Easter Sunday is the greatest celebration in the Christian calendar because we celebrate the triumph of Christ’s redemption of humanity. We celebrate this day as an important day in our faith traditions and our churches are full, but we realised this week that we had never stopped to think what does this mean for those like us who have chosen marriage as our vocation: what do we take from the Easter message into our own relationship?
Several years ago, we were invited onto a TV breakfast show to talk about marriage. We are all familiar with the format; people interviewed on couches with a polite live studio audience. It’s light and airy entertainment; sort of fairy floss for the mind.
An interesting question was posed by one of the hosts: “do you think every marriage can be saved?” It was a bit of a loaded question, posed by a high-profile celebrity who we knew had been twice married and divorced.
We gave what we thought was a balanced and considered answer at the time, but interestingly our short slot never actually went to air. Byron says it’s because he has a face for radio, but perhaps the answer was a bit too close to the bone!
It is a good question. We know from Church teaching and pastoral experience, there are always some cases where people who marry are not truly able to make a full commitment to the marriage vows, in spite of their best intentions at the time. These things emerge later during the annulment process once the marriage has ‘failed’, or more properly, coming to a recognition that it was incomplete from the start. The Church in her wisdom and mercy recognises this possibility and deals with it through the annulment process.
But that’s not the norm. Most marriages today fail, not because they were somehow unable to be fully entered into, but rather because we neglect them and then give up when the consequences of years of neglect overwhelms us. It’s a bit like a garden that has been left unattended for years. Eventually you feel overwhelmed by the weeds and mess and decide it’s better just clear it out and start again.
Easter Sunday is a great beacon for us married Catholics, because it reminds us there is always redemption and resurrection. Easter gives us hope. Christ’s passion and resurrection is the ultimate redemption for all humankind, and it models to us what we are called to do in our own marriage vocation.
In our imperfect humanity, as a husband and wife, we come into our marriage with our inevitable flaws and weaknesses and, as a result, at times, treat each other in ways that can only be described as sinful. That’s the reality of the human condition, and that is no surprise to us when we look at our own marriage.
And yes, it hurts, both the small daily disappointments and the occasional bigger failures. But unless we tend to our marriage like we tend to a beloved garden, then we implicitly accept that we will live with the accumulating cost of these small daily misadventures.
The reminder from Easter is that we are not called to live in a state of disrepair and disfunction. That is not Gods desire for our marriage and Easter reminds us that is not where we must reside. Resting in this state is not why Christ sacrificed his life to redeem us. We were born for, and called to, much greater things than that.
The reality is that as a married couple, we are faced with two fundamental choices every day, every month, every year and in very season of our marriage. To willfully choose to proactively live our marriage as our vows invited, or reactively ‘go with the flow’ and let the process of being married dictate the outcome.
The cumulative effect of living under those two choices are profound, and if we recall the garden analogy then it should be obvious.
So, Easter Sunday is a vital feast day for married couples. It reminds us that nothing is too big, too overwhelming for God. Bulldozing the garden is not the inevitable outcome.
All marriages follow the Lenten journey; the triumph of Palm Sunday, the fear of the Garden of Gethsemane, the hopelessness of the crucifixion and the joy of the resurrection. If we reflect on it, we see can this in everything from the daily cycle through to the whole of life cycle of our marriage.
Easter Sunday is a beacon that reminds us that even in our darkest moments there is the promise of resurrection: if we choose to hold on to hope.
Without hope we become, well, hopeless, and then helpless. That is not the Christian promise and it’s not the Christian way.
And our answer to our morning show host?… it was along these lines: “no, not every marriage can be saved. Some were impossible from the start… but many, many more could be saved if we took a more wilful and intentional approach to our marriage; perhaps like we do to our jobs and our health.
The key is to hold on to hope as without hope we give up. And remember, all things are possible are with God.