Death to Self. That doesn’t sound particularly pleasant, does it? Not only that, but it also seems to stand in direct opposition to our human instinct of self-preservation. We were made to survive.
And yet, we are asked to lay down our lives for our spouse not just once but daily for as long as we both shall live. It just doesn’t make sense.
We remember today the greatest of paradoxes--the Cross, an instrument of death that became a symbol of eternal life.
Beaten, bloodied, hanging naked before all, for a crime He didn’t commit. Christ’s body emptied for fallible creatures who would deny Him. His heart spilled out for the imperfect Beloved who would reject Him.
Hours before, He sweated blood in the Garden while asking that this cup pass from Him. In that moment, we see fear of pain, fear of death.
He didn’t have to undergo that suffering. He didn’t have to stay on that cross; He is God after all.
But He did so to show us that, despite the difficulty we may face, despite the moments where our love isn’t perfectly returned, the sacrifice is worth it.
He was held on the cross by the same force that has the power to unite two broken, flawed humans in the sacrament of marriage--Love.
Love makes the suffering of the cross comprehensible.
We look today in a special way upon the cross, upon the perfect Lover. The example set before us on our wedding day of self-gift at its best. The cross offers an honest look at what we are called to in our vocation-- an emptying of oneself, a rejection of the primal instinct of self-preservation to be brought into the greatest of glories. Death and resurrection.
Suffering doesn’t make sense when taken alone. We want our happily ever after, and God-willing, one day we should have it. But we don’t want the mediocre version of happiness the world offers us. Instead our heart longs for the fulfillment of all our desires and we will never be satisfied with anything less.
We enter a new leg of our journey to our heavenly homeland as we enter into our vocation; the heat of the crucible is turned up and there will be moments when we feel the pain of our impurities being burned away.
There will be joy in your marriage, and those moments will be some of the profound moments of joy you will ever experience in this life. But in order to receive what we were created for, those imperfect parts of ourselves must undergo a crucifixtion of sorts, and brought to new life.
As we clear our hearts of our selfishness, we make room for something that is more beautiful than we ever could have imagined--God Himself.
This is what He vows to us on the cross today. This is what He promises to us with His dying breath. I love you, he whispers in the depths of your heart and I want you to spend eternity with me. So, together with your husband, take up your cross and follow me. Lay down your life alongside me, and I promise you will rise with me. I will show you what it means to Love.