One flesh, one love

Readings for October 7, 2018

Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 128
Hebrews 2:9-11
Mark 10:2-16

Romantic comedies, romance novels, romantic restaurants, romantic greeting cards … the marketers seem to suggest that there is a desire in our hearts for grand romantic moments and gestures. However, in my own marriage, I have found that the strength of our love does not come from flowers or Hallmark, but from our shared faith in the divine love that binds us as one.

And we definitely are bound. God wants us each to have a “suitable partner,” which was revealed in Genesis to mean a partner that has been fashioned as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” In a sacramental marriage, the bones and flesh fuse back together “and the two of them become one flesh.” And, while law allows for, as Jesus states, separation, separating flesh from flesh and bone from bone will hurt. And the threat of that pain fuels us to stick together in sickness and health, for richer or poorer.

We all know the words, the promises made at most wedding ceremonies we have attended. We also know the sentimentality put forth in the romance of movies, books and greeting cards. But what does marriage actually look like, in real life?

Well, it looks like my neighbor, who recently walked his wife home to the Lord. He was angry and confused as she suffered with a cancer that ran faster than any treatment could catch. But he walked with her, and lovingly consoled their four children, and bravely spoke of the lasting moments of their shared suffering in a memorial at her funeral.

It also looks like my dad, who is watching his wife of nearly 60 years suffer with ever-increasing memory loss and its unanticipated effects on her physical health. He doesn’t understand what’s happening or why, but knows that despite his own health problems he has to be more kind, more gentle, and more involved in her daily care than at any other point in his 85 years of life.

And it looks like my wife, who, a number of years ago while in the midst of watching her parents die, had to deal with her husband losing his job. The sudden change in my job status meant her taking on part-time work to make money even as she cared for our children, consoled her disconsolate husband, and helped her ailing parents.

It seems a stark contrast to the romantic sentiments of the marketers that the enduring picture of love for us as Christians is Jesus on the cross. He gave everything to share his love with us. And marriage, in attaining a sense of the oneness in flesh, calls us to do the same.

In the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage, there is first a recognition that both a man and a woman individually reflect and contain the image of the power, tenderness, and dignity of God.  (CCC 2335) One partner is not more powerful, more tender, nor more dignified than the other. When I look at all that my wife has done for me I sometimes doubt or forget this, but it’s the truth. I possess within me the same ability to be powerful, tender, dignified, patient, and resilient in times of strife. That’s an important beginning point to any marital relationship. Both are co-equal with the intrinsic dignity of the Creator.

With a knowledge of divine love, two become one in the fullness of God’s creation — a fullness attained only through a love imitating the Creator’s generosity and abundance. Separately, there is God’s dignity. Together, there is a semblance of the divine love God has for each of us.

My Lord God, thank You for Your blessings and allowing me to know the presence of Your divine love. I know that, in marriage, “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” May Your presence in this oneness be whole in all marriages and may Your blessings rain down with abundance both in times of triumph and of struggle. Amen

6 thoughts on “One flesh, one love

  1. When I was reading this, I was reminded of C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, so I googled the quote…Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also many things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,” then it says what probably was never was or ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

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