After “missing a step” on the stairs, and falling down the rest this morning, I’m now “wide awake”! (I’ll be a little sore, but I’m fine.) Such missteps do have consequences. One such “misstep” of present day society is the topic of a newly released Pew survey regarding marriage. According to this latest survey, 4 in 10 say marriage is becoming obsolete.
Clearly, marriage and family life, and their definition, are two of the key and critical elements of fundamental society, and sacramental elements of faith and Church that are under threat today. Our challenge as Church is two-fold. First, we need to be able to understand the many factors that are behind present practice and thought, and second, we need to be clear and consistent regarding our teaching regarding the tremendous good and absolute necessity for marriage, as the union of a man and woman, and family life.
The reality in society today is that there are greater numbers of men and women choosing to cohabitate (live together without the benefit of marriage, civil or sacramental). As a former pastor who worked with numerous such couples, the reasons for this are many. The hopeful sign I experienced is that most of these young couples I spoke with were at least open to learn more about their faith life, and the teaching regarding the sacramental nature of human love, and the tremendous benefits of such sacramental love. The sad reality is there are still many more such couples who do not present themselves for such discussion and formation.
Another reality is a growing “openness” in society towards gays and lesbians, and in more and more states, desires to redefine marriage in a manner that allows for the civil recognition of the union of such couples. This societal issue is one more and more “promoted” through media and public television and movies. All of these representations in today’s TV shows, movies, print material and even national news coverage begins to influence the norms of acceptability among not only the young, but all age groups. These are powerful forces in our culture today, and their effect cannot be underestimated.
As the opening of this blog entry suggests, when we make missteps in society, there are consequences. We as Church are clear about our teaching around the dignity, sanctity, and necessity of marriage. From the opening pages of Sacred Scripture, we learn God has created us in His image, male and female He created us; and He created us to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:26-28) This human love of man and woman is an essential part of God’s plan for all of humanity. It not only “mirrors” the very nature of God, but is the means by which God chooses to continue the creation of all humankind. It is a primoridal and essential expression in the human experience of the very love of God.
The essential reality and necessity for family is written into the commandments themselves when we are taught to honor our father and mother. (Exodus 20:12) The very first miracle of Jesus occured in the moment of a wedding in Cana. (John 2:1-12) I’m sure this was not conincidental. If from the beginning, God created man and woman in His own image, it seems only natural the first miracle continues this priority of marriage and family life.
I write on this topic because it will be one requiring more and more of our conscious effort, both in terms of practical teaching, and in terms of a continued effort in the public and political forum to come to the aid of the defense of marriage and family life. Our Bishops Conference is making great strides in producing materials to this very end. I encourage you to go to the USCCB website and review the materials presently available on marriage. I know I have asked that family life be one of the priorities for our diocesan strategic plan, and I have every hope and belief that others share this priority!
We cannot ignore this basic plan of God, and this basic teaching of Jesus regarding the dignity and sanctity of marriage and family life. In the coming week, look how many people will gather as family around the Thanksgiving table. There is no other source for each and every human person than Jesus Christ (for in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth (Colossians 1:16) through the love of man and woman. There cannot be any other legitimate source of human life.
May we continue to show our love for each and every human person, those born and unborn, and may we continue to do all we can to stand up for the dignity and sanctity of marriage and family life according to the plan of God.