Marriage: an incredible vocation

February 23, 2009

by Father Thomas Balluff, St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, rural Delano

We celebrated World Marriage Day Feb. 8. Marriage is a beautiful bond between two people, male and female, husband and wife.

This bond is so beautiful that our Catholic church elevates it and calls it a sacrament. Remember that a sacrament is a personal encounter with our loving God.

We heard Jesus questioned in the gospels about marriage and divorce. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” The Pharisees had ulterior motives when they asked Jesus this, and they worded this question in such a way as to challenge Jesus, that no matter how he answered, it would ultimately discredit him.

In the Old Testament, the Law did allow a man to divorce his wife. Jesus, because he knows the profoundness and depth of the love that was intended by God within the sacrament of marriage, tells the Pharisees that Moses permitted divorce only by way of concession to their hardened hearts. Divorce is not in any way part of the will of God.

Marriage is an incredible vocation that is begun in heaven before the two eventual spouses are even born. In the vocation of marriage, when done with much prayer and discernment, we believe that God’s providence is at work bringing the two together at this time in their lives, to spend the rest of their lives together. At its ideal, it is a match made in heaven.

Some marriages happen that ought not. And yet, when we place ourselves in God’s hands, everything will still turn out okay.

Marriage is a deeply profound vocation that calls the spouses to a radical conversion. The two are called to help each other to be and to do good. This is authentic Christ-like love.

Marriage is for life, and it is critical for both to remain faithful to one another, to have the commitment and responsibility of knowing this bond is for life.

The physical intimacy in marriage is so beautiful, that the mom and dad actually become co-creators with God in the creation of a new baby. What a powerful vocation.

Children will observe mom and dad very carefully, and if the parents relate with each other in gentle, kind, patient, loving ways, listening well to each other, the children will learn this and grow up doing the same. They will eventually choose spouses that relate in the same way, and in their time, raise healthy, holy, balanced children.

Natural Family Planning, or NFP, as it is called, is what I believe the future of our society and church needs, to become holy, healthy, and balanced. I tell pre-marriage couples that the statistics for divorce in our country stand at between 50 and 60 percent. About 70 percent of couples that go to church every week remain married for life. Of those that pray together every day, about 80 percent stay together for life. Of those couples who practice NFP, 99 percent stay together for life.

What is NFP? Very briefly, it is a system of helping a married couple to enhance their marriage through a total self giving, particularly through physical intimacy or the marital act. This way of relating opens up new and deeper ways of connecting and communicating between the couple.

NFP is a holistic approach to a very important part of marriage. It operates on many levels, is healthy, and is as effective as contraception, without using artificial mechanical devices.

The reality of our lives is really that we are dependent on God for everything. Everything we are and have is from God, and we owe everything to him. God has created this world, this universe, our jobs, our abilities, our gifts and talents. Even more importantly, He has given us our families and friends.

So, let us take some time this week and beyond to reflect on our priorities. Let’s ask ourselves, how important is God in my life? Do I make him first? Does everything I do flow from my prayer and faith, my relationship with God?

We all fall short in some way and manner, but are we working . . . hard . . . to do what we believe God is asking us to do? And if we are not, then, are we going to make the commitment to start?

God loves us unconditionally. It seems to me that it is a matter of generosity on our part to continue to say yes to him over and over, again and again, throughout our entire lives.