Marriage a prime image of God’s love
By Shawn Reeves
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time/Jan. 20
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96:1-2,2-3,7-8,9-10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11
This year my wife and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage, and I could not help but celebrate a little already after reviewing this Sunday’s readings. They are rich with marital language. God professes Himself a “bridegroom [who] rejoices in his bride,” Jesus performs his first miracle at a wedding in Cana, and St. Paul describes the many ways the Holy Spirit gives of Himself to the Church.
While not everyone is called to marriage, the meaning of marriage, what marriage symbolizes, is something that wells up as a longing of all human hearts. St. John Paul II called marriage the “primordial sacrament” because even before it was elevated in grace by Christ it was bound to our nature as the foundational enterprise of faithful permanence. God speaks about Himself in marital language because marriage is that institution that resonates the human heart’s noblest aspirations: faithfulness, unity, constancy. And God elevates marriage to a sacrament because the ideals of marriage (expressed in the vows) vividly mirror the essence of divine love.
This Sunday’s readings are both a testimony of God’s fidelity to His people and an edict to emulate this faithfulness in our relationships, especially Christian marriage.
Whether married or single, wed to Christ as religious or wed to the Church as clergy, all can appreciate the significance of what marriage represents because all long for what it ought to be in its perfection, an icon of the one thing no human heart can survive without — infinite, divine love.
GOD IS FAITHFUL
In our first reading, God issues hope through the prophet Isaiah that Israel and Judah have not been abandoned by God, that there is permanence in his love. Much of Isaiah’s prophecy is a clarion declaration of coming tragedy because of systems of sinfulness. But here, near the end of the book, God announces that His people are still dear to Him, and He is still faithful to them. After proclaiming the coming of The Anointed One in the previous chapter, God professes here, “For Jerusalem’s sake . . . your Builder shall marry you.”
We then find in our Gospel reading Christ, the Anointed One, beginning the fulfillment of that prophecy in the context of a wedding. While he begins with the rhetoric “my hour has not yet come” (a euphemism for his death and resurrection), at the request of His Mother, Mary, He miraculously transforms water to wine, a symbol of nuptial commitment in ancient Jewish weddings. In the very next chapter, Jesus refers to Himself as a “bridegroom” (as He also does in each of the other three Gospels), echoing Isaiah’s proclamation from our first reading, “As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.”
And just as the Second Vatican Council teaches that “spouses are penetrated with the Spirit of Christ” in marriage, so in our second reading we hear of the varied ways that the Church, the spouse of Christ, is penetrated by the Holy Spirit.
LOVE IS OUR VOCATION
This Sunday’s readings are both a testimony of God’s fidelity to His people and an edict to emulate this faithfulness in our relationships, especially Christian marriage. Marriage is “modeled on Christ’s own union with the Church,” according to the Second Vatican Council, as an “intimate union,” and “a mutual giving of two persons.” “He abides with them,” states the Council, “in order that by their mutual self-giving spouses will love each other with enduring fidelity, as He loved the Church and delivered Himself for it.”
Our marriages are then bound to and nourished by this First Marriage. Our spousal faithfulness is strengthened by His faithfulness, our constancy compelled by God’s own loving permanence, and our marital unity advanced by God’s unity, expressed most vividly in the gift of His own Spirit. “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love,” the Church professes.
Marriage is not the sole vocation of human life, but love is. And so marriage remains a principal image of God’s love, because the very nature of Divine Love is endless, faithful unity.
SHAWN REEVES has served as the director of religious education at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in Champaign since 2001. He and his family attend St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Thomasboro.