By Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel
Special to The Texas Catholic
In my last column, I reflected on marriage as an institution created by God from the very beginning. We learn from the beginning of the Bible in the book of Genesis some of the properties of marriage intended by God.
Marriage is raised to an even more exalted position since the coming of Jesus Christ into our history and the great work of redemption accomplished by Him. It is now one of the seven sacraments signifying supernatural realities and capable of being a source of grace and salvation for husband and wife who enter into this special encounter with the Lord Jesus.
In Christian marriage, a baptized man and a baptized woman enter into a union of life and love which is indissoluble and open to the procreation and education of children. Christian marriage is a source of grace for husband and wife that helps them to grow in holiness as they imitate the selfless, faithful and life-giving love of Jesus Christ. It is in the truest sense a sacrament, a visible sign which gives grace.
The holy union or bond formed by husband and wife in marriage happens when they freely give themselves to each other for life. Their “I do” is total and complete. Their love is a free act of the will to give of each other to each for life. It is a beautiful sign and definition of true love when one seeks the good of the other. In this way, husband and wife live their lives together in mutual help and support. This becomes a source of great fulfillment and happiness for them. They enjoy the security of knowing that for all of their lives—through joyful times and challenging times, years when they are young and years when they are old, times when they are healthy and times when they are sick—their life of love endures. This intimate relationship which they have formed is a new level of existence. It is a union which is indissoluble; their love is complete and total.
Husband and wife in Christian marriage live a very public life. They have a new status in the church. They become a teaching sign to the rest of us in the church. As St. Paul explains in his letter, the love of husband and wife in marriage becomes a sign to us of the love of Christ for his bride the church. When we see husband and wife living out their marriage, we are reminded constantly of Christ’s relationship with us. Christ gave himself completely out of love for us. His love is complete, even to death. His love for us is ever faithful. He forgives our daily faults and failings and seeks our ultimate good—union with God. Husband and wife who live out their marriage are living visible reminders to us of Christ’s relationship with us.
Just as God creates out of love, it is in this environment of married loved that new human life is brought into existence. Cooperating with God, husband and wife become part of his plan for generating new life. True love begets new life. It is on this that the church bases its teaching on God’s design for married life.
Our troubled world today needs the beautiful witness that husband and wife give in their marriage. A witness of complete giving of self for the other in love that is open to new life. Let us thank every married couple we meet for saying “yes” to the high vocation of marriage.
The Most Rev. J. Douglas Deshotel is an auxiliary bishop, vicar general and Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Dallas.