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Saturday, April 13, 2013

War, Marriage, Life

Yesterday I wrote on war and the threats out of N. Korea. Today I have a wedding. Tomorrow I have a baptism. Monday I have a funeral. It is fair to say we hit the trifecta this weekend. My mind is awash with death (war, baptism into Christ's death, mortality) and life (new beginnings as a couple, new life in baptism, the fullness of life in post-earthly existence).

War is evil, or so said I yesterday, butI will disagree with myself today. Not all war is evil. In fact, there is a war which is good and holy. The war against the human flesh, against demons and satan, and against "the world" (understood theologically/biblically) is a blessed, holy and good thing. Physical death is experienced as a loss by those left behind. Sometimes that death takes place in particularly gruesome ways. When death occurs on large scale, as in war, it seems even more awful, but, in fact, all death is the same: it is an individual's personal end. It is the second death (damnation, eternal separation from God, loss of one's soul, eternal misery and darkness) which is the real tragedy.

When I do the funeral Monday it will  be for a woman who had lived a full life; eight decades, including several years as a professional dancer in New York. I knew her after her physical decline was firmly established. Yet, in many ways, it was her ascendency. She was growing in faith and love when I knew her. Her relationship with Jesus was deeper. She is now, I assume, getting "finished up" on "the other side" and easing into a new level of existence. Jesus will  be much more accessible and her dancing legs will be back. In war, and this is the hopeful side of nuclear annihilation, a large group of folks will simultaneously enter the other side. For each one in the right relationship with God it will be a new beginning. Then the horror of war will be redeemed and the sting of death will prove powerless. This is the Christian hope. This is the trust in Jesus which saves. This is what God has done in and through Him. This is why we can live each day with a different mentality than those whose horizon is in this existence only.

It also means that today's wedding will be different then a civil ceremony. We will celebrate a sacrament. For many years I tried to argue for the legitimacy of sacraments with my Christian friends (and Christian not-so-friends). In the last couple of years I have been too exhausted to do much 'fighting' for anything. I am coming slowly to accept that everyone disagrees about everything. So I believe and I have sound reasons for believing and if they are right then I am celebrating an illusion. If they are wrong, well, then I understand something that they don't. In either case I might as well enjoy it.

Marriage as a sacrament means marriage is sacred. It also means that in and through marriage God is providing saving grace. It means that marriage is where real life people experience God in Christ, here and now. I will mention a book to the couple which asks the question, "What if God did not intend marriage to make us happy but to make us holy?" And I will tell them that is what a sacrament is for: Holiness.

Every marriage is a war. The couple fight each other for power and control. Some do this more viciously than others, but all do it. Most marriages are not happy. There is a reason for the divorce rate. Part of it is the failed experiment with "romantic love." [The myth of romantic love is "and they lived happily ever after." The purpose of romantic love is why we are hearing marriage be redefined. The gay "marriage" issue, in the end, is the enthronement of romantic love.] Married love is other-centered (romantic love is feelings and self-centered). It is a sign of Christ and the Church (love, self gift) so marriage is crucifixion (die to self, self offering to God) and it is holy for that reason. In marriage our partner reminds us, by simply being there and being different, that we must move beyond our sinful ego and its desires. Marriage is intended for childbearing. Faithful parenting is self-denial on steroids! It is a deeper and more challenging self giving and crucifixion.

Faithful marriage is happy much of the time and miserable some of the time. The problem of marriage is 'me and you.' We need to be purified and being purified (purged of sin=purgatory) is painful. Pain is not always fun, but holiness is worth it. So I pray that every married couple's misery is making them holy.

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