Marriage is built on mercy and forgiveness Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

This column is the bishop's communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends.
On Sunday, August 19, I was honored and privileged to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for those in the diocese marking 50 years of marriage.

It was a joyful moment, gathering about 60 couples from throughout the diocese and, in a particular way, I felt called by the Lord to point out that the durability and the steadfastness of their married lives is a “school of forgiveness,” from which all can learn.

I could see the twinkle in their eyes as I recalled that beneath the marriage covenant of each and every couple present there was a mountain of forgiveness built on 50 years of forgiveness and mercy, with and through the Lord.

It is no small feat to have built that mountain, and it is a tremendous sign for the whole world. In fact, it is one of my most cherished occasions of the whole year when I am in the company of those who, with Mary, have said their “fiat” — their, “let it be” — and continue to mean it.

Provide example for today’s couples

The sign provided by those couples is even more outstanding when considered in light of present realities.

Even on the joyful day of our anniversary celebration, further back in my mind was the reality of widespread divorce among Catholics, even to the point where this has an impact on the number of declarations of nullity of marriage which are constantly requested.

And what I’ve been thinking about since then is the deeper root of this divorce and annulment mentality, which so weakens the institution of marriage at a very unfortunate time in the history of our country.

It also struck me that through the practice of artificial contraception, and also in many other instances, married couples wind up saying to themselves, “the Church says this, but God would want me to do that . . . The Church says this, but what would Jesus say?”

Connecting with God through the Church

This, of course wrongly presumes that one connects with Jesus in a way that is apart from the Church. As Pope Francis has repeatedly reminded us, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, is the soul of the Church, and thus, there can be no divide between Christ and the Church.

The Church is sinful in her members, but she is divine in her institution. It is impossible to separate the Church from Christ, and yet people constantly say, “the Church does this, the Church does that, but Jesus wouldn’t do what the Church does.”

The idea of a direct access to Jesus, apart from and in contradiction to the Church, belies Jesus taking on human flesh and appearing in a body.

Just as Jesus came and appeared in the flesh, taking our human nature upon Himself, so too after His resurrection and ascension, Christ still wishes to inhabit the earth in bodily form, through His Spirit, who is the soul of the Body of Christ, the Church.

No division between Christ and the Church

There can be no division between Christ and the Church. They are made for unity and they are wedded in such a way that we cannot divide one from the other.
And, in fact, one of the most powerful signs of the union between Christ and His Bride, the Church, is the Sacrament of Marriage. It is a bond that is sacrificial, that is life-giving, that is forever. It is not a one-to-one comparison, but marriage is one image of that mystery.

The thought struck me so clearly, how can a couple choose to be married, that is, choose to be a sign of the union between Christ and His Church, while at the same time insisting that the Church is divided from Christ, because they claim the Church says and does things that Jesus would never do?

For the couples that do this, the sign of their marriage covenant says “the Church and Christ are united,” while their words and behavior, in so many ways, insist that Christ and the Church are divided. It is no small wonder that, when people, by word and deed, proclaim the separation of the Church from Christ, their ability to witness to the unity of Christ and His Church through their marriage is severely weakened.

Definition of marriage is under threat

And this authentic witness to married life has become a theological and moral necessity as the very institution of marriage is under strong threat of redefinition in our country.

Already, widespread divorce and a contraceptive mentality have created a deficit of selfless and sacrificial love in our society and, now more than ever, it is important that Catholic marriages be a strong witness.

If we are trying to make the argument that married life means something very particular, how can that argument be convincing, when so many do not uphold what it means?

It is our understanding that marriage is one man, one woman, one lifetime, with openness to children. And now so many can say, “no one believes that it is for a lifetime anymore, and your marriages are not truly open to children, so why do you say there should be one man and one woman (and why only one of each)?”

Built on foundation of mercy, forgiveness

Good marriages, built on foundations of mercy and forgiveness, are the best way to witness to the truth about marriage. And good marriages and loving families are the very core of a healthy society.

And so please, dear Catholic married couples, please let your union of minds and hearts in marriage — which is a sign of the union of Christ and His bride, the Church — be lived out with integrity, knowing that Jesus says and teaches what His Holy Spirit enlivening the Church says and teaches. Let us banish from our minds and hearts the question of, “what would Jesus, as separate from the Church, do.”

When one asks the wrong question, one inevitably gets the wrong answer.

Thank you for reading this. Let us continue to pray for one another and especially for our young people as the school year approaches. Praised be Jesus Christ!