Happily Even After
Not (exactly) the Sacrament of Marriage
by Stacey Noem
Joshua and I were invited to speak to a group of Christian students on campus about divorce.
The majority of the students are non-denominational, evangelical Christians. They gather each Wednesday night for worship, fellowship and a message. (As a cradle Catholic, this was all part of a new vocabulary for me when I arrived on campus six years ago. I mean, I knew these words. The students just didn’t seem to be using them the same way I did.) We were invited to offer the message and the passage was Mark 10:1-12, where the Pharisees question Jesus about Moses allowing them to write a certificate of divorce.
Now, I LOVE Scripture, and the opportunity to dive into it and break it open for a group is super fun. But being invited, as a Catholic, to break open a passage for a group of evangelical Christians is downright special.
A word or two about elements contributing to the level of difficulty with this particular talk:
First, we were invited to do it together. Not surprising. The passage is about marriage and we ARE married and theological. Joshua and I both have a lot of experience with this type of thing. But, as in just about every pertinent aspect of our lives, our styles are completely different. I definitely took more of a crock-pot, let-it-simmer approach over a couple weeks. Joshua, I think, started looking at it seriously about three days ahead of time.
Second, we were given the passage citation and asked to speak on divorce. If you read the passage you will notice that it does have to do with the practice of divorce at the time. BUT, there is definitely more going on there. AND, how well is it going to go over to talk about how our Lord and Savior completely prohibits divorce and, in fact, would say that those who remarry are committing adultery to a group who could potentially have parents in just that situation? For both of these reasons we decided to focus much more on the fullness of what Jesus talks about for marriage. Which leads to our final contributor to the level of difficulty rating…
Third, many Christians do NOT have a Sacramental understanding of Marriage. Tricky.
So, what’s a Catholic minister to do? Well, we presented a sacramental understanding of marriage without using the word “Sacrament” (wink, wink). Who says Catholics aren’t good at evangelism?
Or, more precisely, “good at ecumenism”…because there is so much we do hold in common. We both recognize knowing God as the deepest longing in our lives. We both see how interpersonal relationships help us to come to know God – who, as a Trinity of persons, dwells in relationship. We both grasp that the intimacy of marriage is a privileged place to come to know God with ever-increasing depth. And, finally, that the ultimate model for relationship is Christ. So when marriage is challenging, our acts of self-sacrifice are always met with new and abundant life for our relationship.
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