Marriage is an institution of nature and, for the baptized, a sacrament. Not only do the natural physiological and psychological desires experienced by both men and women show it to be an institution of nature but also, the fact that it is found in every age, every society and every civilization. The desires are categorized as physiological because both men and women have been designed with faculties for reproduction as well as possessing a strong innate impulse to use these faculties. The desires are also branded as psychological because men and women are natural complements of one another. Men and women everywhere are drawn towards this union and see in it the normal framework on which to build their happiness.
The efforts to achieve human happiness, let alone maintain that happiness can be described as a constant striving or an endless endeavour against our carnality; however, for the Christian there is hope. Christ offers a divine promise of hope when he alerts us saying “So also you now indeed have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you.” Jn.16:22 In regard to marriage, this comforting assurance is hidden in the judgment of the steward at the Wedding Feast of Cana, who framed the antithesis that “Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now.” Jn.2:10
Couples entering into marriage generally set out with the wine of human love, which savours of its own promises, hopes and delights. However, even the best intentions, like the wine at the Wedding Feast, soon threaten to run out and, before long, unregenerated human love is overwhelmed by a carnal mode of living.
When Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament, He, in effect, promised the couple His presence and divine help to sweeten the trying and bitter things that the spouses may experience in their life together. Given, therefore, the difficult and challenging time of our age, it is an even greater imperative that couples cling only to Christ. Just as all the wine at the wedding feast had to run out before Christ would provide good wine, so too couples must be totally devoid of their own provisions before He will supply good wine from the waters that others have drawn. The others who draw the water comprise those who, having lived in Christ, offer advice and support and are authentic examples of overcoming life’s bitterness and tribulations: “Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, … and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” Jn.16:20
St. Paul admonishment to Timothy to “stir up the grace of God which is in thee, by the imposition of my hands” 2Tim.1:6, is applicable to married couples today, who, living in an era overrun with distractions, seem to have lost focus on the real purpose of marriage. In order to enjoy the good wine of a successful marital life amidst the tedium and stresses of daily life, they should stir up those graces received in Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage and renew themselves in the sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. When spouses look into each other’s eyes, they should see Christ “like a roe, or a young hart. Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices” Cant.2:9, and, believing His promises, know that “the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.” Rom.8:18