A sign for all to see

Is your marriage a sign, a beacon to those around you? Do others see you as a loving couple, an advertisement for marriage? These are questions we should constantly be asking ourselves, to check that we are living our sacrament. Remember that our marriage as a sacrament should be a sign of Christ’s love for his Church.

If we study Christ’s love as it is portrayed for us in the Gospel stories, we can begin to get a picture of how God wants a husband and wife to live together. When it’s according to God’s will, our marriage becomes like a mirror, a true reflection of Christ’s love. Our love for each other should be a visible sign for others to see of God’ s love at work in both the Church and the world at large.

For our marriage to reveal or sacramentalise the intimate bond of love uniting Christ and his Church, it must be a dynamic, ongoing process, realised in our day-to-day living. Our Wedding Day marked the beginning of a permanent commitment to embark together on a journey of becoming more married every day. As ministers of the sacrament, we should minister to each other every day, calling on the graces of the sacrament to help us live it as God intends. In Matthew 19:20 Jesus says, “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.” How privileged we are as married couples, for we are already “the two,” and he is with us whenever we pray or are together in his name. This is surely a special gift for marriage, for Christ will be especially present in our relationship, both when we are ministering to one another and doing things together in his name. We really have no option but to make his presence obvious to others.

In a culture that accepts cohabitation as an alternative to marriage, it is of paramount importance that our Christian marriage is seen as a call from God to live in a unique relationship with our spouse as a sign of his love to the world. We should daily be in a dynamic relationship with God, the third person in our marriage, and then we are empowered to live a moral, life-giving existence with a permanence that would be impossible in purely human terms. We are empowered to develop those qualities that are in keeping with the divinely originated purpose of marriage: fidelity, forgiveness and unconditional love.

Friendship or phileo love, because it is very much a sharing love, plays an important part in helping others to see us as a sign. We are seen as a couple truly sharing our life together. We should in consequence try to share our time, our activities, interests, concerns, ideas, innermost thoughts, family goals, prayer, and our spiritual walk together—in fact everything! This not only enriches our married life together, as in sharing we can minister to one another and make Christ present in a very real way; but also this will be obvious to those around us, and as a result our marriage becomes truly sacramental, in that it is a reflection of Christ’s love.

So often today our culture encourages couples to do things individually and separately, somehow implying that by adopting a couple viewpoint and sharing as much time together as we can, we are in some way sacrificing our individuality or losing our identity. Neither is true, as God’s design for marriage is that each partner sees themselves as complementing and being complemented by the other. Our true identity must always be recognised as who we are in God’s sight, that is his sons and daughters, and not as the world might like us to see ourselves, as self–centred individuals.

Very often the Church hasn’t encouraged, at parish level, this togetherness and sharing, which should be the hallmark of a sacramental marriage. With its various sodalities and confraternities, couples are often called in different directions in their parish. The husband goes out one evening to a meeting, while his wife goes out another evening to her group. This can result in couples being separated for two or three evenings every week, which is likely to leave its toll on the relationship. Added to this is the factor that husbands and wives may find themselves spending more time in consequence with other people’s spouses. This may be true also in prayer groups and faith-sharing groups, where often a strong spiritual and emotional rapport may be established with a person of the opposite sex. This is, of course, not wrong in itself, but needs to be handled with extreme caution as emotional sharing leads to intimacy, and greater emotional rapport, and then it is only a short step to becoming a sexually involved relationship, and falling into the Christian Adultery Trap. Caught in this trap, individuals often convince themselves that this must be God’s plan for them! They are sharing at a deep spiritual level and praying together, so God must be in it and therefore their sexual relationship must be right. What a blindness and travesty of the truth! This is unfaithfulness and adultery, for God never intends that any marriage should fail; he is part of the love covenant. We have the responsibility therefore before God, to ensure that our marriage is a fulfilled, life-long commitment.

If we truly minister to one another daily in our marriage, and prayer together starts and closes our day; then our relationship clearly becomes sacramental and others will see Christ’s love in us. There will be sharing and togetherness in all we do, and this will prove a powerful barrier against the subtle encroachments of today’s pagan society, and the even more subtle infiltrations of the evil one into our relationships. We would do well to remember always that our first priority after our relationship with God is to our spouse. We must never let anyone usurp that position.