The Sacrament of Marriage

by Father John Lacey

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We need to approach preparation for the sacrament of marriage by taking a look at our vision of the world: either we see life as accidental, or as planned and created by God. As a Christian I have the later as my world vision. So, I see everything in the world and my life as being part of God's plan, including my vocation as a priest, and yours in the sacrament of marriage. this puts a perspective on Marriage that someone who sees life as accidental would not have.

The rest of my talk is in point form.

1. Love is the human vocation (and our first vocation)

  • Only a human can love; other animal (eg dog, parrot) can respond instinctively or characteristically, but humans love. This reflects a special gift given to us for a reason.
  • Vocation (from Ln voco, vocare: to hear) means our response to an invitation to enter into a way of living. Vocation to love is manifest and lived out as: married, single, vowed religious, or celibate. But these are not ends in themselves, but particular manifestations of the general vocation to love.
  • First vocation from the standpoint of power: love and the actions of love and compassion can do so much to change hearts and reform people. (Eg story from newspaper clipping)
  • From the example of Jesus: Scriptures are filled with examples of Jesus' command to love. As love is the human vocation, so too will it be the criterion upon which our worth as a human being will be measured; not money (unless perhaps we are the beneficiary of an estate), not fame for its own pursuit. Rather, our significance will be measured by the love we showed in life, because love can change and nurture and improve the lot of others, not through power or imposing will, but through truth and being made whole.
  • From the many particular manifestations of love, we will limit our discussion to married love.

2. Marriage is the symbol of God's love in our world

  • Scripture 1 John 4:16. This sentiment of God has been poetically expressed describing God as 'love generating life': Good analogy. God's love is behind the generation of creation and life.
  • Nature of love is to generate life. Three types of love as defined by the ancient philosopher Aristotle:
    1. Pleasure: humour, or some other endearing quality
    2. Usefulness: You have a nice car; common interest, common purpose
    3. Good: based on the good in the other person.
  • Note: #1 & 2 are 'me' centred, #3 is directed to the other person.
  • God's love is faithful: God's love abides even when we turn from God, and forgiving: ready to start over again
  • This is the model for Christian Marriage. This is seen in Eph 5:25, the comparison of Marriage with love of Christ for the Church. Marriage, in its best, seeks to live out the love of God, bearing witness to the love of God through the faithful abiding love of the spouses for each other.

3. Marriage reflects a covenant (not a contract)

  • Sacrament of Marriage reflects this love of God, and involves inviting God into the relationship; to support/strengthen/protect the bond and the commitment.
  • Reflects covenant between God and People
  • Faithful and forgiving
  • Contract spells out responsibilities and obligations
  • Covenant is built on love, commitment and service; hence the pledge ' good times and in bad...'

4. Catholic marriage demands that we accept the challenge to be real.

  • Catholic marriage is a sacrament; it images God's love, which is faithful, forgiving, and I might add, forever.
  • Not just a show: no place to try to outdo a friend or relative's ceremony or flower arrangements
  • Not a celebration that lasts 45 minutes then is over, but the beginning of a new life (and a new way of living)
  • Not something that is done on your own but invites and includes God (and the community of believers to support you).
  • If you are not ready: give yourself time this is a big serious commitment
  • If not sincere and real: don't make a mockery of the Sacrament. Make other arrangements.

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