Thursday, January 29, 2015

Our Imperfect Marriages

  Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday, the second reading will be from 1 Cor 7:32-35. This reading is in sequence from last week's epistle reading.

So, last week, Paul counseled the church in Corinth on the need for detachment from this world. This advice was given in the midst of his instruction for widows, virgins, and married people.

In this week’s reading, he zeroes in on one possible problem for those in married life. Paul leads off this passage by asserting that he desire that his brothers and sisters in Christ can be free of anxiety. What does this really mean? defines anxiety (in non-clinical context) in this way:
1. distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune
2. earnest but tense desire; eagerness

I think that both of these definitely apply to married life, though perhaps not in this order. I’d like to focus on the second definition.

Consider how one acts in a new relationship (either when you’re still dating, or when you’re newly married). How did you act toward your husband (or wife) in the early days? I’d be willing to bet that you were anxious to please them? Any little gift - breakfast in bed, the last chicken finger in the box, that [whatever-it-was] that they just had to have - you watched them very carefully to make sure it was everything they hoped for.

Now, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this. Marriage is a vocation of service. I should want to serve my husband, to do for him, to make him happy; I should desire that he continue to be refined to more perfectly resemble the image and likeness of God. And he should want to do the same for me.

Paul’s point is that because we are finite creatures, this eagerness that we have to please our husbands does take away from the energy we are able to put into serving Christ. We can only do so much before we collapse from exhaustion. We who are married are, in a word, “divided”.

This is not so much a fault as it is a fact of life. In married life, we do what is called for by our vocation. Paul says that there isn’t anything wrong with married life. Earlier in the chapter, Paul says that those who are married shouldn’t seek to be single, and he says that a person who marries commits no sin by doing so.

We, being fallen creatures, will not live our vocation perfectly, we will love inadequately (neglect), incorrectly (lust), or to excess (idolatry), but we are, each of us, called to love our spouses in the way that Christ loved his church - perfectly. And we are to desire one another’s spiritual perfection.

Let’s pray that God will open the eyes of our heart to show us the ways in which our love for our spouses is not in line with his plan for us. Let us also pray that he will provide for us a course correction, so that our marriages will more perfectly reflect the plan he has for our lives and what is in store for us in eternity.

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