MOSAIC Fall 2015 - Page 10

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE A Sacrament “From the Beginning” Marriage has its origin before the Fall and its fulfillment in the sanctification of self-giving. Fr. John McDermott, SJ I t has become a truism to say the traditional family is under attack. Instead of being a permanent social institution based upon human nature, marriage is now imagined as an arbitrary construction of human desires. That primitive societies surrounded sexuality with so many taboos should warn us post-modern humans that sexual desires cannot be given free rein without inflicting great harm upon society. Children raised without the benefit of both parents suffer many disabilities that have been quantitatively measured, and they suffer deeper psychic and spiritual wounds. Pope Francis properly insists on the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother. The Sacrament Before All Others While the family supplies the natural foundation of a healthy society, in today’s intellectual and technological climate, where everything is apparently manipulated, every appeal to natural structures can be countered by the claim that human freedom dominates nature and is capable of changing it. Yet, among the many great benefits that St. John Paul II left to the universal Church is his reformulation of Catholic doctrine in terms of freedom. The family is most profoundly understood not merely as a natural institution designed to preserve and propagate the human species but as an extended sacrament. For the family grows from the conjugal union of husband and wife, which St. John Paul II recognized as Creation’s “primordial sacrament”—the sacrament estab- 8 any woman. Much more than the natural attraction between the sexes is involved. My Friend Is My “Enemy” How is such commitment possible? Only God can demand from man absolute commitment unto death. That is the mystery of marriage: in and through the lished “in the beginning” before the Fall. Although previous generations might finite form of a human being, created in have explained marriage with a knowing the image of his love, the infinite God wink and a reference to the birds and the makes himself present, calling for the abbees, no one ever saw a couple of birds solute commitment of love. Responding walk down a church aisle and profess to- to the invitation to love, the spouses join tal commitment to each other “for better, themselves to each other and to God. For love defines God’s very nature (1 for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Jn 4:8-16), and by loving in response to Most animals fornicate and go their way. his call, spouses share his life of love. In But human beings make absolute commit- this consists their sanctification. Admittedly, such limitless commitments of fidelity and care into an unknown future. More than a rational act seeking ment is scarcely attainable by human beings. In a fallen world, where love’s mutual advantage must be involved. Entrusting oneself to an unconditional reality is usually more easily denied than love entails a deep mystery. No human be- affirmed by experience, even the Mosaic ing can demand such commitment from Law permitted divorce (Dt 24:1-3). That was allowed, Jesus asanother human being. sured us, because of our Finite creatures cannot “The sexual act “hardness of heart.” demand absolute fidelity attracts couples Yet Jesus forbade difor themselves, even if no vorce to his followers, relove is possible without it. to each other. In storing the original order That is why the gift of a fallen world, of Creation (Mk 10:5love received generates perhaps such a 12). Since a fallen world such joy in the heart. incites all to the pursuit What cannot be destrong stimulus is of self-fulfillment, i.e., manded as a right, what required to break satisfaction of all natural cannot be concluded human beings out desires, living for another from any rational arguperson can be difficult. ment is given as a gift. of their egoism.” Marital dreams of infiMutual service grounds monogamous marriage (Eph 5:21-33). For nite bliss are soon shattered by the limits no man can serve two masters—nor can of one’s spouse. Frustration must ensue. Sacred Heart Major Seminary | Mosaic | Fall 2015