If you haven’t noticed, marriage has been under assault. The divorce rate has been high for decades, people cohabitate on a regular basis, sexual intimacy outside of marriage is seen as normal and even good. Adultery, lust and Ashley Madison fill the headlines. And now the Supreme Court has unilaterally broadened the definition of marriage to whatever the most powerful in our culture desire it to be.
What is the fall out?
Broken families, broken homes, broken children, broken hearts. Just brokenness. And so many people are left with the lie that love for a lifetime is impossible; left with the lie that we cannot trust anyone; left with the lie that we are not lovable.
Yet God stays the same: yesterday, today and forever. He designed marriage, He defined marriage, and He defends marriage. No matter the failings of sinful humanity, no matter the burdens of love, no matter the confusion of our times. He reminds us in today’s Gospel that marriage between one man and one woman—for a lifetime—is the norm! He reminds us that this kind of love and commitment is possible, that it is His will and plan for humanity; that it is the building block of all creation and society.
Let’s be real. Marriage is tough. Love has demands. It is near impossible to collide the worlds of two separate, distinct human beings with different temperaments, desires, dreams, ideas, histories and gifts and hope that they will become one flesh without going through fire. St. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5 that a man needs to lay down his life every day and sacrifice himself, to die to himself, to put himself and his desires second to his wife. And wives are reminded to follow this leadership of mutual submission one to the other by doing the same for their husbands. This isn’t dancing through the tulips or frolicking on the beach, people. This isn’t a Nicholas Sparks novel. This is love and it is hard! But it is beautiful. And you know what? We are romantic enough as Catholics to believe it can happen—with God’s grace.
For the record: it does happen…even in today’s world with all the unique challenges we face in our times. This past summer I went on a mission trip in West Virginia with my youth ministry and one day I met an older woman. She told me her husband had died two years ago. They had been married over sixty years. When I asked her what she would tell young people about how to stay married for that long she said, “You don’t give up. You just don’t EVER give up!” That may sound too simplistic to our modern ears, too childlike, too naïve. But in the second part of Jesus’ Gospel, Jesus tells us to be like little children. Why? Little children still trust, little children still believe, little children still dream.
So don’t give up on finding love. Don’t give up on marriage. Don’t give up on following the perfect will of God for your life. He makes the impossible a reality, His grace is more powerful than our greatest weakness, and His mercy conquers all the sin of the world. Do not be afraid!