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Colleen Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

How Marriage Will Get Us To Heaven – or, Why I Change the Toilet Paper Roll

::Pulled from the Catholic Sistas archives, this post originally featured on August 22, 2011::

“What was the best day of your life?”

It’s a common question that has become a bit of a cliche, used as an “icebreaker” for the first day of class or for “get-to-know-your-coworkers” meetings, and a question for which, for many years, I never had a satisfactory answer. Sure, there was that fun vacation, or the day I graduated from high school, but none of them seemed important enough to qualify for “BEST DAY EVER!” status.

But three years ago, I figured out the answer to that question. And like many women, my “best day ever” involves flowers, a white dress, a new ring, beautiful music, and a handsome guy standing at the foot of the altar watching me as I walked down the aisle. For many couples, their wedding day is a representation of their love and dedication to each other, a day in which they pledge to remain together for the rest of their days, no matter what troubles come their way. But for a Catholic couple, it is all these things and SO MUCH MORE.

Christ raised marriage from a natural bond to a supernatural bond, a sacrament. We know that a sacrament is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give us grace.” So not only do we get all the natural benefits of marriage on our wedding day, but, through the sacrament, we also get the supernatural benefit of sanctifying grace: that beautiful gift from God which purifies our souls and makes them holy; sanctifying grace is what helps us obtain eternal life in heaven. And while my wedding day from a strictly natural perspective was the “best day ever” – I now get to spend the rest of my life with the person I love the most, and to have cute children with him – it was likely also supernaturally my “best day ever.” The Sacrament my husband and I received that day opened up the floodgates of God’s grace for us as a couple, and gave us a specific path to lead us to heaven, as long as we cooperate with those graces.

In marriage, while our first physical gift to each other is the gift of our bodies, our first spiritual gift to each other is the gift of sanctifying grace. Physically, we become sharers in God’s creative power through the marital act, in which a new soul has the potential to be created. Spiritually, we become sharers in God’s sanctifying power through our ability to give supernatural life to our spouse through sanctifying grace. This supernatural life – sanctifying grace – is our share in God’s life. Therefore, in every sacramental marriage, the husband can say that his wife is a means by which he returns to God. The wife can say that her husband is a means by which she returns to God.

When we stop to dwell on this for a moment, we realize how absolutely incredible and unique the marriage bond is. Not only in the physical sense, in that we can become co-creators with God in bringing new life into the world, but also in the spiritual sense, in that our actions have a direct correlation with our spouse’s eternal salvation. How awe-inspiring, and what a precious gift those of us with a vocation to marriage have been given! We aren’t in this alone; we can rely upon each other to achieve sanctity. This is the only relationship in which our actions are directly responsible for the other person to receive grace! God truly wishes us to be sanctified through our marriages.

So how can we best make use of this awesome benefit of the Sacrament of Matrimony? How can we direct the channel of grace towards our spouse? We have the grace available to us; we simply need to ask for it, not only through prayer, but also through our works. When we do something kind for our husband, he receives grace for it along with us. Each time our husband does something kind for us, we, along with him, are also receiving grace from that kind act.

So do something kind. Prepare your husband’s favorite dinner. Iron his pants for him. Get up a few minutes before him and make his coffee. Do a small chore that he especially dislikes. If he has a preference that something be done a certain way, do it out of love for him. In our house, that particular thing is the perpetually empty toilet paper roll (the TP is usually 6 inches away on the counter). It’s a very minute detail, but something that bothers my husband. So I try to make the effort to change the roll when it’s empty, even though it’s something that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. For others, it might be making the bed or having clean t-shirts in the drawer without having to dig through the dryer. Whatever it is, perform that selfless act out of love for your husband, for that selfless act will not only bring peace and joy to your marriage, but also be spiritually rewarding for both of you, as you “store up treasures for yourselves in heaven.” (Matt. 6:20) Little acts of grace, all the time – and marriage is full of these opportunities!

In a culture that is so immersed in self-gratification and self-sufficiency, even a small sacrifice for our spouse flies in the face of modern advice on marriage. We are told to make ourselves happy first, then to worry about others. But for us to reap the true spiritual benefits of marriage, we must be willing to sacrifice, and to sacrifice GENEROUSLY. A sacrifice done begrudgingly will have little merit; a sacrifice done willingly and generously will reap great rewards, for “God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7) We can and must be sanctified through our marriage. None of our earthly pursuits matter if we fail in our heavenly goal.

In the words of the Hungarian Bishop Tihamer Toth, in his early 20th century work entitled “The Christian Family”:

“It is a great joy if a wife can say to her husband: ‘I can thank you that I have such strong support in life, that I have such good children.’
It is a great joy if a husband can say to his wife: ‘I can thank you that I have such an understanding life companion, such a peaceful home.’
But the greatest joy of all will be if someday they can say to each other: ‘I can thank you that I have attained eternal life.’”

Let us be inspired to work towards that “greatest joy”!

Categories
Faith Formation Matrimony Sacraments Sacred Scripture Splendid Sundays

Splendid Sundays: Saving our Spouses

Today’s Mass Readings, with a reflection below.

The marriage of Mary and Joseph.

 

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 157

Reading 1      Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

As a noun, a distaff, also called a rock, is a tool used in spinning. It is designed to hold the unspun fibers, keeping them untangled and thus easing the spinning process. It is most commonly used to hold flax, and sometimes wool, but can be used for any type of fiber. - Wikipedia

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.

Responsorial Psalm      Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R. (cf. 1a) Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Reading 2      1 Thes 5:1-6

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters,
you have no need for anything to be written to you.
For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief at night.
When people are saying, “Peace and security, ”
then sudden disaster comes upon them,
like labor pains upon a pregnant woman,
and they will not escape.But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness,
for that day to overtake you like a thief.
For all of you are children of the light
and children of the day.
We are not of the night or of darkness.
Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do,
but let us stay alert and sober.

Gospel Mt      25:14-30

An ancient Greek amphora. A talent was approximately the mass of the water required to fill an amphora.

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

or Mt 25:14-15, 19-21

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.'”

Reflection

The Church teaches that the primary function of marriage is to encourage your spouse in holiness so that God can fill him or her with sanctifying and saving Grace.  We pray that our spouse will one day hear the Master say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” and reside in Heaven forever.

In the Proverbs passage, the man who receives the worthy wife has received a “five talents” wife.  Perhaps this wife sees her husband as five talents given to her by God and she is in turn giving thanks for this gift by fearing the Lord and walking in His ways.  By her obedience to  God she works hard and enjoys what the psalm promises that she will be favored and eat the fruit of her handiwork.  This wife is an example to us for how to be the spouse God designed for the sacrament of marriage.

For reference I tried looking up how much a talent is in today’s terms.  A talent is a measurement of weight, and in this context means a measurement of precious metal, possibly gold.  The best I could find was that one talent is worth 20 year’s wages, and another estimated one talent to be worth over  million dollars.  So we’re not talking nickles here.

For those of us who are married, is our approach to our vocation reflective of the number of talents we see that God has given us in our spouses?  God has entrusted to us another soul.  That soul is worth many talents, worth more than pearls.  How are we helping God double the talents of our spouse for His glory?  Does our prayer life as a couple suffer because of demanding schedules?  Are we making selfless sacrifices to make sure our spouse can get to confession or Adoration?  Are we staying strong amidst the daily toils of running a household remembering that our work reflects our acknowledgement of the talent worth God has given us in our spouses?

We cannot put aside helping our spouses seek holiness because we are too tired or too busy today.  We are aptly warned to “Stay awake and sober” by St. Paul because we simply do not know when it will be our or our spouse’s day of judgement.

“The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church.  It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 1661

Disclaimer: This post was finished early and scheduled to automatically post on Sunday. The third commandment was not broken in the creation of this edition of Splendid Sundays =D.