March 11, 2022

Guest Column / Richard Etienne

Our faith reminds us marriage is a sacrament of service

Richard EtienneLast fall, I was invited to present a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults presentation on the topic of marriage. Talk about a challenge!

In the process of my preparation, I was reminded that the task of all husbands and wives is to assist their spouse in the lifelong task of building the kingdom of God on Earth, as well as eventually helping them in achieving the ultimate goal of attaining his or her eternal reward in heaven.

Many in our society would have us believe that marriage is about the “feel good” definition of love—something that a person “falls” in or out of.

I have come to believe that the love expressed in a healthy marriage is better defined as a commitment to serve our spouse. Again, I see it as quite the challenge from my perspective.

There is a passage in chapter 13 of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians where Paul offers keen insight into love. It is used as a reading by some during their wedding liturgy.

While expounding on true Christian love, I paraphrase some of the characteristics St. Paul shared: Love does not seek its own interests. (Yes, that might be a tough one to follow.) Love is patient; it is not quick-tempered. (Think about that for a moment.Again, probably not an easily attained goal with a person one lives with daily.) Love does not brood over injury. (Far be it from me to hold a grudge over a small infraction that should have been forgotten.) Love never fails. (It is people who sometimes fail, and that’s why we have phrases like, “I am sorry,” “Please, forgive me” and “I forgive you.”)

I have been married for 38 years, and I have learned it is easy, during lengthier periods of time, to lose an understanding of love in a society that is too often focused on the questions: “What’s in it for me?” or “Is there somewhere else new and exciting to explore?”

If you’re married, how are things? Is it time for a reset in your commitment to serve your spouse? Are there specific actions that you can take? Are there words that need to be spoken for healing to enter the relationship? Have you asked God to join you in this process?

When it comes to the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with, there will be challenges. But with faith as part of that relationship, love will become central to your marriage.

(Richard Etienne has a degree in theology from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad and resides in Newburgh, Ind.)

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