Marriage: To Walk Together Toward Christ

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 7, 2018

Saint Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS

Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 128:1-6; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16

I love reading through the early accounts in Genesis, diving into their rich mythological language and accounts of primordial man and his relationship with the LORD. We find a lot of wisdom and insight into the human condition, into the deepest parts of ourselves which we cannot fully understand. The reading from Genesis we hear today is taken from right after the creation of man from the dust of the earth, right after the LORD breathes life into his nostrils and commands him not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree. Again, rich mythological language which is conveying deep truths about our human condition and our relationship with the LORD. But perhaps nothing is more telling about man’s condition than the first line from our first reading today: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). It is not good for man to be alone. And so what does the LORD do? The LORD makes a suitable partner for the man.

As I think I have mentioned before, the primordial temptation, the temptation faced by Adam and Eve, and the temptation faced by Jesus himself in the desert—this first temptation is self-reliance, self-sufficiency, thinking that you don’t have to depend on anyone, thinking that you can go at it alone. But our nature, our human condition, is not one that flourishes when it is alone. Think about it, life is so much easier, so much richer, so much fuller when we can share it with others, when we have someone with us. But when we’re alone, life can be incredibly burdensome. For instance, when I go out and visit our parishioners who are homebound, especially the one’s whose spouses and friends have passed away, I see the hurt of loneliness. It is not good for us to be alone.

And so immediately after the creation of man the author of Genesis makes that inspired statement  from the LORD: “It is not good for man to be alone.” And so immediately the LORD decides, “I will make a suitable partner for him.” The LORD makes all of the animals, but none of them are quite enough. But then the LORD creates the woman. And upon seeing her, just by seeing her, the man recognizes in her something which corresponds to a desire deep within him. The animals were not enough to dispel the loneliness; but this one, this woman he sees before him is. “At last,” he exclaims. Just the sight of her brings a new richness, a new vigor to his existence. By seeing her, by her very presence before him, he experiences a sign of the fulfillment of his deepest desires: his desire not to be alone, his desire for relationship.

And “that is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, c.f., Mark 10:7-8). This is the plan of the LORD “from the beginning of creation” (Mark 10:6). But, as we know, immediately after this story in Genesis, everything goes wrong, everything falls apart. Why? Why, when things were going so well, does it all fall apart? Well, it’s because as immediately as the suitable solution is presented that there is an almost immediate misunderstanding of the dynamic of this relationship; there is a misunderstanding, a misconception about what it means to “cling” to one another, what it means to be “one flesh.”

Our misconception is that the person we fall in love with is truly going to satisfy us, make us truly happy, fill the loneliness we feel inside. We stop at the line, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and decide that marriage is just simply about being with someone. We think that as long as we are with someone, then the loneliness we feel inside will go away and the desire within will finally be satisfied. We see this all the time! I think we’ve all seen a young woman who continued to date a guy that everyone else told her was bad for her, but she didn’t see it. What she saw was that this guy made her “not alone,” and so she stuck with him. We’ve all seen the young man who cannot stick with one woman. And not always because he’s a bad guy, but sometimes because there just isn’t a woman that completely satisfies him, that makes him perfectly happy, that lives up to his idea of what a perfect woman must be.

Again, we have this misconception about what the other person in our life is going to do for us. We miss the fact, or just never realize, that they cannot give us everything, they cannot make us perfectly happy. We missed that the other person is a “suitable partner,” not a “perfect partner.” The other person is not the solution, not the end-all-be-all, not the answer to our loneliness. No, they are a suitable partner. A partner that stirs-up within you a desire for more; who keeps alive your desire for happiness; who walks alongside you, sustaining and helping you along the road.

Think about it! How many of you that have been married for a while can say that your spouse makes you perfectly happy? Probably none. In fact, you are probably very aware that your spouse doesn’t make you perfectly happy, doesn’t completely fulfill and satisfy you. Or, how many marriages have we seen break down because one or both people realize that the other person couldn’t make them truly happy? And instead of growing in their understanding of marriage and the covenant they made, instead of allowing that realization to assist them in their pursuit of what will make them happy—instead of that they decide to call it quits and try again with someone else? Good relationship or bad relationship, for better or for worse, your spouse continues to stir-up in you a desire for something more, for more happiness, for a complete satisfaction.

The nature of marriage is nothing other than “to walk together toward the only One who can satisfy the thirst for happiness that the other constantly arouses, toward Christ” (Carrón, The Experience of the Family: A Beauty To Be Conquered Once Again, 41). There is only One that satisfies. A spouse is one who is given to you by the LORD to be a suitable partner, to sustain you, to help you on your path toward the One that truly satisfies: Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ teaching on marriage in our Gospel today may seem very lofty and almost impossible to achieve. But as always, he isn’t trying to impose rules and regulations on us that are impossible to live-up to. No, as always, Jesus is revealing us to ourselves, he is helping us to understand our own humanity, and guiding us along the path that leads us to what we truly seek (c.f., Gaudium et Spes, 22). The partnership of marriage is meant to help us walk that path toward the one who truly satisfies: toward Jesus Christ.

Photo: My Mom and Dad during their engagement.

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