(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican on Monday morning, with a group of married couples at various stages on life’s journey in attendance. The focus of the Holy Father’s remarks following the readings of the day were the faithfulness, perseverance, and fruitfulness of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church – three characteristics that are also at the heart of Christian marriage.
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Fifteen couples, with between 25 and 60 years’ experience in marriage, were gathered in order to give thanks to God for the milestones they’ve reached. After the readings of the day, Pope Francis shared some reflections on the three pillars of spousal relationship in the Christian vision of things: fidelity, perseverance, fruitfulness. The Holy Father said that Christ, Himself, is the model and measure of these, which the Pope called the “three loves of Jesus”: for the Father, for His mother, and for the Church. “Great” is His love for the Church, said Pope Francis, adding, “Jesus married the Church for love.” She is, he said, “His bride: beautiful, holy, a sinner, He loves her all the same.” His way of loving set the three characteristics of this love in relief:
“It is a faithful love. It is a persevering love. He never tires of loving his Church. It is a fruitful love. It is a faithful love. Jesus is the faithful one. St. Paul , in one of his Letters, says that, if you confess Christ, He will confess you, before the Father; if you deny Christ, He will deny you; even if you are not faithful to Christ, He remains faithful, for he cannot deny Himself! Fidelity is the essence of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ love in His Church is faithful. This faithfulness is like a light on marriage. The fidelity of love. Always.”
Always faithful , and also indefatigable in its perseverance – just like the love of Jesus for His Bride:
“Married life must be persevering, because otherwise love cannot go forward. Perseverance in love, in good times and in difficult times, when there are problems: problems with the children, economic problems, problems here, problems there – but love perseveres, presses on, always trying to work things out, to save the family. Persevering: they get up every morning, the man and the woman, and carry the family forward.”
Then the Holy Father discussed the third characteristic: fruitfulness. The love of Jesus, says Pope Francis, “makes the Church fruitful,” providing her with new children through Baptism, and the Church grows with this spousal fruitfulness. “In a marriage,” said Pope Francis, “fertility can sometimes be put to the test when the children do not arrive, or are sick.” The Pope said that in such times of trial, there are couples who look to Jesus and draw on the power of fertility that Christ has with His Church. There are also other things that Jesus does not like – such as marriages that are sterile by choice:
“These marriages, in which the spouses do not want children, in which the spouses want to remain without fertility. This culture of well-being from ten years ago convinced us: ‘It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free…it might be better – more comfortable – to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or is this not? Have you seen it? Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fruitful, it does not do what Jesus does with his Church: He makes His Church fruitful.”