Christ Jesus in this weekend’s Gospel speaks to us very clearly about the Sacrament of holy Matrimony. He reminds us in no uncertain terms what the nature of marriage is and what place it holds in the plan of God—that marriage is to be a permanent covenant between man and women, in such a way that they become no longer two but one flesh. We do well to take this opportunity a little more deeply on what this Sacrament really is and means.
First, Christ reminds us that marriage comes from the original plan of God for humanity, that He intended it from the beginning. If we indeed believe in God as the one who has given order to all things, it becomes clear that the fact of marriage, the fact that reality is ordered in such a way that male and female come together to create family, both physically and spiritually, is not a mere accident of history. The fact that human beings desire union that brings about the continuation of the species comes from God’s own will. Thus it is God who determines the meaning of that desire and that union. He desired that man and woman should come together through an act of consent to one another that both binds them in love for life, and brings about further life.
Why though did God create marriage with these features? This week’s Gospel does not give us the answer directly, but returning to Genesis does. Genesis says: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God created man and woman together as a more complete way of writing His own image into the cosmos. Thus the relationship of man and woman, loving and fruitful, permanent and faithful, communicates something irreplaceable about the Divine nature itself. Marriage, lived rightly, is a primary way in which God reaches out to souls to say “I exist, and I love you.” It is not merely an institution, guarded, regulated, liberated, determined, or defined by humanity, but it part of how God intends to draw every heart closer to Himself.
In the Christian age, marriage has a further meaning as well. Marriage between two baptized people takes place in the image of the relationship between Christ and His Church, and thus becomes an effective sign of that reality. Just as from the beginning, marriage showed God’s face to all creation, so Christian marriage, if lived faithfully, show the world that Christ loves the Church, that the Church loves Christ, and that in that relationship, every soul can find eternal life. It is a union of two souls already joined together by their membership in the Body of Christ. This is why every person baptized Catholic must marry in the Church or with the permission of the Church in order to marry validly. Christian marriage is not a private matter, but takes place within the entire community of the Baptized as a witness to the grace that formed that community in the first place.
It is for this reason that Christ Himself, and the Church following His example, cares so much about defending and preserving marriage as God intended. Marriage is not merely a public approval of a private romantic relationship or deep friendship. It is not simply a legal binding, for the sake of society, of a personal love that exists regardless. It is an essential part of God’s plan for the salvation of souls. If Christ has loved and cherished this great Sacrament, then we must strive to love it deeply as well.