“And Jesus was also invited, and his disciples, to the marriage.”
In this time after Epiphany, the Church, in her liturgy, extends the Manifestation of Christ by recounting his miracles. The first public appearance and the first miracle of the Son of God occurred at a marriage-feast. God had instituted marriage at the origin of the human race as the exclusive and life-long association of husband and wife for the reception and rearing of children; for the preservation and moral order of society, and for the ultimate eternal happiness of countless generations of mankind. Hence from the beginning marriage possessed a sacredness, a unity and a binding force unlike and superior to all other relationships; and the family, based on marriage, was the indestructible basis and indivisible unit of human society.
In the beginning God created them, male and female He created them. And so God created marriage as the life-long commitment between one man and one woman for the purpose of having a family and also for their mutual love and support. Being an institution for the safeguarding of the human race and the sanctity of its members, it is continually assailed by the evil one and our own depravity. Owing to human perversity, marriage was, at the advent of Christ, universally desecrated by the prevalence of divorce; and the consequent moral condition of the age merited from the Savior the title “an adulterous generation.” Therefore the first social work of Jesus, was the restoration of marriage to its original unity and indissolubility and its elevation to the holiness of a Sacrament of the New Law, and He said, “What therefore God has joined together let no man put asunder.”
To the scribes and pharisees who sought to justify divorce by the authority of Moses, Jesus explained, “Moses by reason of the hardness of your hearts’—to put a stop to wife-murdering—“permitted you to put away your wives; but in the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.”
On this law of the Son of God the Catholic Church stands today, as in the past, when she withstood the rage of the popular passions and the tyrannical power of the crowned heads and mailed fists of history. With Saint Paul she says, “to them that are married, not I, but the Lord commandeth that the wife depart not from her husband; and, if she depart, that she remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband….The woman that hath a husband is bound to the law while her husband liveth. Therefore while her husband liveth she shall be called an adulteress if she be with another man. Let wives therefore be subject to their husbands as the Church is subject to Christ; and let husbands love their wives as Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself up for it.”
Marriage is therefore something highly exalted and should not be entered into lightly or from low motives of sensuality, ambition or greed. It has, like anything of great importance, its rigorous divine laws, its serious responsibilities and its challenging difficulties, which only the grace and blessing of God and a high-minded devotion to duty, honor and love can enable men to fulfill and sustain.
The general unspiritual concept of marriage and the low motives from which it is entered upon; the immoral and criminal practices against its essential laws such as contraception, with consequent mutual disrespect and the loss of domestic love; the reliance on the easiness of divorce, which induces hasty and ill-sorted marriages and as hasty separations, --these are the unfortunate conditions which makes our country the divorce-ridden nation that it is.
And while there is some hope for the future from the stand of the Catholic Church against the many evils afflicting marriage, and from the noble obedience of many good souls to the divine laws of marriage, yet so very often our fellow Catholic is found transgressing the laws of the Church, and the natural moral order, relating to matrimony,--particularly the use of contraceptives, shacking up, or getting married outside the Church. On this last transgression, the Church since the council of Trent requires that all Catholics be married in the presence of an authorized priest (that is, the pastor of the parish or the rector of the church where the wedding takes place) and two witnesses and this for good reasons, first to safeguard the matrimonial union by the public knowledge thereof and second to impart to the newly wedded the blessing of almighty God on their new state in life, something that a judge, a mayor or a protestant minister can never give.
Until society returns to the Christian ideal of marriage as a holy and indissoluble contract, sacramentally binding husband and wife to life-long commitment to each other under the sanction of God, it will be impossible to turn back the adulterous flood that is sapping the moral character and the physical energy of the nation.
Let us beware of the moral pestilence in the standards and the behavior of an apostate society amid which our lot is cast. The media frequently reeks with it. In stories which go unchallenged the foulest attacks are made upon the divine constitution and laws of marriage; the tearing apart of families is applauded, and the sensual escapades of celebrities are excused under the notion that animal passions cannot be tamed. In the media’s imaginary world, even unions which could never be marriages are portrayed as equaling, or even surpassing the real thing.
As we are rational beings, as are we moral beings; and it is our Christian duty to watch over and control the emotions of our hearts as well as the movements of our minds. We are responsible before God for the character and course of our affections as we are for the trend and extent of our judgments; and we can control and overcome our evil-inclined passions by the faith and the grace of our Divine religion and the prudent flight of the occasions of sin.
If we do not see any problems with the many attacks on marriage, then we need to reconsider our view of the value and sacredness of this Divine institution. Our Lord chose it as the occasion for his first public miracle to show the importance of marriage and his own solicitude for its well-being. It is also the first time recorded that Our Lady intercedes on the behalf of another, which shows her great concern for interests of the married couple. The example of both of them reveals to us the profound meaning of marriage and we should therefore discover more its significance for our lives and for the good of society and defend it against all that wars against it. Amen.