Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 374

So Sarai said to Abram:
“You are responsible for this outrage against me. I myself gave my maid to your embrace; but ever since she became aware of her pregnancy, she has been looking on me with disdain. May the LORD decide between you and me!”

Recently I presided over a wedding in the family and reflected upon the gift of marriage. This is, as Saint Paul said, a great mystery but I speak in reference to Christ and his Church.

I began by reminding the congregation of the Greek philosophers who discovered by observation and reasoning there exists a spiritual world. In that world are, among many things, numbers. Mathematics is as real as any rock, but you can’t throw pi at someone. The formulas for determining the hypotenuse of a right triangle, the square root of two, the circumference of a circle: these definitely exist but only in another reality. It doesn't matter what language you speak, god you worship or culture you inherit; even if you lived on a distant exo-planet in a galaxy far, far away: two times two is four. 

The philosophers also discerned the existence of Truth, Goodness and Beauty; the doctrine of the two ways, good and evil; and that there is a Supreme Being. 

But believing that such a God exists did them little good because they had no way to speak to the deity. They had no name for God. That revelation could only come from God through the Jewish/Christian tradition. Jesus, the Son of Supreme Being revealed the deeper mysteries like the Trinity, Incarnation, Grace, Church – and Marriage

Until God reveals the mystery of marriage we suspect it exists and have some ideas what it should be, but no solid evidence. We can discover something about sexuality; we can explore endlessly the similarities and differences of men and women. Somewhere in the millennium before Jesus people realized that the sexual embrace of man and woman generates children. 

But can a man have several wives? Or a wife, several husbands? Is there union a bond for life or only a temporary business transaction? Should we expect three spouses in one’s life: a lover of one’s youth, a parent of one’s children and a companion of one’s old age? Do sexual desires mean that one must "have sex" or die? Is marriage a human invention to keep women in bondage? 

Before God spoke to us through Jesus, these and many other questions remained unsettled. And so Abram could, at his wife’s suggestion, beget a child by her slave Haggai and expect it to work out for everyone. It didn’t. Haggai and Sarai became mortal enemies and Abram had to choose between them. You might suppose that bitter experience settled the issue but many centuries later David and Solomon were still trying to manage their contentious harems.

To this day people who do not know the Lord experiment with marriage. They try new configurations of sexual relationships and hope their novelties will lead to a more just and peaceful society. But they forget that marriage is a mystery which exists in the spiritual world. Like pi and the the number 0, it is not subject to human redefining. We might understand it better from one century to the next, and a married couple can hope to grow in appreciation of its height and depth and breadth but God revealed marriage to us for our edification. We did not invent it to suit our needs. 

They forget too, that marriage is a sacrament, a sign which:

  1. gives graces, 
  2. blesses the Church and 
  3. points to a reality infinitely more beautiful than itself. 

I speak in reference to Christ and his Church.

Marriage is not just about the well-being of the spouses, nor even of them and their children. It blesses the whole world as we see in the married couple the incarnate love of God. Because a husband loves his wife we believe that Christ loves his church. Because a wife trusts her husband we find in ourselves the willingness to trust the Lord. Because a husband and wife faithfully and certainly work out their difficulties, we believe that every human being can make peace with God and with others. Because they take pleasure in one another’s company we know that God takes delight in his spouse.

Their children are the first beneficiaries. They just know the love of their parents is as certain as the solid foundation of their homes. They can even take it for granted, though in their maturity they will know better. They grow up in the knowledge that a child has a right to parents who love each other. The world always suspected these truths but lacked the wisdom, assurance and grace to practice them. They had to be revealed by  God to us.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

P.S. As you know the Supreme Court yesterday made a dramatic decision to reinvent civil marriage according to current ideological definitions. We can pray it will not lead to the catastrophe like those in the wake of Roe v Wade, but it's hard to expect otherwise.

Abraham Lincoln once asked an opponent: "If you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?"
"Five." the fellow said.
"Four." replied the President. "Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."
Calling the friendship of two men or two women "marriage" doesn't make it so. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.