Jesus said to the Father:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:20-26 NIV).
Now re-read it as a description of the Sacrament of Marriage. It’s not just about that, and we’ll look at the bigger picture in a minute, but first let’s consider these beautiful words as a reason for marriage to BE a sacrament instead of just a civil bond or the insufficient bond of living like husband and wife without any publicly-witnessed marriage vows.
Jesus prays for all sacramental marriages with these words: “May they be one, Father. As You are in Me and I in You, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” A sacramental union includes unity with God. A sacramental marriage is a visual lesson for the world to learn from, about how God loves us unconditionally, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, rich or poor, all the time, no matter what.
In a sacramental marriage, the husband lays down his life to serve his wife, and the wife lays down her life to serve her husband, as a visual reminder to the world that God the Father sent His only Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it, and that the Son freely laid down His life for us, and as His Bride, we choose to lay down our lives to serve Him.
“I have given them the glory You gave Me…” Because a blessed marriage is a sacrament, in the unity between the woman and the man and God, this glory becomes very real, very apparent.
“…so that they may be one, as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be brought to perfection as one…” In the glory of God’s perfect love, as the spouses lay down their lives for each other, they unite themselves to His perfection. They unite themselves to the fullness of His love. In God, they have the power to overcome whatever threatens to divide them.
“…that the world may know that You sent Me and that You loved them even as You loved Me.” In the Sacrament of Marriage, the couple fulfills their calling, their vocation, together, to bring Christ and His salvation to the world, spreading the Good News simply by sharing their love and making it last by the help God provides.
“Father, they are Your gift to Me.” In our marriages, we are GIFT! We are a gift FROM the Father! We are a gift TO Jesus! We are a gift, therefore, from God to all the world, for what we do unto Jesus we do to His Body, which is everyone in the Church, AND we do unto all others, i.e., the “least of these” (cf. Matthew 25).
Do you see how much is lacking from a marriage that is not a sacrament? If both husband and wife desire to be partners with God in love, nothing can prevent their relationship from being a sacrament — nothing! — thanks to the help of the Third Partner, Who is totally and permanently committed to making it work well. And nothing can prevent an unblessed marriage from becoming a sacrament, not even a previous marriage that needs to be annulled. God will provide a way for any marital relationship to become a gift from Him to the world, regardless of difficulties and challenges.
However, what happens when one of the spouses does not want to live as a sacrament? Or when one of them dies? Jesus steps in and becomes the True Spouse, the Sacrament, for the one who desires it. Of course we pray that God gives to unwilling spouses abundant opportunities for conversion, but always Jesus is there, fully present to the one who wants the perfect love God had in mind to provide from the beginning.
All this is true for any relationship, any two people, any community that God has joined, be it a friendship or a parish or a rectory that’s occupied by more than one priest or a religious household or a faith sharing group. Although these are not one of the official seven sacraments of the Church, each union created by God is a sacrament (the presence and power of Christ) for the world. Each relationship is a vehicle for the gift of God’s grace, a vehicle that was designed to be powered by love.
Do you see how terribly, horrifyingly sinful it is to deny the opportunities God has given us to be in loving relationship with one another?
May the prayer of Jesus be answered with our lives!
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© 2002 by Terry Modica
Good News Ministries