JANUARY, 2013, Intentions of the Holy Father
The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Marriage is a beautiful gift from God. The Book of Genesis proclaims very clearly that Adam and Eve were created by God for one another. They were intentionally fashioned by the hand of God to assist one another, complement one another, and build up one another in love and holiness. Their love mirrors the love of Christ for His bride, the church, a love that led Him to lay down His life for her. They show to the world the beauty and importance of sacrificial love. Furthermore, the home of a man and woman united in marriage provides the best environment to raise children where they can be loved, nurtured, educated and formed in the faith. A solid, healthy marriage is a cause of much joy and happiness for both spouses and children.
At the same time, we know that marriage is not easy. Jesus teaches that the two become one flesh; however, lots of things, including sin, work against this unity. The two retain their distinct personalities, dont always share the same perspective on everyday things, and sometimes differ on important values. These differences can create a great deal of tension. Additionally, life often throws curve balls at married couples like sickness, depression and addiction. Then add the fact that everyday life often gets so fast-paced that there is limited time to work through the tensions and differences that come up. For these reasons and more, marriage is definitely not easy.
Furthermore, the institution of marriage is being attacked on many fronts today. Individuals, groups and governments are striving to redefine marriage, failing to consider Gods plan and intention for this deeply important institution as a permanent bond freely entered into by a man and a woman. People are not learning in the home the interpersonal and relational skills necessary to manage and work through lifes many ups and downs. The culture encourages instant gratification and abandoning anything that demands hard work and perseverance like the family meal, teaching the faith to the children and even marriage itself.
So, we come to one of the greatest truths about marriage; it desperately needs God and His grace. The wedding at Cana proclaims Gods great desire to bless marriage with His presence and His strength. The fact that Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding is immensely important. His mission to redeem the world, restore humanity to Gods favor and bring new life to His children would have to include the renewal of marriage. Marriage is so critical to the health of individuals, society and the church that Jesus chose to infuse it with an abundance of the grace that flows from the cross. He gave us the sacrament of holy matrimony in which He pours out the grace needed not just to survive but to thrive in the marriage covenant.
The fact that Jesus transforms water into wine at a wedding as His first public sign was not lost upon His Jewish audience. Wine is a powerful symbol for joy in the Old Testament. Jesus desires to restore joy to marriage by infusing it with His power and grace. He pledges strength for the difficult moments when things do not make sense. He offers wisdom in dealing patiently, courageously and lovingly with those near us. He leads by the example of His life demonstrating that true love demands great sacrifice and a willingness to die to self for the sake of the beloved.
By pouring all of these graces into marriage through the sacrament of holy matrimony and by the example of His life, Jesus empowers married couples to love each other radically, build up the home on a rock foundation of faith in Him, and persevere through lifes many unexpected twists and turns. In this way, Jesus restores joy to marriage.
Mary teaches us plenty about marriage and life from the events of that day in Cana as well. When a problem arises for the newlyweds and their family, she knows exactly where to turn. Mary points the world to her Son, saying, Do whatever he tells you. It may well be the best advice ever given.
Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and director of the Youth Apostles Institute in McLean.