Marriage is a Vocation and a Sacrament
“ … there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the Mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage with His disciples.”
A young woman is set up on a blind date with a young man – a pediatrician. He comes across as nerdy and awkward, a shy, stumbling conversationalist who spills soup on his tie during dinner. As the woman is contemplating faking a headache and asking to be taken home early, the doctor’s beeper goes off. He is called to an emergency and invites her to come along, since it was on the way to her home. Seeing him interact with a sick child, she discovers a tenderness in him that surprises her and she begins to speculate about what sort of husband and father he might be. If he isn’t the man of her dreams that she hopes for, she wonders, maybe it’s time for her to change those dreams and expectations.
Today, we hear of the Wedding at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus performs His first public miracle at the urgent request of His Mother, the Virgin Mary!
To show that all states in life are good, whether it be single, married or religious, Jesus deigned to be born in the pure womb of the Virgin Mary; soon after He was born He received praise from the prophetic lips of Anna, a widow, and, invited in His youth by a betrothed couple, He honors their wedding with the power of His and His mother’s presence. Christ’s presence at the wedding at Cana is a sign that He blesses the love between man and woman joined in marriage: God originally instituted marriage at the beginning of creation; which is why marriage is referred to as the first sacrament. Jesus confirmed this by His presence and very first public miracle by raising marriage to the dignity of a sacrament!
Jesus works miracles in magnanimous and generous ways; for example, in the multiplication of the loaves and fish, He feeds thousands of men, women and children — who eat as much as they want — and the leftovers fill twelve baskets. In this present miracle He does not change the water into just any wine but into wine of highest quality.
The Early Church Fathers see in this good wine, kept for the end of the wedding celebration, and in its abundance, a prefiguring of the crowning of the history of salvation: formerly God sent the patriarchs and prophets, but in the fullness of time He sent His own Son, whose teaching perfects the old Revelation and whose grace far exceeds the expectations of the righteous in the Old Testament. They also have seen, in this good wine coming at the end, the reward and joy of eternal life which God grants to those who desire to follow Christ and His Church’s teachings and who, as a result, have suffered bitterness, mockery and contradiction in this life.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, Marriage is a vocation, the primary vocation in life. It’s the vocation which more people enter into than any other. You may hear some people say that their vocation in life is to be a doctor, or a dentist or a lawyer or even a missionary. Nevertheless, these vocations are only secondary ones. Their primary vocation is to be married, a spouse and the parent of a family.
Marriage too is a high vocation. Christ himself showed us this, for it was at a marriage feast, the marriage feast of Cana, that He began His public life and performed His first miracle. Cana was a small town only six miles distant from Nazareth, where Mary and Jesus lived. Most probably our Lord and our Blessed Mother knew the wedding couple well.
It’s significant that our Lord and His Blessed Mother were present. It’s significant that He performed His first miracle and began His public life at a wedding feast. By so doing Christ showed most clearly the importance of marriage. He showed us the high place that marriage occupies in a Christian society.
Marriage is of its very nature a holy institution, for it was instituted by God Himself, at creation. It was the way Adam and Eve, through their relationship to each other, bridged themselves to God and increased their personal holiness, until, of course, the Original Sin. But Christ added to marriage an even deeper meaning and a higher beauty. He elevated it to the dignity of a sacrament, by His presence and first miracle at the Wedding in Cana of Galilee. He made it a means of conferring grace on those who receive it. This grace that it gives is twofold.
Marriage bestows sanctifying grace on those who enter into it worthily. But above and beyond sanctifying grace, matrimony also gives a special sacramental grace. This special sacramental grace helps a husband and wife to become one and live as true disciples of Christ by cementing and strengthening the marriage bond. And it gives them supernatural strength to fulfill their duties to meet the problems that may arise in marriage, if they live and follow the teachings of Christ and His Church. These graces remain with them throughout all of their married sacramental life. A husband and wife may call on them at any time, for God pledges them the lifelong support of His help, if they live in accord with His teachings.
Holy Matrimony as a sacrament has probably been attacked more than any other. The demons of hell cannot attack the Blessed Trinity directly; so they attack the Trinity indirectly by attacking marriages and families, since marriage and family are a reflection of the Blessed Trinity! Marriage laws have also been assaulted by individuals, institutions and by nations. This holy and lasting bond has been challenged time and time again. From King Henry VIII of England to our friends in Hollywood and the secular mass media marriage has been made a mockery of.
There are many today who hold contrary to the Catholic Church that a marriage can begin or be ended by a simple piece of legal paper of man-made laws. They ignore the vows of man and woman to take each other to have and to hold until death do they part. They hold this in defiance of the words of Christ who asked His disciples, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?”
Sexual difference is woven into all of Scripture. Genesis, the first book of scripture begins with “complementary pairs which are meant to work together” (repeat) —heaven and earth, sea and dry land, and man and woman. Marriage is the great scriptural sign of how these complements can be reconciled in their difference, which is why Christ calls the Church His bride and describes our salvation as a wedding banquet. When you tug on the strand of sexual difference, the whole same-sex marriage argument begins to unravel!
Matrimony is a sacrament of the most-high God. It’s a primary vocation of life. It’s the means by which men and women may become holy, procreate children and help them become holy, and thereby help build up the Church, and as a result, save their souls and gain heaven, which is not possible with other forms of intimate relationships. The lasting Christian marriage is an object of admiration and splendor. By cooperating with God’s graces, one can attain to this state of happiness allotted to mankind in this vale of tears.
The Church judge’s marriage to be so important that it decrees it should take place in the sanctuary of the Church, if it is to become a sacrament. Thus a man and woman exchange their marriage vows on the altar in the presence of the Eucharistic Christ and of His priest. This is not possible in civil court!
If we should look around for models to follow in married life, we can readily turn to our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, the two greatest saints in the Catholic Church. And they were a man and a woman! As His true disciples, Christ invites us to accompany Him and His Mother into our marriages and families. Because it’s a sure and certain sign that we must dramatically alter our “dreams,” and expectations according to the teachings of God and His bride – the Church!
Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Sunday, January 17th, 2016
John 2: 1-11