VERBUM DOMINI

The Beauty of Marriage

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Married couples may or may not be able to relate to this humorous story:

A husband and wife drove for miles in silence after a terrible argument in which neither would budge. Finally, the husband pointed to a mule in a pasture. “Relative of yours?” he asked. “Yes,” she replied, “by marriage.”

In speaking about the beauty and dignity of the sacrament of marriage in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus takes us back to the beginning of creation. “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Jesus takes us back to the beginning to remind us of the original purpose of marriage. There was perfect harmony in the beginning; Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” But this harmony was disrupted because of original sin. Marriage, then, is an imperfect union because it consists of two imperfect persons.

The first effect of original sin was the disruption of the relationship between the sexes. Sin distorted their spiritual vision and their passions. No longer did they see each other as gifts, but rather as objects to be used for selfish pleasure. Now, Adam and Eve were “naked and ashamed.” This has been a source of tension throughout history, and it is amplified today. We see the extreme of it in the rampant spread of pornography.

Jesus reminds us of the essential truth of human sexuality: it is good and holy, a gift given to us by God to participate in his life-giving power. It is also complementary: there is something about Eve that completes Adam and something about Adam that completes Eve. Because it is complementary, because it is so sacred, it is to be shared with only one person in the bond of marriage. Husband and wife are gifts to one another, and in their union they establish a community of life and love: the family.

The Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality is profoundly beautiful. The Church reminds us that intimacy between husband and wife is the deepest and most sacred expression of human love possible. It is so sacred and holy that nine months later they can be holding the fruit of their love in their arms.

Because we’ve all been affected by original sin, each of us must cooperate with God’s grace to grow in the virtue of purity, and we especially need to teach our young people reverence for themselves, the gift of their sexuality, and the opposite sex. We need to see the dignity of each person, for the proper response to a human person is to love them and never to use them for our pleasure.