In their recent pastoral letter on marriage, the bishops of the United States wrote that marriage is a sacrament "directed toward the salvation of others." How different is this approach from the modern view of marriage!
It’s more common to hear about how marriage fulfills us—how it makes us happy, gives us someone who cares for us, and results in the gift of children. Of course, these are all wonderful blessings that come with marriage. But as the bishops wrote, there is a deeper dimension to marriage that God wants us to discover: the way that marriage helps us lead other people to the Lord.
Who are these "others" that marriage is directed toward? First and foremost, the person we married and the children we are entrusted to raise. One of the nobler blessings of marriage is the promise that we can actually make each other holy and pleasing to God. Because marriage is a sacrament, couples can receive supernatural grace to help them love each other as Jesus loves them, to forgive each other as he forgives, and to be as faithful to each other as Jesus is faithful to us. In describing this sacramental grace, St. Paul went so far as to say that marriage is meant to help husbands and wives make each other holy and spotless in much the same way that Jesus makes all of us holy through him (Ephesians 5:25-28).
As couples grow in their love for each other, they come to a very inspiring realization: "We were both created to love and serve the Lord, and it’s through our marriage that we can actually make this happen. Together, with the help of God’s grace, we can lead each other and our children to Christ. We can experience Jesus changing the ‘water’ of our love for each other into the ‘choice wine’ of God’s love."
Keep Inviting Jesus In! When Felicia and I stood at the altar thirty-five years ago, we told each other that we wanted to put Jesus at the center of our marriage. Of course, this high ideal was challenged regularly by the everyday responsibilities of life and by our own shortcomings. But we have tried hard to remain faithful to this ideal. We still have our flaws. We still fall prey to sin. We still make mistakes. But we keep asking Jesus to be with us—and he has always come! Looking back over these years, Felicia and I can point to so many ways that God’s grace has helped us to love each other as husband and wife, as brother and sister, and as children of God.
As you read this month’s articles, ask God if he is calling you to invite him more deeply into your marriage, even if that means just saying the Lord’s Prayer together each day. Talk to your husband or wife about how your home can become a "mini-church." See if you can put into practice some of the teachings from St. John Chrysostom—teachings highlighted in our second article. Even if all you do is tell each other, "I love you" more frequently, God will pour out immense blessings!