Exquisite and Excruciating: The Life of Married Love

Essentially our love is meant to validate what God first declared about our spouse: that he or she is cherished forever and their worth will never be diminished; the spouse must never become disposable or an inconvenience, or reducible to the status of, say, a pet or an object.

"Two becoming one flesh" symbolizes a larger reality besides the sealing of a couple's mutual consent and oath before God (Cf. Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:5; Mk. 10:8). That oneness is something God always sees in the couple, even when we do not. Two people marry the totality of the other, complete in both body and soul. That means the marriage continues even when the body ceases to function in a healthy manner, or when the soul of the other suffers pain. The oneness of the two is especially made manifest when one shares in the cross of one another's suffering, perhaps even more profoundly than when they share the delights of the marriage bed.

This does not mean that certain situations are not intensely painful for either party, but as we have explored in this column recently, suffering, properly aligned with grace, can be borne for a greater good. We cannot ignore the reality that suffering can be a path to holiness when we look at the human life of Jesus, and his suffering and death on the cross.

A suffering, sickly spouse has an opportunity to choose a redemptive path through their sufferings—even unto the decline and letting go of one's mental and physical faculties—by aligning one's suffering to Christ.

The "healthy" spouse can also employ redemptive suffering, by similarly aligning their emotional and spiritual sufferings to Christ, and also to Mary, the Mother of Christ, who stood close by to her dying, beloved Son on the Cross. It becomes a privilege for the healthy spouse to somehow bear some of the burden, by the gift of their comforting presence.

By the grace of God, a Catholic's sacramental marriage pledges loving fidelity until one says goodbye to their spouse at the door of a natural death that will usher them to a new life.

To live in such a way is to grow in grace, even to begin to shine with the glow of heaven. To live in such a way is to ultimately win one's soul, and possibly many others, to Christ.

This is the truth of laying one's life down for the sake of the friend, the spouse. It is how we, mere mortals, live Eucharistic lives: "This is my body, given up for you" (Lk. 22:19).

Loving someone until death is as hard as it is beautiful. It will mean sacrifice. It will also be a well of deep, refreshing joy.

You will have battle scars over time from the hardships that life throws at your marriage. But when we invite Christ into our marriage, he sends graces to heal every scar that our fingers can trace, as his love magnifies and lingers in every embrace.

9/21/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Pat Gohn
    About Pat Gohn
    Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press.
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