At a wedding Mass I attended recently, the homilist addressed the soon-to-be-married couple, telling them that in each other they have found “the cause of and the work of your salvation.” The phrase struck me as a fine way to characterize marriage.
Each spouse is the cause of the other’s salvation. Of course, the ultimate cause of salvation is God’s love in Christ poured out in the paschal mystery, but in a unique way spouses become for each other sacraments of this love. Functioning as sacraments of God’s love, spouses capacitate each other to love, to say “yes” to God’s persistent invitation to engage in self-offering love. When we discern that we are in fact loved, it is easier for us to turn aside from selfishness. Our very salvation is affected and in part effected by the love given to us by others.
Each spouse is the work of the other’s salvation. Marriage is one possible flowering of a believer’s baptismal vocation, the summons to discipleship. Each spouse works out his or her salvation in and through the work of helping the other spouse on the path of discipleship. This work is the work of patience and forgiveness, of fidelity and mutual correction.
Marital love, like the love of the Triune God, is a love that faces outward and overflows from within. The blessing at the conclusion of the celebration gave expression to this idea:
May be you be witnesses in the world to God’s charity, / so that the afflicted and needy who have known / your kindness / may one day receive you thankfully / into the eternal dwelling of God.
It was most fitting, then, that the couple chose for their wedding Mass the reading from Revelation 19 concerning the divine invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb in God’s eternal dwelling. How fitting, too, that they also chose Romans 12, in which Paul writes about the bodies of believers as living sacrifices, surely the work of salvation.
What is true of spouses in a particular way is true also of all believers: Do we not all have a measure of co-responsibility for each other’s salvation? May the married couples in our lives inspire us in this work.