The Book of Genesis shows that man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God; in receiving and accepting each other, they recognize that they are made for each other (cf. Gen 1:24-31; 2:4b-25). Through procreation, man and woman collaborate with God in accepting and transmitting life: “By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents co-operate in a unique way in the Creator's work.” (CCC, 372).
Their responsibility also involves the stewardship of creation and the propagation of the human family. In biblical tradition, the beauty of human love as mirroring divine love is developed mainly in the Song of Songs and the prophets.
The Church’s proclamation on the family finds its foundation in the life and preaching of Jesus, who lived and grew up in the family of Nazareth. He attended the wedding at Cana, which he honored by performing the first of his “signs” (cf. Jn 2:1-11) and presented himself as the Bridegroom who unites himself to his Bride (cf. Jn 3:29).
On the cross, he gave himself up with a love to the very end and, in his resurrected body, established new relationships among people. By revealing the fullness of divine mercy, Jesus allows man and woman to recover that “principle” according to which God unites them in one flesh (cf. Mt 19:4-6) and for which — by the grace of Christ — they are enabled to be faithful to each other and love each other forever.
Therefore, the divine measure of conjugal love, to which spouses are called by grace, has its source in “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead” (EG, 36), the very heart of the Gospel.
Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod on the Family, 1-2
Reflection – Well, the time has come at last for the long awaited, unfortunately much hyped and spun, and in some quarters much dreaded Synod on the Family in Rome. I thought I would take some time on the blog the next while to blog little bits and pieces of the study document, the Instrumentum Laboris, that the bishops of the Church are using as a starting point for their discussions.
I didn’t blog yesterday because I was at a wedding, actually, and didn’t have internet access. One of the guests at the wedding asked me if I was nervous about the synod and what changes the bishops might make about the Church’s teachings on marriage and sex and the moral demands around these.
My basic response was a wonderful expression I learned this summer and which I have no shortage of opportunities to use. ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys!’ In other words, the real things that are actually happening in my life and in the lives of the real people who really come to me for counsel and help are more than enough for every bit of energy and concern and whatever store of worry I may have to spend. Everything else is someone else’s monkeys, as far as I am concerned.
Prayer, yes—for everyone, for the Church and the world. But worry? Ain’t got time for that nonsense. Also, so far almost everything has been media speculation (which has proven, time and time and time again, to be idiotic and utterly and simply wrong—these people just don’t know what they’re talking about), and this or that individual bishop expressing his opinion (unwisely and uncharitably in my opinion, as it feeds the speculation of the ignorant and sensationalistic media, and generates expectations that are bound to be disappointed). But nothing real has happened, yet, and so let’s not waste time worrying about, literally, nothing.
Meanwhile, the study document is quite good and careful, as such things should be. We see here that the first paragraphs lay out the Scriptural meaning of marriage as the expression of creation’s goodness, man’s cooperation in this work of God, and how this nuptial cooperation is taken up into and made an expression of God’s love for humanity which is brought to perfection in Christ. Deep stuff, and worth not just reading but meditating upon. Everything else we must say about marriage has to start there and flow from there, or it is wrong-headed from the beginning.
It is a divine reality in a very human package indeed—messy, fraught with difficulties, demanding much generosity and trust and truly heroic love from those who enter into it. Yet that is what God has revealed to us, and that is the kind of life He calls married couples into. Let us pray that the Synod fathers will begin, continue, and conclude all their discussions from and with this contemplation of the divine meaning, presence, and action within the human person, seen nowhere more deeply than in the vocation of marriage and family life.