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Front Row With Francis: Love, Marriage, and Broken Dishes

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the GospelIn Wednesday’s general audience, the Holy Father wraps up his series on the sacraments by covering that of Holy Matrimony.  It is fitting he saved the sacrament for last, because in the end, matrimony is what we are all called to.  Even if we choose the religious life, we are called to nuptial union with Christ.

Here on Earth, that nuptial union between Christ and believer is represented by the sacrificial love and eternal commitment of a man and a woman.  Pope Francis uses a bit of terminology we might find confusing.  He states that married couples are “living icons of God’s love in our world, building up the Church in unity and fidelity.”  We normally don’t use the word “icon” in the West, so allow me to give a brief explanation behind the word from a biblical standpoint.

 In the Scriptures, Christ is called the eikon of the living God.  (2 Cor 4:4)  Most Bibles translate this as “image” of the living God, and some translations give an awful rendering of “likeness.”  The reality is far deeper.  Christ is not “like” God, He is God.  We refer to him as the “Icon” of the living God because it is through Christ God was revealed to men.  Before Christ, men could not see God.  Even being in his vicinity was enough to change the color of skin.  (Exodus 34)  It was through Christ that man could actually gaze upon God face to face, which was the highest form of communion in the Bible.

When Francis says we are living icons of God’s love, he means it in the sense that married couples reveal the love of God to the world by loving each other.   This puts the divine charge to love each other in a whole new light.  We don’t love each other because we find our spouse agreeable.  Often we don’t.  Francis has joked that marriage will even involve “plates thrown at each other” as recognition of this reality.  Yet we must not “call in the UN peacekeepers”, but reconcile with each other every day.

To those who are newly married, this is a tough reality to accept.  Marital bliss ends, and your spouse says something that royally infuriates you.  Nothing would be better than to tear them a new one.  Yet if one were to see you doing this, is that a good representation of God’s love to the world?  Does God tear us a new one every time we mess up?  Every time we give in to that anger, we not only hurt our spouse and our marriage.  We hurt the bringing of the Gospel to the world.

If at this point you feel overwhelmed and find the mission of the married to be humanly impossible, that’s because it is.  Based on our own efforts, we will always succumb to “the human condition.”  The Holy Father stresses this shouldn’t discourage us.  Instead we should joyfully strengthen our relationship by praying for the other.  When we pray (especially when we pray together), we stop becoming icons of the human condition (sin, discord, throwing dishes), and instead become icons of God’s love, a visual representation of the Christ whose image we are conformed to.  (Romans 8:29)

So please, love your spouse.  Love them beyond what you think possible.  In doing so, you will spread the Gospel further than the craftiest of theologians and apologists.

Note:  For the past couple months, “Carlos X” has done a fantastic job walking us through Pope Francis’ catechesis on the sacraments.  As the Holy Father begins a new set of audiences, we will be changing the format of this series.  Instead of just one writer, we will have multiple writers contributing.  While most the dates are filled, there is always a need for alternates.  Feel free to contact me on twitter @CatholicSmark if you are interested. Don’t worry, Carlos will remain a regular here at Catholic Lane and is already working on a new project.


Kevin Tierney is an Associate Editor of the Learn and Live the Faith Section at Catholic Lane.  He also blogs at http://commmonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com.  You may contact him on Facebook, Google+  or follow him on Twitter @CatholicSmark.
  • Struble

    What? No clarification of his “who am I to judge” comment? This soundbite has been used to promote same-sex-marriage; I don’t see how a papal talk on marriage can fail to set the record straight.
    Of course, who am I to advise the Holy Father?

    • General audiences are normally very brief, and they are just quick soundbites into a topic. JPII’s lengthy in-depth philosophical treatises were a break from the norm. Even Benedict’s were mostly just a 5-10 minutes of interesting historical figures. The overall picture painted was greater than the sum of its parts.

      Francis mainly focused on one part of marriage: how faithful spouses are visual representations of God’s love to the world.
      I’ll admit, it’s really tough to convey this in the series where week by week we look to mine the Holy Father’s words, but saying “hey guys, the series we are doing is on a bunch of limited statements!” doesn’t really sell, does it? 🙂

      As far as the “who am I to judge” statement, I honestly don’t think many people were swayed. Andrew Sullivan and liberal priests were arguing gay marriage wasn’t incompatible with the faith before Francis, they still are, and they will continue to do so after francis dies. The statement itself was simply a restating of the catechism, and understanding the principle that if someone’s sins are forgiven in the confessional, we shouldn’t be holding those sins against the person.
      Perhaps it could have been worded with greater clarity, but I really don’t think much has changed in people’s perception or actions.

      • Struble

        In a number of States, Catholic legislators who have voted for pro gay marriage laws cited the “who am I to judge” statement to bolster their stand. Strikes me as pretty significant.

        • And how many were already out there promoting gay marriage beforehand, even saying their faith justified it?

          I think everyone walked away believing what they continued to believe when it came to that.

        • Struble

          Possibly. But if we inadvertently put another arrow into their quiver, then clarification would seem to be indicated.

          • goral

            I don’t think we’re going to get from Pope Francis anything more than what we’ve been getting. Though it looks like he’s starting to lose his popularity with the lefties. The hierarchy of the Church is pretty much of the same make up as our politicians. They’re living in their own world while we here at the grassroots are battling to keep perversion at bay.

          • Struble
          • Kevin M. Tierney

            I really hate to be so snarky, but is this really the first time a Jesuit has said nonsense? They’ve been making these calls for decades. They made these calls before Francis, they are going to make them after Francis.

            It was an injustice when the order was suppressed originally. Whenever a pope inevitably in the future does it, it is to be an act of mercy.

          • goral

            The Seattle catholic high school couldn’t find a Catholic Saint whom they would find worthy of carrying the school’s name so they settled for Eastside, probably because Wildside was already taken. Fr. Whitney is a Jesuit nut cake who should be removed but who’s going to replace him?
            I heard today that our Holy Father has made the strongest statement yet concerning abortion. Maybe a stronger statement is coming concerning the pervs.
            In the meantime souls are being lost at Eastside.

  • jenny

    …very realistic this Pope……..