RCIA CLASS 15
– THE VOCATION OF MARRIAGE
I. There is a universal call to holiness, and marriage is the vocation through which most people live out that call.
A. Jesus called all people to nothing less than perfection. See, e.g., Matt. 5:20, 48.
1. St. Paul begins
most of his letters by referring to the people as "the holy ones"
or the "ones called to be holy."
B. Marriage is a call for a couple to help each other, their children, and the world along this path to holiness.
1. Marriage reflects
God's covenant with us, and finally the relationship between Christ
and His Church. See Eph. 5:32.
b. As Jesus
promised that He would be with the Church and see the Church through
all things, see, e.g., Matt. 16:18, 28:20, so he promised every couple
married in His name that He will be with them and see them through all
II. God established marriage at the beginning of humanity for the sake of the husband and wife, for the sake of the children, and for the sake of society.
A. God Himself established only three institutions: (1) the Chosen People of Old; (2) the Church; and (3) marriage.
1. At the beginning,
God brought Eve to Adam to help him overcome his loneliness, or difficulty
in love. Adam brought structure by naming the animals, while Eve
brought love to Adam. See Gen. 1:28, 2:18-20.
2. However, with
Fall, the primordial order was upset, and corruptions entered in.
Even among the Chosen People, polygamy and divorce were allowed, although
discouraged. See, e.g., Duet. 24:1; Mal. 2:14-17.
3. The Song of
Songs, the Books of Ruth and Tobit, and some of the psalms, especially
Psalm 45, would be a celebration of marriage. See also Sir. 26:1-5;
Prov. 31:10-31. Many of the rabbis interpreted the Song of Songs
to be an image of the love between God and His people. For God
had often used that marriage imagery to describe the relationship between
Him and His people. See, e.g., Is. 54:1-10; Hos. 3:1-3
B. When Christ came to restore all things, He brought marriage back to her primordial sanctity.
1. First, unlike
Adam, He was born into a human family, the First Family of the New Creation,
and thus brought blessings to all families.
first miracle was at the wedding feast of Cana, reflecting His desire
to begin His public ministry by blessing a couple at the dawn of their
married life together. See John 2:1-11.
3. Starting with
the Sermon on the Mount, Christ made it cleat that He had an authority
Moses did not have, the ability to restore marriage back to her primordial
sanctity and permanence. See Matt. 5:31-32, 19:1-9; Mark 10:2-10.
And thus, He forbade divorce, saying, "What God has joined, let no
man tear asunder.
C. But, as with all things, Jesus not only restored, but sanctified. In particular, He raised marriage to a higher level than before, making the institution an image of the love between Him and His church.
1. John the Baptist
had described Jesus as the Bridegroom, and Jesus Himself used this imagery.
See Matt. 9:15; Mark 2:19-20; John 3:29.
2. As the letter
to the Ephesians and the Book of Revelation make clear, the Church is
the Bride of Christ, and at the end of all things, there will be a never-ending
wedding feast of the Lamb. See Eph. 5:21-33; Rev. 19:6-9, 21:1-3,
D. Thus, marriage
is, to this day, not only a sacred institution that establishes the
most fundamental natural bond in society, but also for Christians a
sacrament that commissions each couple to establish a "domestic church"
and uphold and advance the call to holiness for each others, their
children, and all the world. See Catechism 1617, 2204.
II. Man and woman reflect God's love and creative goodness in complementary ways. "The respective perfections of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfections of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband." Catechism 370. "God created man in His image; in the divine image He created him; male and female, He created them." Genesis 1:27.
A. One's expression
of masculinity or femininity is an essential part of the person's
response to this role of reflecting God's creative love. "Sexuality
affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and
soul. It especially concerns the capacity to love and procreate,
and in a more general way the aptitude to form bonds of communion with
others." Catechism 2332
- The way in
which a person lives out his masculinity or femininity either reflects
God's creative glory or blurs it. "Do you not know that your
body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?"
1 Cor. 6:19.
B. One's vocation (e.g.,
married couples, priests, nuns, brothers) is a most basic way in which
one lives out that call to show forth God's love. "Strengthened
by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever
their condition or state are called by the Lord . . . to that perfect
holiness by which the Father Himself is perfect." Vatican
II Council, Lumen Gentium (1963) 11.
C. Chastity in any
state of life leads people to have full command of their lives so that
they can reflect God's love and glory more perfectly. "The
chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love
placed in him. . . Chastity leads him who practices it to become a witness
to his neighbor of God's fidelity and loving kindness."
Catechism 2338, 2346.
III. Married life reflects the union between God and His people. "Conjugal love reveals its true nature and nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God, who is love, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named." Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae (1968) 8.
A. Marriage is often
presented in Scripture as an image of God's relationship with His
people. "For the Lord delights in you and makes your land His
spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry
you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in His bride, so shall your God rejoice
in you." Isaiah 62:4-5
B. A Christian marriage
in particular is a deep image of Christ's relationship with His Church.
"In virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, by which they signify and
share in the mystery of the unity and fruitful love between Christ and
the Church, Christian married couples help one another to attain holiness
in their married lives and in accepting and educating their children."
Vatican II Council, Lumen Gentium 11. "Husbands
love your wives even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over
for her." Eph. 5:25
C. Because marriage reflects the deep love of God for His people, it is faithful and exclusive until death. "Seeing God's covenant with Israel in the image of exclusive and faithful married love, the prophets prepared the Chosen People's conscience for a deepened understanding of the unity and indissolubility of marriage." Catechism 1611. "What God has joined together, no human being must separate." Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:9.
- Consequently, a Christian
marriage cannot be dissolved by divorce even if there is a separation.
"Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement 'until
further notice.' The intimate union of marriage as a mutual
giving of two persons and the good of children demands total fidelity
from the spouses and requires an unbreakable union between them."
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1646.
D. Because divine love is creative of life, married love must be open to life. "God blessed man and woman with these words, 'Be fruitful and multiply.' Hence true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to the disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich His family." Catechism of the Catholic Church 1652; Vatican II Council, Gaudium et Spes (1965) 50.
- "Spouses to whom
God has not given children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full
of meaning. . . Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity,
of hospitality , and of sacrifice." Catechism of the Catholic Church
E. Marital love is total, for it involves love for the other person completely, not merely for most natural aspects of the other person. "This love is total, that is to say it is a very special form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously share everything, without undue reservation or selfish calculation." Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae 9.
- Because it excludes
the fertility of the other person, and because it uses mere technology,
rather than self-discipline, to prevent conception of new life, artificial
contraception is gravely contrary to conjugal love. "The
innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband
and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectivity contradictory
language, namely that of not giving oneself totally to the other.
This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also
to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called
upon to give itself in personal totality." Catechism
of the Catholic Church 2370; John Paul II, Familiaris
Consortio (1981) 32.
F. Because they express
the total, faithful, and fruitful love of marriage, conjugal acts are
rightful only in marriage and are gravely wrong outside of marriage
because they diminish the meaning of conjugal love. "To use
this divine gift destroying, even if only partially, its meaning and
its purpose is to contradict the nature both of man and of woman and
their most intimate relationship and therefore it is to contradict also
the plan of God and His will." Paul VI, Humanae Vitae 13.