In preparation for marriage, couples are asked a lot of questions. How did you meet? How did he purpose? How did you know they were the one? What do you think of your in-laws? It’s a good thing there isn’t a lie detector test. Making a life-long commitment to love and honor another person—to be true to them in sickness and health for better or worse is not something to take lightly. In fact, we recognize marriage not merely as an institution of the state beneficial for tax purposes, but we acknowledge it as a sacrament of the Church because in a real way 2 individuals are made one in Jesus Christ. A covenant is created that takes man and woman and makes them husband and wife bonded to one another as their vows are offered in both words and then later in actions that speak to the mystery of a life giving love.
Married life is unpredictable. As couples set forth on their journey together many, many things end up happening that they never could image or prepare for happen. It is a wild adventure especially when God is given permission to take the lead. I’ve heard it said that marriage is a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering. As cheesy as that is. One legitimate question that I find it necessary to ask couples is: Are you willing to suffer with this person? It’s one thing to be in love and bask in it’s great joys and when things are good, but it takes on a whole other level when love endures the challenges, the cross. When love is tested it is strengthened. On the celebration of an anniversary in the Latin text of the old rite for marriage it is put this way, “It is no secret that your way has not been easy at all times. You have had to endure suffering together. You have been nailed to the cross of sacrifice. Yet with God’s help you have been enabled to accomplish what of yourselves you would not have been able to do.” You know you are depending on grace when you find yourself in the position of prayer and supplication humbled before God because your needs are real.
We are told in our second reading from St. Peter that, “When you suffer for doing good this is a grace of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” To take up our cross and follow him is what it means to be his disciple. What we will take up in our life time will probably not be a splintery two beamed parcel of wood but more than likely some form of suffering whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual personal struggle that can become our opportunity to follow him and if we stay close enough to him to hear his voice, that is to say, to have a relationship with him that is consistent, personal and rooted in love. We can know that even in the midst of questions we might have or pain that we are enduring that our God is a Good Shepherd and that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.