The Church and the Bear's Marriage
The Bear is happily married. He and his missus will celebrate their 40th anniversary October 1st.
Mrs. Bear is his wife. Before God and man, we are Bear and wife, and our earthly marriage mystically represents Christ's relationship with his Church. It is "one" and easily identifiable by its bona fides, regardless of how we are treating one another. Like every marriage it has had its better times and its challenging times. As a marriage, however, we have never been "more married" or "less married" depending on our mood.
The Bear's marriage has a real, objective existence both on earth and in the spiritual realm. It doesn't include anyone else, not even something "irregular" on the side while the Bear technically remains in his marriage. The Bear looks to his wife and his wife alone for all things proper to their marriage. He would not separate himself from her, not even in heart or mind, by preferring another, even if his marriage wasn't doing so well. As Our Lord observed, one can commit adultery in his heart. A "separation mind-set" would be evil, and possibly lead to actual separation.
Deliberately dwelling on his wife's blessedly few faults, or visiting websites or clubs that made other women seem more attractive would be unhealthy and might lead to discontent. Again, why cultivate a "separation mind-set?" Don't you agree that would be unwise and disloyal in a marriage?
Surely, those who uphold the sacrament of matrimony would agree with the Bear on these points. There are realities that exist in both the earthly and spiritual realms. Man and wife, Christ and His Bride. And, of course, the Church is not some imaginary or invisible thing. The Catholic Church also exists on earth as a visible hierarchical body tracing its bona fides back to Peter, and made strikingly obvious worldwide by Him who spoke of the city on the hill, and the lamp on the stand.
THE WICKED BEAR -- AN ALLEGORY
Old Wife Turns Into Wacky Old New Wife -- Marriage Disappears!
Now let's say the Bear's wife goes through a bad phase. For 15 months, she doesn't do anything the Bear has become accustomed to during 40 years of marriage. She doesn't make sense, and is sometimes abusive. She puts on ridiculous fishnet hose and a leather miniskirt and flirts with other woodland creatures. She has even been seen kissing one of them!
Mrs. Bear has also turned into a "save the Earth" fanatic. She has installed solar panels all over the Bear's favorite place to sun, forbade him from "hurting the little fishies" in his favorite stream, and accidentally composted their dog. She's nuts!
(Keep in mind this is a story only, and not true.)
The Wicked Bear Finds True Love -- New Marriage Appears!
Fortunately for the Bear, there's an attractive and complaisant 18 year old woman with baby fever in another neck of the woods.
The Bear tells this new woman, "I've been married 40 years, but the last 15 months have been absolute Hell. I don't enjoy my marriage and I don't want my wife anymore. But I am in love with you. You're everything a wife should be! You're beautiful, and when you sing it's like the voice of an angel. You're sensible and traditional for all your youth. Your desire to have at least a dozen babies is charming. You and I could have a real marriage, and I could be away from my wife's constant nagging. I'm going to leave her and come and live with you, if you'll have a scruffy old Bear."
Without question, the Bear's marriage (in this story!) really does have problems. Many, many more than have been mentioned here. The Bear could fill pages of annoyances both great and small. For the last 15 months, all he and his wife have done is argue. The Bear persuades himself that he is justified in walking out and moving in with the other woman.
A Friend Intervenes
You, gentle reader, might object, even be scandalized, especially those of you who uphold the sanctity of matrimony, which was taught to you by your Church.
"First of all, Mr. Bear," you might begin, "do you really want to throw away 40 years of marriage over a relatively tiny slice of 15 months? Why, that would be as silly as throwing away a 2000 year-old Church over 50 years of occasional misrule! Who is to say that things won't eventually get better?
"But more importantly, Mr. Bear, your marriage is holy. It's a sacrament. It is a symbol of Christ's union with His Church. If you just up and leave, it would be like Christ abandoning his Bride. That is unthinkable!"
"Bride of Christ?" the Bear asks, his voice rising. "Who knows where she got off to. Mystical mumbo-jumbo with no connection to this world. I don't care about that. I got real problems here." The Bear goes on for several minutes about all the problems with his marriage.
Finally, you interrupt. "Yes, I understand all that. There's no doubt you have a troubled marriage, but that really isn't my--"
The Bear interrupts once again to rehearse additional deficiencies and outrages presented by his wife.
Once again, you are forced to interrupt. "Mr. Bear, please. I'm not denying anything you say. The point is, despite that, you can't leave. Period. You were married in the Church. Moving in with that other woman would be a mortal sin. If nothing else, what about simple loyalty? Maybe things aren't so good now, but didn't you get married for better and for worse? Maybe your wife needs you now, more than ever."
The Wicked Bear is Unconvinced
"You don't understand," counters the Bear. "This is an emergency, unlike any in the history of the world! And emergencies mean all bets are off! (I read that on the internet.) Besides, this other woman is all the things my wife isn't. She's sensible, and doesn't prance around foolishly saying ridiculous things all the time. She gives me real food. (I can tell the difference, you know!) I feel safe and comfortable in her arms. In our hearts, we'll be married. I'll call her my 'wife,' so there'll be no sin. You don't understand just how bad my marriage is. I say there is no marriage there at all! Yes. That's it. I have decided that. After all, who knows better than I about these things?"
A silence settles over your conversation, but you can tell the Bear is mulling something over.
"Besides," he finally blurts out. "Who are you to tell me I can't leave my awful wife and move in with the woman I love? It's all well and good to hand out simplistic advice, but you haven't solved a single one of my problems, let alone all of them! I demand you solve all the problems in my marriage before I listen to another word our of your mouth!"
"No," you admit. "I was more concerned right now to keep you in your marriage and out of that other woman's bed. If you decide to leave, who knows if you can ever go back to your marriage? But that doesn't mean we can't deal with your problems in some fashion. That's not the first order of business, though. You're about to do something awful and you don't even seem to know it."
The Bear snorts. "Just as I thought. You don't understand or care about my problems, because you didn't solve a one. And you claim everything is perfect in my marriage, or you wouldn't ask me to stay!" The wicked old Bear ambles off, muttering angrily about all the problems in his marriage, and how if you only knew, you would agree with him.