Marriage Enriches the Church
In his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 6, 2015, Pope Francis reflected on how Christian marriage is not merely a worldly ceremony with flowers, a white dress and perfect photographs that just so happens to take place inside of a church. Rather, Christian marriage is “a sacrament that takes place in the Church and makes the Church.”
This audience continues the pope’s catechesis on the family, begun on December 10, 2014, by paying particular attention to the Sacrament of Marriage, wherein the love of husband and wife shows forth the love Christ has for His the Church. Marriage, as an image of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church, has an “unthinkable dignity!” This dignity is inscribed in God’s design of the marriage covenant and is actualized in innumerable Christian couples by the grace of Christ.
The Sacrament of Marriage, the Holy Father said, is a “great act of faith and love, and requires courage to step beyond one’s self.” By the grace that Christ freely gives, husbands and wives have the ability to love unconditionally and without limit. This total self-gift is the basis of “the free consent that makes marriage,” he said.
The Church cannot exist without Christian marriage, he asserted, since the Church is “fully involved in the history of every Christian marriage and is built in its successes and failures, and suffering.” Marriage is the sacrament that builds up the community of the Church and society. When a Christian couple marries, they “participate in the missionary life of the Church, by living not only for themselves or their own family, but for all people.”
Because the marriage covenant and the Church are inseparable, every time the covenant is lived faithfully as a sacrament, the life of the Church is enriched. However, whenever marriage deteriorates, the life of the Church is disfigured. The Church, then, must provide the utmost care for Christian marriages and families, Pope Francis exhorted. She must offer to married couples all her gifts of faith, hope and love. In turn, married couples will be able then to offer these gifts to others and help them experience the love and grace the Church has to offer. Christ, he added, will not cease to care for the Church, and in doing so, he will “transmit his tenderness from couple to couple and from family to family.”
We must then ask ourselves, “Do we ourselves accept, as believers and also pastors, this unbreakable bond of the history of Christ and the Church with the history of marriage and of the human family? Are we prepared to take this responsibility seriously, that is that every marriage goes on the road of love that Christ has with the Church?”
May married couples courageously and selflessly live out the spousal covenant, as a reflection of Christ’s love for His Church, and may husbands and wives entrust themselves to the Church’s care.