The sacrament of matrimony as self denial, audacity in procreation, education of children
A trace of the path to conversion and holiness
"Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect". Hearing these words, Jesus' disciples must have been disconcerted at first. Jesus presents in fact perfection not as a counsel, but as a precept for all without exception. Perfection is not reserved for some privileged caste, a predestined elite which distinguishes itself from the masse of sinners. Once the initial surprise has passed, those who were listening to Jesus must have been very happy. All of them without exception find themselves called to holiness. They are all called to show the image of God-love who has impressed his indelible seal on every man and woman.
We are therefore all called to "blossom where we are planted" in exercising our profession, in joys and troubles, in our own condition of life. The paths to perfection are in fact different, and Jesus himself demonstrates this when he calls some of his disciples to consecrate themselves totally for the service of the Kingdom, and when he elevates matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament.
By elevating the natural institution of matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament the Lord traces the path to conversion, to holiness and perfection which he proposes to the majority of men and women. God knows in fact that it is not good for man to be alone. He made our heart in the image of his own: that is able to love, to grow in love, able to purify love. Matrimony appears in this way as a dynamic reality which is to last the whole life of the couple. For them married life is an ongoing challenge. The husband is aware of the limits of his wife, and she knows the weaknesses of her husband. Husband and wife come together then in a paradoxical situation. They must love deeply in order to forgive, and they must be ready to forgive everything if they truly love. Christian matrimony is then a path in the sense that it is renunciation of all that is "old" in the human heart. It is a renunciation of selfishness and the search for selfish pleasure which are poison for love. There is no love without patience, without self denial, without daily renunciation, without constant attention to what can hurt the spouse or what on the contrary can give joy and happiness.
This constant tending towards ever greater love for the spouse opens to the audacity of procreation. To procreate, that is to accept to cooperate, as a delegate, in the creative work of God. The Lord of life relies on the generosity of the husband and wife so that their love may shine in a new creature who is inserted in the project of love of the couple who have chosen life and predisposes a common project of educating the child. Human procreation includes in fact the formation, at all levels, of a new human being. In the family, education is offered by the father, by the mother and by the couple as a couple.
From birth onwards the child is welcomed as different, and progressively he recognises himself and accepts others in their differences. The family then is not only the basic cell of every democratic society, it is also, as the happy early Christian expression goes, an ecclesiola, a little church, the smallest of Christian communities which gives life to those who tomorrow will be the witness of the Gospel and of Life.
The Pilgrim's Journal - Tuesday 10 October 2000
Central Committee for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000
Third World Meeting of Families with the Holy Father
To download the text, clik here: A trace of the path to conversion and holiness (pdf file).