Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on how “living together” is not the same as being the real deal.  What reasoning is there for waiting when we think it is a good idea to “try the person on for size”? Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read Hebrews 1:1-4 and 2:5-18. #GreatCatholicPreaching #Catholic #BenU1887

{mp3}B 57 2012 26 Ord{/mp3}

For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/30/2012The 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Hebrews 1.1-4, 2.5-18.
Why Christian Marriage?
Really, why would anyone bother with marriage?  In a world with all kinds of choices–Pepsi or Coke, McDonald’s or Burger King, Post-Tribune or the Times, Silk or Flannel pajamas, Newsweek or Time, Dish Network or Cable, 500 channels or 100 channels, Radio, TV, Smart phones, texting phones, or Internet, E-mail or Snail mail–why would you choose to enter into a committed relationship that would decrease your ability to live your own life the way you want to live it?  In our world where the lines between right and wrong are blurred and that is seen as a good thing, why would you want to enter into an old fashioned institution like Christian Marriage?
Would like me to answer for you?  Good.
 
Simply put, “keeping our options open” leaves us on the surface of life, while the eternal commitment to God leaves us free to experience life more fully.  My contention is that Christian Marriage allows us to live life more fully because it is based upon the One who fulfills all things and makes them full to the fullest.
In the passage that I chose from the Sermon of St. Paul to the Hebrews, St. Paul tells us that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, that is, he became human.  That means that before he was Jesus, he was the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity.  So, before he was Jesus, he was, and is, God.  He was fully divine.
Here is what the Sermon to the Hebrews says,
In the past God spoke to us through our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
This reminds us of the Holy Gospel of St. John which says,
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God….Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1.1-3)
 
 The Divine takes residence in the Virgin Mary’s womb and she became pregnant.  A fully human and fully divine child is born.  Think about this, why would you, if you were fully divine, why would you condescend to become that which you created?  Why would you give up your position in the Universe, albeit temporarily, and become lower than even the angels?   on top of that, why would you allow yourself to become human, be rejected and then let your own creation nail you to a cross?  Now, that takes strength of character!
Here is what St. Paul says in our passage today,
he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.  In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering….so that by his death he might destroy…the devil..and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death….Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
 
What the letter from the Hebrews is saying is that Jesus makes all things complete.  He is the fully Divine who became fully human.  He experienced all that we experienced, including suffering and death.  He overcame death in both his full divinity and full humanity.  He is the fullest expression of what humanity is and will be: the immortal mortal.  All people who are part of him overcome death, in this life and the next.  So, the Son of God became human so that we could be transformed to be like him.
It is important that we understand this about being Christian.  It is important because whatever we do, we ought to do it through him, with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.  Because when we do, all things we do are made more than human.  They are transformed in this life and the next.  Just like he is the immortal mortal, we are able to do things that are beyond ‘natural.’  They are supernatural.
Christian marriage is the supernatural alternative to, say, just living together.  What’s the difference between a neanderthal clubbing a woman in the head and dragging her back to his cave and living together?  They are both perfectly ‘natural’ things to do.  They both seek companionship.  They both satisfy the natural sexual urges.
 
But being in Christian marriage is to be more than just ‘natural.’  It is to build a new thing and be a new creation with our spouse.  It is to be transformed by Christ to be people who must be forgiving, must be loving, must see each other as more than just someone who meets my needs.  Christian marriage demands that we see each other as people who are fulfilling God’s purpose with us.
I have friends who are living together.  They have thought about getting married.  But they just haven’t gotten around to it.  Their rationale for living together?  They wanted to make sure this person was “right for them.”  Little did they know that 66% of marriages between couples that live together end in divorce.  It is a higher rate of divorce than couples who do not live together before marriage.  Do you want to know why?
Marriages that begin with couples living together are premised upon fear, not hope.  People live together without marriage because they are afraid that things won’t work out.  They have a fear that drives them to operate on the premise that they can always get out of this relationship if it doesn’t work.  Therefore, the commitment to make it work isn’t there.
 
Marriages between two people who understand themselves standing before God making an eternal vow are more likely to contain two very important ingredients.  The people are choosier about their mate, for one.  Christians ought to look for someone who is in this life to fulfill God’s purpose which causes them to deny themselves instead of insisting our partner be something we want them to be.
Secondly, the emphasis of a Christian marriage is not to make each other happy.  Marriage becomes cooperative effort instead of a demanding enterprise.  Jesus said to the Pharisees who were trying to trick him by asking if it were lawful to divorce, “Have you not read that from the beginning he made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”  
 
The point of the Christian marriage is not to work on getting our happiness from our spouse.  The point of Christian marriage is to enjoy a new creation in Christ.  The point of Christian marriage is not to treat someone we say we love like a product from RONCO: you know, they have a thirty day money back guarantee.  The point of Christian marriage is to find someone who is being transformed by Christ like you are and then you will have your marriage transformed by Christ.
Anyway, the eternal commitment we make before God allows us to plumb the depths of the masculinity or feminity of our spouse more fully.  We are free to love without the fear that our love is not going to measure up to the expectations of our shack-mate and we’ll be out on the street.  It means that we are free to investigate fully and completely the mystery, eroticism, and intellectual depths of our mate.
Every person I have ever known who is living together without marriage periodically wonders, “Will this last forever?”   How can you feel free to explore fully and completely the mystery, eroticism and intellectual depth or your ‘mate’ if there is no commitment in the relationship?  You won’t because your motivation is self-protection, not self-giving.  
 
For those in Christian marriage, we are to marry and explore our mate spiritually through prayer and worship of God, explore them intellectually through constant conversation, and explore them sexually with a deep commitment that allows us to throw ourselves at each other with reckless abandon and “be fruitful and multiply.”
Are you astonished I would say such a thing in a reflection?  Well, I guess you aren’t by now if you have been listening at any length.
In her book Extraordinary Sex Now, a book title that even got my attention, Dr. Sandra R. Scantling writes,
Even [as a teenager], I knew intuitively that sex wasn’t something to be casually shared; it was a special experience that included love and commitment….Sex is more than physical release.  Without the vital connection it’s very ordinary.
 
Hello!  This is not new news!  In fact, Dr. Scantling goes on to say that intimacy and commitment are the keys to her Extraordinary Sex Now.  Well, how about that?  I guess our stodgy old traditions of the faith may be receiving some ink from the psychological world.  We could have told her that one book and one sexual revolution ago, not to mention the fact that St. Paul knew that intimacy and the commitment of marriage were the key to not just sex, but healthy marriages period.
St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6 that when we join our bodies with a prostitute we become “one body with her.”  That means that sexual activity unites body and soul.  So, the question is begged, “Why give our soul to someone who isn’t even committed to us forever?”  Instead, why don’t we have the freedom that the commitment of marriage in Christ gives us to enjoy sexual activity as the uniting of our bodies and our souls.  
Marriage says that in the act of man and woman uniting physically that there is no one else to whom I am giving myself.  You are the only one.  There is no one else.  There is no possibility of anyone else.  I want all of you.  I want your spirit.  I want your mind.  I want your body.  All to the glory of God who makes this understanding of marriage possible.
 
 A marriage that is based upon the fullness of Christ is a marriage that will be enjoyable and up-building even when physical contact is no longer a possibility.  You still have the intellectual and spiritual depths which you have been investigating.  At that time you can turn to your spouse and to God and say, “We have been together forever.  And there have been hard times, but I always knew I had God, and I knew I had you.”
So, I want you to understand that Jesus Christ came to transform us into something beyond our ‘natural’ urges.  I want you to enjoy the fullness that Christ brings to marriage and the fullness he demands from those who become one in marriage.  I want all of us to enjoy each other in the foundational commitment to Christ.  I want us to long for marriage, prize marriage, desire marriage and value marriage.  Amen?  Amen.

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