Our second reading yesterday is probably one of the most beautiful and powerful messages on marriages... Ephesians 5:21-32. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most controversial due to translation. Maybe part of the issue of failed marriages today roots back to misinterpreting this passage. It seems to make the woman subordinate to her husband which, rightly so, makes her feel less important... maybe even less of a person.
Maybe that viewpoint helped us change the culture to view marriage as unimportant or old-fashioned. Maybe our marriage prep isn't quite what it should be in every case.
My own marriage prep (Catholic wedding because my wife was Catholic, though I wasn't) consisted of a couple of meetings with a priest, an engaged encounter weekend, and a questionnaire. It was more prep than if we'd just went to the justice of the peace, but it really didn't help me to understand the true commitment I was making. I loved my fiance and everything was gonna be great! I was 19, she was 20, so we knew better than everyone else. Sound about right? Everyone else told us we were making a mistake. We hadn't experienced life yet. The priest didn't quite get to that point, but he did stress how difficult life would be. But we were idealistic. We were different! I had the added challenge that I was not in the same city as my fiance at the time due to work. So she handled much of the "work" for our prep.
Less than 4 years into our marriage, we'd find out how difficult it could be. I'm talking rock bottom... both of us deciding whether to remain married. It was the one and only time we allowed the topic of divorce to enter our marriage. But God heaped His love on us and mercy entered both of our hearts and allowed us to turn a horrible situation into a strong foundation to build up our marriage. It was only through God's grace, and our openness to accepting and acting on it, that we are still married nearly 3 decades later.
The situation led us both into a stronger devotion of faith. I stopped trying to talk her out of Mass. Instead I attended with her every time. My wife never once pressured me into converting. She, instead, only prayed for me... constantly I think. Fifteen years later I finally became Catholic.
Still, it was only about 3 years ago, when I heard Fr. Riccardo's talk on Ephesians 5, when I began to truly understand the profound importance of marriage as a sacrament and the importance of my role as a husband.
I invite you all to take an hour to listen as Fr. Riccardo clarifies the actual context and meaning of this most beautiful passage on marriage.
The following link will open a new browser window. You can also search for it online by searching for "Fr. Riccardo Ephesians 5".
Most loving Father,
I pray for marriages across the world. Shine brightly on strong marriages, that they may be recognized as reflections of your love for us. Use us to draw others closer to you.
I thank you for blessing me with the vocation of married life and for providing me a partner for life. May we demonstrate your love to our children, that they will seek you as they mature.
I ask this in your most Holy name,