Doing What Christ Tells Us About MarriageFR. ROGER J. LANDRY
Recently we meditated upon the most famous wedding of all time...one in which we did not even know the names of the bride and groom. It was the one that took place in Cana in Galilee, and it's the most famous wedding because Jesus Christ was there — and what happened at that wedding has been remembered by Christians ever since.
The liturgical remembrance of the wedding of Cana causes us to remember
what Christ has done for marriage. God created this institution in the beginning
as one of the greatest blessings a human being could share, and like everything
in creation, God pronounced it good.
But Christ did something more during
His earthly life. He took this institution, good and created by Him from the beginning,
and raised it to the dignity of a sacrament, something that would also confer
His own life, and bring us closer to Him, closer to happiness, closer to holiness,
closer to heaven.
Through the sacrament of marriage, which Christians
can receive, Christ remains with the couple just as assuredly as He was with the
couple in Cana. Marriage is part of God's plan for creation and part of God's
plan for our salvation and we must treasure marriage and defend it whenever it
comes under attack.
We are now in the midst of a heated debate about
what marriage is. For God, it is very clear what marriage is. When Christ was
asked by a lawyer about whether divorce was possible, Jesus gave a clear teaching
about the real meaning of marriage that is as relevant to the debate about whether
homosexuals can marry as it was to the subject of divorce and remarriage.
If Jesus were to testify up on Beacon Hill before the Massachusetts legislators
about the meaning of marriage, I think He could use the very same words that He
used in St. Matthew's Gospel. Listen to Him with fresh ears: "Have you not read
that in the beginning God 'made them male and female,' and said, 'for this reason
a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two
shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what
God has joined together, let no one separate."
Things Relevant to the Debate
In this teaching of Jesus — who
is the Truth incarnate, who is our Creator and knows how and for what the human
person is made, who loved all of us enough to die out of love for us — we
see four things that are relevant to our debate:
- "In the beginning,
God made them male and female." There is great meaning to our masculinity and
femininity in God's plan. God didn't clone Adam, but made Eve, who was equal to
him in dignity, but complementary.
- "For this reason a man shall
leave his mother and father and cling to his wife." God's plan is not for a man
to leave his parents and cling to whomever he wants, but to cling to a wife.
- "The two shall become one flesh." This refers more than merely to
their sharing a bed together and temporarily joining their bodies physically in
the act of making love, because that act is just temporary. God wanted from the
beginning a more permanent union, "so they are no longer two, but one flesh."
The way this occurs is in a child, who is the perduring union of the flesh of
the man and the woman and blessed by God with the infusion of an immortal soul.
This one-flesh union in children "made in love" is for Christ, our Creator and
Savior, part of the essence of marriage.
- "What God has joined
together, man must not divide." This refers not just to a particular couple joined
by God in marriage, but to the union planned by the Creator for a man and a woman
in marriage. To try to divide man and woman in the institution of marriage by
opening marriage up to two men or two women is clearly contrary to God's plan
for marriage and for man and woman.
God created marriage in a particular
way from the beginning for our own happiness as well as for our salvation, to
teach us how to love according to the nature He gave us. But He also had something
else in mind in creating marriage the way He did.
He wanted to use marriage
as an analogy to communicate His own love for us, His people. We see this in the
first reading from Isaiah: "As a young man marries a young woman, so shall your
builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your
God rejoice over you."
God's love for us is likened to a husband's love
for his new bride. When Jesus came, he took this image of heterosexual spousal
love even further, calling himself the Bridegroom who was fulfilling Isaiah's
prophecy. St. Paul based all of God's teachings about marriage on Christ's spousal
love for His bride, the Church: "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the
Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy" (Ephesians 5:25).
Human heterosexual spousal love was created by God to reflect God's own love for
His people. To change the meaning of marriage to encompass homosexual "unions"
will not only do damage to individual men and women with same-sex attractions,
to others and to society as a whole, but it will gradually incapacitate our ability
to understand the meaning of all creation and God's love for us, of which traditional
marriage is the highest reflection.
Christ Want From Us?
In the face of the assault on the meaning
of marriage in our Commonwealth, what does Christ want from us?
us to be His voice, repeating His words and passing on His teaching, which is
always given to us out of love for our true good. In the first reading, Isaiah
said that he was unable to "keep silent" or "to rest" for the sake of Zion and
Jerusalem. God is asking of us a similar zeal in speaking boldly in defense of
Him and His plan for marriage.
At the wedding feast of Cana, we see what
God can do when we are zealous. Jesus could have worked the miracle from scratch.
He who created all the seas could easily have created wine out of nothing to fill
the empty water jars. Be He didn't want to do it alone. He wanted to involve His
So he told the servants to fill the jars with water. We might
not understand today what a challenge that task was. It wasn't as if the servants
would have had a hose to fill up those six, 30-gallon jars. They would have had
to have gone to the one well in ancient Cana and carry the water back from there.
Even if there were 10 servants, even if they had two-gallon containers or
sacks to fill up, they would have to have made at least nine trips back and forth
to the city center to get all the water. Yet they did it with
as we see in the very important detail St. John gives us: "They filled them to
The Lord took their efforts and incorporated them into an
amazing miracle. He did the same thing later with the miracle of the multiplication
of the loaves and fish. He who created all the fish of the sea could easily have
worked that miracle from scratch to feed the multitudes, but He didn't. He asked
the apostles what food they had to start with and they brought to Him a young
boy, with five loaves and two fish. But the Lord took that meager offering and
used it to feed over 5,000 families.
Someone here this morning might
be asking himself, "What really can I do on my own to stop this assault on marriage?"
Isolated, our individual efforts might accomplish very little. Together, our efforts
might make a very substantial impact. But united with the Lord who is calling
us to this effort, there's no limit to how much of an impact they can make.
In the second reading, St. Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit gives us
a variety of gifts and notes that there are a variety of services in building
up God's kingdom. Moved by one and the same Spirit, each of us is called to use
those gifts in rendering that service to the kingdom. With regard to the defense
of God's institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in our
Commonwealth, the whole mystical body of Christ is called to act in concert, all
of us using our own gifts given to us by God for the effort.
of us, that will be the gift of speaking with others, to friends and legislators,
to persuade them to get involved and do the right thing before it is too late.
For others it will be the gift of writing, in sending clear letters to our legislators
and to the editors of various newspapers.
For our bishops and priests,
it will be the service preaching the truth about marriage and leading Christ's
people to this truth at this very challenging time. For lawyers, it will be to
use their skills and education in showing, from a legal point of view, how ridiculous
the Supreme Judicial Court decision was and in crafting the language and fighting
the legal battles necessary to defend marriage.
For psychologists, psychiatrists,
doctors, scholars and social workers, the Lord wants them to use the gifts he
has given them to show why homosexual activity — and any institutionalization
based upon it — will harm individuals with same-sex attractions and society
as a whole.
For our public servants, especially our legislators, the
Lord calls them to use the gift of their office to defend the institution of marriage
and to defend our democracy against the oligarchic, unconstitutional interpretation
of the state's constitution by four justices, and to vote in support of the amendment
to defend marriage.
The bottom line is that it's an effort that requires
all of our help. We might think that all we can offer is "five loaves and two
fish," or a small bucket to retrieve water from a well, but united with the head
of the mystical body, Christ, our efforts can have a dramatic effect.
I think back to 1998 in Michigan. Dr. Jack Kevorkian — "Doctor Death" —
and his supporters were trying to legalize euthanasia in the state. They brought
out the toughest cases imaginable to try to sway the public to thinking it was
a merciful thing to kill those you love.
A few months before the referendum
vote, polls showed that 70% of Michigan residents supported euthanasia. The Church
didn't have much time. But Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit and the other bishops
of the state got their act together and, helped by the expertise and efforts of
Catholic lay people, they started to teach about the real meaning
of life, of death and of suffering. By the time the referendum was taken, the
public had completely reversed itself, and 70% of Michigan residents voted against
History can repeat itself here in our state. Our bishops
have gotten their act together. Led by Archbishop O'Malley and Bishop Coleman,
they are about to about to do something that has never been done in our state
before, and which I don't think has ever been done in any state in the history
of our nation. They are sending every Catholic household a letter clearly explaining
the Church's teaching and asking every Catholic to take action immediately. That's
1 million letters.
Next weekend, some lay married people will be speaking
at every parish in our diocese about why it's crucial to contact our legislators
and make sure the marriage amendment passes, for the sake of families throughout
our state. In two weeks, every priest in the diocese will be preaching about this.
But the most important agent in this whole battle is you. We need each of
the practicing Catholics to get involved in some way. Our concerted effort —
along with our Protestant brothers and sisters and non-Christian friends —
has already been making a difference.
In December, a University of Massachusetts
poll showed that only 46% of people supported the Marriage Affirmation and Protection
Amendment. In yesterday's Boston Globe, we see that now 54% of people support
it. But we still have a lot of work to do....
The upshot of the miracle
of the Lord's turning water into wine was that "the disciples began to believe
in Him." Today at this Mass, the Lord will pull off a far greater miracle. He
will change not water into wine, but wine into His very own blood.
this miracle of miracles inspire us to believe ever more in him and put into practice
His mother's last words in sacred Scripture, "Do whatever He tells you!" Let's
get to work.
In the passage we have just heard, St. Luke tells us very
clearly why the Holy Spirit inspired him to write his Gospel: "so that you may
realize the CERTAINTY of the teachings you have received." In another translation,
the purpose is stated so that we may "know the truth" about the things we have
been given. The whole purpose of the Gospel is to pass on to us, with certainty,
the TRUTH — the truth about God, the truth about who we are, the truth about
right and wrong, the truth about heaven and hell, the truth about real love, the
truth, simply, about the most important things of all — and help us to LIVE
Fr. Roger J. Landry.
"Doing What Christ Tells Us About Marriage." Catholic Exchange.
with permission of Fr. Roger J. Landry.
Father Roger J. Landry was ordained a Catholic priest of the Diocese
of Fall River, Massachusetts by Bishop Sean O'Malley, OFM Cap. in 1999. After
receiving a biology degree from Harvard College, Fr. Landry studied for the priesthood
in Maryland, Toronto, and for several years in Rome. After his priestly ordination,
Father returned to Rome to complete graduate work in Moral Theology and Bioethics
at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family. Father Landry is parochial
administrator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, MA, and executive
editor of The Anchor, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River.
His homilies are posted each week at saintanthonynewbedford.com.
© 2004 Fr. Roger J. Landry