Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
“Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust but for a noble purpose.”
– Tobit 8:7
It is a commonplace that we live in a sex-saturated culture, and so it is. Perhaps that is so because we live in a world so totally cut off from the world God created, from nature, that the only way we can encounter the wildness, the otherness, the ferocity of nature is in the area of life called “sex.” Perhaps this excuses us somewhat, for people do not do well in hyper-urbanized environments, like Babylon or Sodom, and need to be refreshed by time in the desert. We do need wilderness. We do not do well in prosperity.
Still, the base nature of our age has so deeply infected human relations that the beauty and gentleness and kindness possible in marriage is all but forgotten. Today’s reading reminds us of this, for the story of Sarah and her many newly wed husbands, all dead on their wedding nights, points to a mysterious demon – who was driven out by prayer. Was it the demon lust? For before the newly wedded couple – Sarah and Tobias – knew each other in the mystery of marriage, they prayed before almighty God, and remembered the nobility of man and woman, the primal innocence of Adam and Eve.
Think of contemporary weddings, which resemble nothing so much as ancient bacchanalia, where the very garb of the bride and her party speak of anything but a modest loveliness. How can such unions be godly, when “prayer” is reduced to a merely traditional form that somehow covers the base drives that are being celebrated? How much better to tame and enoble those base drives by the grace of true prayer, from the heart – a prayer not just at a high (and expensive!) altar, but at the foot of the marriage bed as well! How many evil demons could be expelled by such prayer, how many dead marriages brought to life, gentle life – true love. Yes, innocence can be regained: and marriage is a holy thing, a sacrament. With prayer.