedent in history. Personal freedom is valued so highly that every commitment is seen as a threat to independence instead of an expression of personality. In such a culture the family, which involves a permanent commitment and a lot of self-sacrifice does not do very well. Extreme individualism and unbridled capitalism produce autonomous, competitive, consuming beings.
The purpose of the
family is to raise human beings. And the function of the Christian family
is to raise Christian human beings. And this cannot be subordinated to
any other project. We have to make the family work. There is no substitute
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