Marriage, most fundamentally, is gift. Or, perhaps more clearly, marriage is a series of gifts, connected and intertwined with one another.
Marriage is the gift of a husband to a wife. And the gift of a wife to a husband. Marriage is a gift from God—an opportunity to form a family, a community of love. Marriage is the place where the gift of life begins. And marriage is a gift to every community, every culture, every people—marriage is the gift of stability, of civility and of love. Marriage is the first and essential community to society.
Today many people seem to be confused about marriage. They seem to believe it is an institution created by governments—a recognition of a partnership of adults. In some ways, marriage has become viewed as a social recognition of mutual affection between two adults. This view of marriage is relativistic and self-centered. If marriage is created by governments, governments may modify marriage, may change and alter its definition. And if marriage is about recognizing mutual affection, then it doesn’t matter who loves whom, and any type of partnership could be recognized as “marriage.”
But this view of marriage couldn’t be further from the truth. Marriage is a divine creation. It is rooted in the divine command of God to Adam and Eve, to “be fruitful and multiply.” In fact, marriage is rooted in the very creation of Adam and Eve—men and women were created, from the very beginning, to live in a communion of love with one another. Men and women complement each other and share in creation of human life in their love for each other. In marriage, two become one flesh in their children, love becomes a whole new person—the fruit of their married love. This communion is the gift of marriage. Marriage is written in the very fiber our existence.
And the gift of marriage is for something. When a husband gives himself completely to a wife, and a wife completely to her husband, the marriage bears fruit. Children stem from marriage. So does community, and unity and social stability. At the very heart of marriage, at its very core, is a call—a call for men and women to be procreative through their total self-gift to one another.
Over the past few months, we’ve debated marriage and civil unions in Colorado, and the Supreme Court has debated marriage in Washington. The marriage debate is not likely to cease soon.
Lately, faithful families I know have told me that they are discouraged. That the confusion, and the attacks, and the hatred of the world have dampened their spirits. That the world’s view of marriage has made them feel under attack.
Be not afraid, brothers and sisters. I pray that the Church will be a place of renewal for you. A place of refreshment and joy. A place to encounter Jesus Christ apart from the noise, confusion, irrationality and anger of the world. The world needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the witness of joy-filled marriages. And so does the Church.
Over the next several weeks, I will offer reflections on marriage—its history, its meaning and its potential. I pray that my reflections will be helpful to you. But I would be remiss if I do not mention that the witness of faithful marriages is tremendously helpful to me. My heart is filled with joy by couples living their sacramental marriages faithfully as husbands and wives, in the communion of their children and grand-children.
We are blessed, in the Archdiocese of Denver, by thousands of families striving to live according to God’s plan, the Gospel and the teachings of the Church. By young couples, scrimping and saving to put their children into Catholic schools. By older couples offering their wisdom, and their witness of enduring fidelity and love. By families sharing the grace in their lives with our entire Church, and our entire community. Thank you for your witness. Marriage is a gift. I thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for giving and receiving that gift, and for entrusting it to the loving care of the Lord.