Christian marriage is not merely a ceremony that is done in a church, with flowers, dress, and photos, but “is a sacrament that takes place in the Church and makes the Church.”
During his weekly General Audience this morning in a sunny St. Peter’s Square, the Pope made this observation, stressing that Christian marriage should never be reduced to material things.
Continuing his catechesis series on the family, and reflecting specifically on marriage, Francis called to mind how Saint Paul introduced the analogy between the couple, husband and wife, and Christ and the Church.
“It’s clear that this is an imperfect analogy, but we have to grasp the spiritual meaning that is very high and revolutionary,” Francis said, noting Paul says the love between husband and wife is the image of the love between Christ and the Church.
“Unthinkable dignity!” he said. “But in reality, it is inscribed in God’s creative design, and with the grace of Christ, innumerable Christian couples, despite their sins and limitations, have achieved this!”
Francis reminded those gathered of Paul’s words that a husband must love his wife as himself, just as “Christ ‘loved the Church and gave himself up for her.'”
The sacrament of marriage, the Pontiff noted, is a great act of faith and love, and requires courage to step beyond one’s self.
“The Christian vocation to love unconditionally and without limit is what, with the grace of Christ, is the basis of the free consent which makes marriage,” he said.
The Church itself, the Pope said, “is fully involved in the history of every Christian marriage and is built in its successes and failures, and suffering.”
“But we must ask ourselves seriously: Do we ourselves accept, as believers and also pastors, this unbreakable bond of the history of Christ and the Church with the history of marriage and of the human family? Are we prepared to take this responsibility seriously, that is that every marriage goes on the road of love that Christ has with the Church?
“This is great!” Francis said.
The life of the Church, he added, “is enriched each time by the beauty of this spousal covenant, and deteriorates whenever it is disfigured.”
The courageous faithfulness of spouses, the Pope said, is required for the Church to give all the gifts of faith, love and hope. “God’s people need their daily walk in faith, love and hope, with all the joys and hardships that this path entails in a marriage and in a family.”
Before concluding, Francis remind those gathered, “Christ does not cease to care for the Church,” for God transmits His tenderness from couple to couple and from family to family.
God does not get deterred, Pope Francis noted, for the Lord is ready “to remove from its human face wrinkles and stains of all kinds.”
Toward the conclusion of the General Audience, Pope Francis recalled that in the coming days, some will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
“On this occasion,” Francis said, “I entrust to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, the hope that human society learns from past mistakes and that in front of the current conflicts that are tearing apart some regions of the world, all civil leaders commit themselves to seeking the common good and promoting a culture of peace.”