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Put God at the center
September 20, 2010
by Fr. Tom Balluff, St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, Delano

We hear in the gospel that the authority Jesus has is very powerful, indeed. But it is complete only when it has taken root in our lives and affected our actions.

We have read that Jesus was questioned about marriage and divorce. He is actually asked at one point, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” The Pharisees pose this question to Jesus, and it is a question that is still relevant in today’s world.

The Pharisees had ulterior motives when they asked Jesus this question. They worded it in such a way as to challenge Him, so that no matter how he answered it, it would ultimately discredit him. No one in Judaism debated whether or not divorce was permitted by the Law – the debate was over what constituted legitimate grounds for divorce.

Jesus, because he knows the profoundness and depth of love that was intended by God in the sacrament of marriage, tells them that the Law 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 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 its ideal, it is a match made in heaven – and we believe that ideally, God brought them together.

Now, the possibility of making mistakes is there. Some marriages happen that ought not. And yet, when we place ourselves in God’s hands, everything can still turn out okay.

When a couple comes in to talk about getting married with the priest, it is the priest’s responsibility, as the representative of the community, to help shape and form the couple into a healthy, balanced, and holy relationship, and to inform the future spouses that they will become examples and witnesses of Christ’s love for the Church.

Marriage is for life, and it is critical for both to remain faithful to one another, to have the commitment and responsibility of knowing that this bond is for life, and to be open to the possibility of having children. The physical intimacy in marriage is so beautiful, as our Church teaches us, that the mom and dad actually can become co-creators with God.

With the coming together of the two spouses, who ultimately should be best friends, or working toward it, a soulmate relationship needs to develop, with Jesus at the center of the relationship.

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 who pray together every day, about 80 percent stay together for life. And of all of those married couples who practice Natural Family Planning, or NFP, 99 percent stay together for life.

So what is Natural Family Planning? It is a system of helping a married couple to enhance their marriage through a total self giving, particularly through physical intimacy. This way of relating opens up new and deeper ways of connection or communicating between the couple.

NFP is a wholistic approach to a very important part of marriage. It operates on a spiritual and emotional, psychological and physical level. It is healthy and it is as effective as contraception without using anything artificial.

Natural Family Planning is what I believe the future of our society and church needs, to become holy, healthy, and balanced. It allows for a deepening of trust and confidence in God’s presence in the couple’s relationship.

The reality of our lives is that we are dependent on God for everything. God has created this world, this universe, our jobs, our abilities, our gifts and talents, and even more importantly, has given us our families and friends.

So, let us take some time this week to reflect on what our priorities are – to ask ourselves, how important is God in my life? Do I make him first? Does everything I do flow from my faith, my relationship with God?