Giotto, Marriage at Cana (14th cent.)

Many today balk at the thought of a life-time commitment. Yet there is a fundamental desire within the human heart to be in a life-giving, life-long, loving relationship with another person. All the great love songs and epic tales depict the struggle for this lifetime “yes” to another. This profound inclination to a permanent loving relationship is written into our nature by God.

A biblical description of this love is found in Solomon’s canticle of love for his bride: “For love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned” (Songs 8:6-7).

Although we want our love to be permanent, of itself it is not. Human love is endangered by negative cultural influences, and by our own sinful inclinations. Only through the grace of God can human love withstand these negative forces.

From the beginning, God created man and woman, joining the two together in marriage, making them one flesh (Gen 2:24). Regarding this plan for married life, Jesus says, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matt 19:6). When God joins man and woman in marriage, he creates a new reality. The two are no longer two, but one new being. Within this new reality, God places the graces necessary to keep husband and wife together.

The increasing divorce rate makes us wonder if it is becoming more difficult to put up with one another. But perhaps it is more a matter of couples not trusting in the gifts God provides in the sacrament of marriage. Perhaps couples are more often excluding God from their marriages, or are not even seeking a sacramental marriage in the first place. But without God, marriages often fail. It becomes increasingly harder to trust one another’s “I will” in the marriage vow if God is not there to strengthen and deepen one another’s commitment to each other.

The “yes forever” commitment of the sacrament of marriage is unliveable without God. In fact, it’s an unbearable burden. But with God, who is love, marital love becomes permanent, life-giving, and fruitful. The sacrament of marriage brings about a new reality in which the couple is able to see things from a new perspective. They delight in the world in new ways. They look to a new and hopeful future that was not possible before marriage. They trust they can achieve this heaven-bound future by the God-given helps of the sacrament.

Spouses who, with God’s grace, give witness to the permanence of married love, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the church community. They are a source of great encouragement and hope for the future.

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