The Redemptive Call of Marriage

Fr. Michael Giesler


Within our general vocation to be in the Church and share in Christ’s redemptive mission, God has a special plan for our life. Since God created us in His image and likeness, we each have a deep desire to love and be loved, just as the three Persons of the Holy Trinity share an infinite life of knowledge and love, which includes the gift of Themselves to one another. 

Most men and women are called to find God and fulfillment in this life through close and intimate contact with a partner of the opposite sex. Such was God’s original plan for the human race as we see in the persons of Adam and Eve. They were called to be mutually complementary, and to find happiness together in the Garden of Eden. As Adam said of Eve when he first saw her: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). Man and woman were thus created equal in dignity and were united to one another with very deep bonds. They were called to be intimate with one another in “one flesh,” signifying the covenant of love between them.  

What first constitutes a human family is the bond between husband and wife, which Pope St. John Paul II described as the “first communion” in a family. It is a life of mutual support and encouragement that is sustained by affection and commitment to one another. Such is the nature of marriage on a natural level.  

But through the Sacrament of Matrimony, that life is enhanced and uplifted; through the comings and goings, the ups and downs of daily life, husband and wife forge a path to heaven together, though God will do most of the work. Each must find the way to forgive, to be generous, to go forward together—taking into account one another’s flaws and weaknesses. The husband who has to overcome his tiredness upon returning home in order to be fully present with his wife and children and to give himself to them; the wife who overcomes her anxieties and frustrations and presents a welcoming smile for her husband and who has kept the home clean and joyful for him: this is solid cooperation with Christ and real co-redemption, without the need to call it as such. “For a Christian marriage is not just a social institution, much less a mere remedy for human weakness. It is a real supernatural calling. A great sacrament, in Christ and in the Church.” 

Couples sanctify their marriage when they pray for one another, when they work together as loving partners toward the same goal. (For most this includes the raising of children, but couples without children can also work together in a marvelous way to sanctify their relationship and do good for those around them.) For couples with children, love and a common goal continue when children grow up and leave the home. These are special years in which their love and unity can become stronger; now they can concentrate more on each other, and their companionship can become more unique and excellent as they care for each other in old age. They can fulfill to the end their marriage vow and their sacramental covenant: for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part.  

Ultimately, a sanctified marriage means fidelity. It is not only sexual fidelity but personal and spiritual fidelity to that person who is on the same path to God. Such fidelity is truly co-redemptive. Both husband and wife together discover Christ in their relationship, even through pain and misunderstandings, and their mutual love is a reflection of Christ’s own love for His Body, the Church.  

But marriage is not only for the fulfillment of the married couple. A couple who is truly in love and working to enhance their love each day can be a tremendous inspiration to other couples and to their children. They can see the beauty and fruitfulness of the couple’s lives and may wish to imitate it. Even seeing a large family with three or more children waiting in line somewhere or occupying a pew in church can be quite moving. No words need be spoken in these moments; the parents and children themselves are giving witness to the value of familial love and its beauty.  

Couples who really love one another will not be in “their own worlds.” Since they are one, in both body and in spirit, they should be in constant communication. This doesn’t mean that they always have to be talking, rather that they are always united and moving in the same direction even without words—though occasionally there may be disagreements and quarrels. If they have the same general goal of giving glory to God and finding Christ in their marriage, they will certainly assist Him in His redemption.  

MICHAEL GIESLER is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei who lives in Saint Louis, Missouri. He has written a trilogy of books about the early Christians and their transforming influence in the world during the first centuries after Christ, along with many articles about Scripture and contemporary topics. Fr. Giesler is also the author of a short book with practical advice for helping young people to do mental prayer. He has taught and offered spiritual direction for both priests and laymen for over forty years.

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