To Christian Couples
25. And now We turn in a special way to Our own sons and daughters, to those most of all whom God calls to serve Him in the state of marriage. While the Church does indeed hand on to her children the inviolable conditions laid down by God’s law, she is also the herald of salvation and through the sacraments she flings wide open the channels of grace through which man is made a new creature responding in charity and true freedom to the design of his Creator and Savior, experiencing too the sweetness of the yoke of Christ (cf. Mt 11:30).
In humble obedience then to her voice, let Christian husbands and wives be mindful of their vocation to the Christian life, a vocation which, deriving from their Baptism, has been confirmed anew and made more explicit by the Sacrament of Matrimony. For by this sacrament they are strengthened and, one might almost say, consecrated to the faithful fulfillment of their duties. Thus will they realize to the full their calling and bear witness as becomes them, to Christ before the world. For the Lord has entrusted to them the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God’s love, God who is the Author of human life.
We have no wish at all to pass over in silence the difficulties, at times very great, which beset the lives of Christian married couples. For them, as indeed for every one of us, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life” (cf. Mt 7:14; Heb 12:11). Nevertheless it is precisely the hope of that life which, like a brightly burning torch, lights up their journey, as, strong in spirit, they strive to live “sober, upright and godly lives in this world,” (Ti 2:12) knowing for sure that “the form of this world is passing away” (cf. 1 Cor 7:31).
Again, the Church is aware the the vocation to marriage has its challenges. Every vocation has its challenges – that’s part of being a disciple who is called to pick up his cross and follow the example of the Lord. But the sacraments of baptism and matrimony give husbands and wives the strength that they need to live their vocation faithfully, and if they cooperate with these graces and strive to live faithfully, they will receive the crown of eternal life in the end.
Recourse to God
For this reason husbands and wives should take up the burden appointed to them, willingly, in the strength of faith and of that hope which “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Then let them implore the help of God with unremitting prayer and, most of all, let them draw grace and charity from that unfailing fount which is the Eucharist. If, however, sin still exercises its hold over them, they are not to lose heart. Rather must they, humble and persevering, have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance. In this way, for sure, they will be able to reach that perfection of married life which the Apostle sets out in these words: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church. . . Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church. . . This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph 5:25, 28-29, 32-33).
So what is it that will allow married couples to persevere in their vocation? Prayer, the Eucharist, and – if they should succumb to human weakness – Confession. Most importantly, Paul VI makes it clear that what God asks of married couples through the teachings of the Church is possible. Married couples must be encouraged to believe that. As St. Paul says, it takes great sacrifice. But just as Christ’s offering of Himself gave life to the world, the sacrifices of husbands and wives to each other will bring life into their marriage and their family.
(Posted with permission from Fr. Lee Acervo at http://fatheracervo.wordpress.com)