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Christ’s love for the church is model for family life

The church teaches that marriage is both a sacrament and a self-sacrificial communion

The church teaches that marriage is both a sacrament and a self-sacrificial communion.

by Joe Bollig

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of 10 reflections based on the catechesis “Love Is Our Mission” for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on Sept. 22-27, 2015.

In the 1980 cult classic film “The Blues Brothers,” Elwood and “Joliet” Jake visit Sister Mary Stigmata at their old orphanage, which is threatened with foreclosure.

She challenges them to redeem themselves by raising the money needed to save the orphanage — legally.  So the Blues Brothers decide to reunite their band for a benefit concert.

On the way, they stop at a café run by Matt “Guitar” Murphy and his skeptical wife.

“Would it make you feel any better if you knew what we’re asking Matt here to do is a holy thing?” says Jake.

“You see, we’re on a mission from God,” said Elwood.

This repeated line becomes the theme of the film: We’re on a mission from God.

So are we all, according to “The Mission of Love,” the second chapter of “Love Is Our Mission,” the catechesis for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

The Bible shows how God forms his people by making covenants with them. God creates us for communion so we will learn that love is our mission. And so, “God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.”

Humility is required for us to conform our hearts to God and see the world through his eyes.

To aid our “seeing,” God placed in the Old Testament an essential symbol of salvation history: the marriage covenant. Marriage is “an icon of the relationship between God and his people.”

But the Bible is not sickly sentimental about marital love. The rocky relationship between God and his people is shown warts and all. Israel’s waywardness is described as “adultery” and “prostitution.”

God, however, remains steadfast in his faithfulness and love toward Israel.

This kind of persevering love isn’t built on the shifting sands of sentimentality or emotion alone. Sure, emotion is part of it, but Christian love is also a choice. Love is “a mission we receive, a disposition we accept, a summons to which we submit.”

In the New Testament, God continued the marriage analogy to describe the relationship between Christ and his church. Christian marriage is “a description of mutual self-giving.” Saint Paul writes:  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25).

Thus, the church teaches that marriage is a sacrament and a self-sacrificial communion.

Jesus loves the church as his bride — proven by his blood that was shed on the cross. This love is “the model for the kind of mutual love and service needed in every Christian marriage and family.”

Real love — the kind that endures — grows from what we give to others. It’s radical. It’s liberating. It is — as Jake and Elwood would agree — a married couple’s mission from God.

Questions to consider

• Why is God’s love like a marriage?
• How is God’s way of loving different from our human way of loving?
• What is true love and how do we recognize it?  In what ways is our culture’s idea of romantic love the same  and different from God’s covenant love?

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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