Praying Mentis

A Laymen's Journey into the Catholic faith.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Catholic Perspective on Love

Today I have decided to write A Catholic Perpective on Love. You see, Lizzie was having a bad day so I texted her to cheer her up. I told her to feel lucky that we have each other: not only because we have each other’s remarkable presences to enjoy, but also because we have physical proof of God always acting in our lives. For me, that proof is her. For her, that proof is (I hope at least, and if not then I have horribly misread my girlfriend) me. Then I thought for a second… hey… wait… isn’t that—Yep. That’s right—that could be part of the reason that Marriage is a sacrament. Now I’m not saying that we’re married... Not yet anyways... But just bare with me for a second while I sort out this analogy. (p.s. I’m really good with analogies. But actually not really. So that’s why you have to bare with me.)
Firstly we should define what a Sacrament is. Many people wonder why Catholics have to confess their sins to a priest when they can confess to God Himself. Or why do Catholics need to go to church in order to receive Christ in the form of the Eucharist. A very good general response, without diving too deeply into any one of the seven sacraments is this: The reason is not that God requires us to do it in this way for some random arbitrary reason, but because we ourselves require some kind of physical sign of God grace due to our humanity. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Boy, I really wish I had less proof that God existed! That would really help my belief in Him.” Truth is, we are all a bunch of doubting Thomases. We look at the Bible and say, “Hah! I can’t believe Thomas needed proof that Jesus was Jesus. I mean, it was totally obvious. What a horrible Apostle… Can’t even recognize his Savior Jesus Christ after three consecutive years of constant companionship!” But then we don’t believe that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ (even some Catholic doubt this fundamental truth). The truth is, we need a physical sign that God has forgiven us. We need a physical sign that God is with us, and we need a physical sign that the Holy Spirit will be with us always. This is what a sacrament accomplishes.

A sacrament is merely a physical sign of a spiritual reality, namely that God loves us and is with us. Marriage then falls quiet nicely into the definition of a sacrament then because we see in so many ways that God is acting in our lives. God shows us what love is by giving us another part of ourselves to love. There is something quiet profound about the (mostly) un-conditional love from another human being that we try to emulate when we are in a relationship. This unconditional love that we give to our partner is meant to be given to the entire world. Perhaps this is what it is so necessary that some fall in love, perhaps this is why God Himself placed you in each others’ lives. God said, “Yeah those two would totally work together!” God actually said this through Holy Scripture:

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (
Mark 10:9)          

Ok lets repeat that, God himself not only approves of the person you are going to marry, but He finds it so necessary for the two of you to be together, that he himself placed the two of you in each others’ lives. Think of children who ask their dad’s permission for marriage, or children when they ask if they can go to the movies with their friends for the first time. What is the first thing they do? That’s right, a jump and a fist pump!

Just like all sacraments, Marriage is supposed to reflect God and ultimately leads towards our unity with Him which includes necessary unity with others. What does that mean for the married? What God has given, namely love, is meant to be given away. I said it earlier and I will say it again: the unconditional love that we give to our partner is meant to be an example of how to treat the entire world.
I remember talking with a good friend of mine who shall remain nameless merely to protect her humility—about the countless couples getting married within our friendship circle. I do mean countless, like how many times Jar Jar Binks appeared in Star Wars despite the fact that he was a universally despised character—yeah, that countless. We were talking about how to tell if relationships are going to work and we decided that you could tell by how much they unite those around them. One reason for the great mystery of marriage is this awesome verse, which you wouldn’t at first think is about marriage at all, but totally is!:

“Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I.” (Matthew 18:20)

Marriage does not only unite you with your spouse, but it is also intended to unite those around you because Christ is working through you both. God knows the most direct path to your salvation involves caring for another and making a new life through said union. Isn’t that awesome??!

Some may find it satisfactory to say that anything in our life is given to us by God, but at times these and other statements become cliché and we feel as though they do not apply to us. When those times come, it becomes more and more necessary for us to follow Bing Crosby’s advice and count our blessings instead of sheep.

And so-- Ready your sheep!  St Ignatius said that anything God gives us is meant to lead us closer to Him. Any married person was given his/her other half as a gift or grace, they were meant in a special way to lead them closer to God. (
This is a strange thought… does that mean the person you marry is himself or herself a grace? But those are thoughts for another day.)  Marriage necessarily brings you closer to God in many ways, like, through knowing that God is acting through your lives simply from the fact you found each other.  I am emphasizing this concept in this way because no one really focuses on it, but there are many other ways that you can tell that God has a working hand in HOLY MARRIAGES: the children which you are given by God, the way that your trust increases as you turn to Him and trust in Him to lead you and your family, the way you will necessarily have to forgive your partner an infinite amount of times just like Jesus forgives us an infinite amount of times, the way the two of you watch each others’ backs for sin through vigilant prayer and reliance on God.

There is a reason why most people, when talking about their partner they say, “They make me want to become a better person” or something along those lines. The origin of this feeling does not come from the innate virtue radiating around the imperfect partner (thank goodness), but from the fact that Christ is present in that relationship. Jesus says to us in our broken nature,

"Behold, I make all things new!" (Revalation 21:5)." 

Jesus gives us a simple way to follow him, if used appropriately the sacrament of marriage provides one of the most powerful means to getting closer to God and humanity. 

" And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. " (Isaiah 35:8)

Granted the last quote is mainly about the Catholic Church and the giving of the Holy Spirit-- I believe it can be applied to the Sacrament of marriage. Even if you are completely unaware of God's love, you can still participate in the type of love that God had planned for all of humanity since the beginning through the Sacrament of Marriage... And in many ways see God and ultimately grow closer to Him. Ahhh its soo awesomme!! We need to make a feast day!! A feast to all of the married who have seen God work in their lives so that they never ever, ever, forget God's active hand in their lives!..

…Nevermind, they already have that. It’s called an anniversary.Whatever I totally thought up the concept of an anniversary before anyone else.

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