September 11, 2006
Unity among christian denominations
The divorce rate is increasing at an alarming rate all over the world. It is distressing to note that, in Malaysia, there were 19,800 cases of divorce in 2004 and this continues to increase over the years. The rate of divorce among Christians and even Catholics is on the rise. What is happening to our belief that marriages are made in heaven? Where have we gone wrong in upholding the sanctity of matrimony?
Lately I had the opportunity to attend a wedding of a friend’s son in an Anglican Church. The bridegroom was an Anglican and the bride a Lutheran.
The ceremony was presided over by the Anglican pastor and assisted by 2 others, one from the Lutheran and another from a Methodist church. I must admit that I am not too familiar with the real differences between these Christian denominations but one thing is common among them, that is the belief in Christ as the supreme Lord, which is also basis of our faith.
I really appreciated the three clergymen conducting the service harmoniously as though they were from one and the same denomination. I was even taken by surprise when the main celebrant, the Anglican pastor called upon the Methodist pastor to deliver the sermon which was originally scheduled for him.
As I was observing the proceedings in the church, I was wondering how wonderful it would be if only our own Catholic priests could join in such a service with those from other Christian denominations. Of course I know for sure that such a scenario will never materialize. It is easy to preach interfaith unity and understanding but difficult to practice it even with other fellow Christians.
I must admit however, despite the harmony in unity, one great factor was missing – the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The presence of Christ in the Eucharistic is what gives the solemnity to the sacrament of matrimony.
Despite this deficiency, I was impressed by the sermon delivered, which was simple, clear and very practical. I have yet to hear such an advice by our own pastors during our Catholic weddings.
The pastor said “The fact that Christ has sanctioned your marriage means that he has chosen the spouse for you. It implies that your partner is the best for you and you can never find someone better however hard you try”.
Turning to the bridegroom he reiterated “This woman is the best wife for you as she is chosen by Christ himself. It will therefore be futile and even foolish of you to leave her for someone better in the course of your life as you will never find one”.
Similarly he then turned to the bride and gave similar assurances on her husband.
With my own experiences over 20 years of married life, I can safely certify for sure the fact stated by the Methodist pastor that our spouse is God chosen and is the best for us. If we do not have that faith and trust in Christ regarding this simple fact, then it would be meaningless to call ourselves His followers.
Today even among Catholics, divorce is slowly being accepted as a norm. What is frightening is that it occurs even after many years of marriage. If only the couples, who took their matrimonial wows, in the presence of Christ, understood that they were chosen for each other by God himself and that they are the best for each other, they would have never considered divorce as the solution to whatever problems that they encounter.
Very often we see only the defects in our spouses. In fact it is much easier to see the bad than the good in them. It is easy for us to say “Lord, I love you”, and we do say that many times a day, but very difficult to say the same to our spouses even once. If only we realize that Christ reveals himself daily in our spouses, in their strength and more so in their weaknesses, then saying the phrase to our spouses will be become a joy.
Once when we are convinced that Christ would give us the best in everything, including our spouses, only then will we see the good in them and overlook their shortcomings. This would be the beginning of a lasting and unshakably strong relationship with them that will withstand the stress and strain which are common in the process of bringing up the family.
We preach so much about faith and trust in God and we often presume we have that faith in us at all times. It may be so in good times but the real test of faith is at times when tragedy strikes and our lives are thrown into disarray. That is the time we must recall our matrimonial wows we made to the person handpicked by God to be our partner in life, in the presence of His son, Jesus Christ, “I’ll be true to you in good and bad times,in sickness and in health ….”.