On Marriage and Children
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
Today’s Gospel invites all the married couples and teenagers who are in the processes of selecting their life partner, and people who are undergoing crisis in their family to reflect on deeper meaning of Marriage itself. There are so many forces that destroy the very basics of family today, and we cannot just sit here and do nothing to address them. I thought this topic to be appropriate to talk in the presence of our youth and young adult today who are in many ways affected just as parents are.
Marriage is a gift from God. The book of Genesis portrays the first couple being introduced by God in person and joined with his blessing. God knew only too well that, “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). God calls the majority of men and women to become holy and find their fulfillment in marriage through a loving and loyal living together to the end. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Gospel rightly quoted the words in the book of Genesis: “6 But from the beginning of creation, `God made them male and female.’ 7 `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
It is sad however, that the rising divorce rate has become a confusing religious and social problem. We only sympathize with all the divorcees, for marriages though “made in heaven” are lived on earth where, too often, self-giving is absent and selfishness overpower love to the extent that marital fidelity indeed becomes difficult. However, any promise to be true has to fulfill certain conditions as in the case of a seed which is a promise but it has to be first buried in the soil and exposed to rain and wind and sunshine before it sprouts. Likewise, God’s promise of fulfillment through marriage has some conditions, namely totality in love and fidelity to the end. Hence at a Christian wedding, the couple promises each other, not a Rose Garden but the gift of themselves for ever. Therefore do not look so much at how your spouse will make you happy. Look instead at how you can give yourself away to each other. Live out the ‘I do” promise every day.
I did a wonderful wedding celebration at the beautiful Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland yesterday. A good number of married couples with their children were around. I saw in their eyes a reaffirmation of their vows when the bride and the groom exchanged their marriage vows with tears of joy. I wondered however, if there were those among the guests, who had to go through the agony of failure in keeping their vows.
There’s so much emotional pain that divorce can cause. When you invest your life in another person and that relationship falls apart, it hurts. Psychologists rate the stress caused by a divorce as being higher than the stress caused by the death of a spouse. Sometimes the marriage is so dysfunctional or even abusive that divorce is the only recourse. Even in that situation divorce is a difficult and painful transition. The unthinkable results however affect the children in their growth. Psychologist and sociologist agree that many of the youths coming from broken families have anti-social and behavioral problems. And one reason is due to lack of parental love and supervision.
Divorce inflicts traumatic experience of separation suffered by the couples and children; it has become a simplistic way of resolving marital problems. Couples who resort to divorce because one of the spouses is irresponsible, unfaithful and a drunkard is only transferring their personal problems to another marital relationship — if they don’t change their old traits and vices. So, it’s recycling personal problems, which will lead to another divorce.
(A couple was arguing about expenses. The wife said to her husband, “Will you quit buying liquor, you’re spending money irresponsibly! To which the husband replied, “What about you? You keep buying make ups and other beauty products.” The wife explained, “I have to use make ups so that I will look beautiful to you.” To which the husband also explained, “I need to get drunk so that I can appreciate your beauty.” This scenario can go on and on until the relationship becomes monotony.)
A high school teacher asked her class what’s the word used to describe a marriage with many wives. A student answered, “polygamy.” “You’re right,” she said. “How about a marriage with two spouses? Another student replied, “ bigamy.” “Correct,” the teacher said, “And how about a marriage with only one wife?” A student raised his hand and blurted out, “Ma’am, monotony!” Of course he meant “monogamy.” However, unintentionally his answer touched on a problem in marriage, which is monotony.
When monotony strikes a relationship and there’s a loss of respect and affection, it will lead to the dissolution of that relationship. The husband used to give her wife flower, used to kiss her and say the words I Love You. Now, he would just leave without saying anything, comes home anytime he wants. The wife doesn’t take shower anymore. She doesn’t wear her beautiful night gown anymore.
I read on facebook about how couples, after many years of marriage, think of their spouses. He compared them with the type of songs they sing. The text message runs this way: “On the day of their marriage, they sing: “Love divine and love excelling.” After ten years of marriage they sing: “Lord have mercy” After 20 years of marriage, their song is: “Take Oh Lord and receive.” After 30 years, they sing Elvis Presley’s “Please release me let me go”
So, what should be done is to work out couple’s problems and save their turbulent marriages as far as possible. When bitter conflicts crop up inflicting emotional wounds, it is important that the wound be treated with real sorrow, which goes with a resolve to reform; otherwise it leaves a permanent scar.
Sometimes there are valid reasons that make the Christian teaching on marriage difficult to swallow. But there is value in faithfulness that can overcome the difficulties of married life. It would be huge joy and fulfillment to feel if, despite all the trials and difficulties, a couple persevere and see their children grow to become good parents someday.
Another recommendation that we should do is to frequent our coming to church together as a family. A study indicated that if couples attend Mass together each Sunday they have a sixty times greater chance of having a lasting marriage. And if they pray together every day – even just prayers before meals or kneeling down at the bedside at night, the marriage is practically unbreakable. The reason is obvious. Didn’t Jesus say in the gospel today, ‘married couples’ are no longer two but one flesh? Certainly he will bless you with joy of being together. In fact the first miracle he performed was for that young couple in Cana to save their wedding reception – and he wants to give you everything you need, each day, to have a beautiful married life. Therefore never forget to be with Jesus as couples every day.
The other recommendation I would like to share, is for the youth and young adults to be the light at home. I know fear will envelop you at times to even say a word to your parents, but if you sense that there is a problem at home, stand up and be a light by reminding the household to pray and stay together.
Today is acolyte recognition Sunday. The word acolyte means altar servers whose primary role is to light the altar candles and assists the priests and deacons at the altar. In tagalog, “Ako” means “I am” “AKO LIGHT” “I am light” Youth and young adults, be the light at home and show your good deeds to others so that God in heaven be glorified.
To all parents, learn from the story of a zipper who always unifies that which at times separates. Keep those pants zipped, don’t let it fall open otherwise you will fall into temptations. Amen.