Marriage is in the news a lot. In all the debate, one thing I haven't heard much about is the connection between marriage and mission. The reason this comes to my mind is that today I presided at the convalidation of the marriage of a couple involved in the parish RCIA process. They been civilly married several years and have a couple children. During their preparation we had the chance to talk about why they would want to have their marriage "blessed" or affirmed by the church.
In California, not much more is required for a marriage license than a photo ID. For this couple, they came to appreciate that marriage was much more than legal recognition of their partnership. They realized that the third party to their partnership is God and that God is the source of their love. This meant that their marriage has a deep spiritual context and that God is interested and even invested in their relationship. So much so, they are confident that they can call on God to support and help them in their ups and downs of being in relationship.
Through their involvement in the parish they have come to understand the importance of community. Just as it has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, they saw that it might take a faith community to stay married. There is great value in having community support from couples who have been married 50 years, or 20 years, who have seen the importance of sticking it out through not only the good and bad, but also the monotony of everyday life.
So what's this all have to do with mission? During the RCIA process, they have learned that a sacrament is an outward sign of God's grace. In having their marriage convalidated or affirmed as a sacrament, their marriage is no longer merely a private matter just between them, but rather a public witness of God's love. In their love and commitment to each other, they witness God's love to their children and family. But it doesn't stop there. In choosing to publicly "sacramentalize" their marriage they are witnessing to their friends and the whole community that love matters, that love works and that it is through love that we encounter God.
As Christians we follow Jesus in carrying on God's mission of being love. This happens in many ways and through a variety of paths. In deciding today to have their marriage convalidated and recognized by the community as a sacrament, this couple is participating in mission. They are witnesses to the love that is God.
If we can't witness God's love in our most primary relationships at the family level, I doubt we'll have any success in witnessing God's love to others.