It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God. Without God people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty life is unfinished.
Fulton J. Sheen, Seven Words from Jesus and Mary: Lessons from Cana and Calvary
This week, September 1st mixed the sacred and the profane in a special way in my life. It marked Labor Day and my 24th wedding anniversary, and so, I have the hard labor of marriage on my mind, a labor of love.
I often think back about seven years ago when a priest offered me life-changing counsel in response to my confession of impatience with my husband and worse, resentment towards him for a bad business decision and its terrible and lingering effects. Father reminded me that my crosses are also my blessings – and it is within my marriage and family that I will receive my greatest blessings and crosses.
It was as if a crushing weight was lifted off my shoulders and I understood anew the sacramentality of marriage, of my marriage. I had forgotten that Cana is hallowed through Calvary: love is inseparable from the cross of Christ. Indeed, love waxes greater through our participation in His redemptive suffering. I could not change past decisions and their material effects on my family’s life, but with the grace of God, I could change. I recognized that as I had allowed my bitterness to increase, the presence of God had decreased. I had sidelined Him; thus I had sidelined my marriage.
The late Catholic book publisher Frank Sheed used to say to his wife when he went away on a business trip something to this effect: Whenever you find yourself missing me, just look to the pierced side of Christ, and there I will be. Christ was the center—the heart—of their marriage, and that very heart was pierced for the sake of love. Paradoxically, when Sheed’s wife placed the pain and longing of her heart inside the pierced heart of Christ, she found her love. She was united with her husband in the most profound sense of the word, however far from her “in the body” he may have been. This is the love that does not cover over feelings of pain and longing, but draws out their deepest meaning.
Christ lives in the heart of a sacramental marriage. For husband and wife, then, their marriage is their road to sanctity. It is a road strewn with blessings and crosses, and when traversed with Christ as the center, both blessings and crosses are embraced as if there is no distinction between the two, and indeed there is none.