The Holy Trinity is an infinite, eternal, all-loving, and merciful God. Marriage reflects this through a lifelong, unconditional, mutual, and faithful gift of self between one man and one woman that is open to new life. Take away any of those qualities and God’s image and likeness becomes distorted.
For this reason, our Lord goes on to explain in the Sermon on the Mount:
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).All divorce distorts how marriage reflects God’s love. Divorce says that the love between a man and woman in marriage is not forever—“until death do us part”—which should reflect God’s love as eternal. That is why God says: “For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16), “Because the LORD was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:14). So, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).
God knows that marriage is not easy. To love another imperfect human being means sacrifice. For this reason St. Paul tells us that “those who marry will have worldly troubles… the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided… the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:28,33-34). So it shouldn’t surprise us that marriage is difficult. Yet with the crosses found in marriage we find Christ and the pathway to holiness.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Married persons need to keep themselves pure too. To put limits or conditions on their total, unconditional self-giving would also break and distort the image of God’s unconditional self-giving in the Holy Trinity. For a married person to say, “I give myself totally to you… except for my fertility,” or to say, “I accept you as you are unconditionally… with the condition we don’t get pregnant,” destroys spousal love by introducing a contradiction. Birth control is a form of adultery, as St. Paul goes on to say: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).
Purity of heart is thus absolutely essential to see the true God and to have a happy marriage. Let us pray that each one of us in our particular state in life can exemplify this to others—especially to our young people—so that they can follow this example of true love and see God fully.
Fr. John R. Waiss