Recently, I was privileged to attend a Buddhist wedding. Before the exchanging of rings, we were informed that they represented “love, understanding, and patience; and the three are never divided.” It seems that even in other religions a bit of God shows through.
Taken at a surface level, those three characteristics are perfect symbols of what marriage entails. To love another is to will the good of the other as other, as Bishop Barron has often remarked. It’s not a feeling, but rather an act of the will; a choice to take action to support another with all that one has to give. While understanding could be considered a part of love, calling it out as a separate charism of marriage between two people highlights the need to put a person’s wants, needs, and ego aside in order to live in harmony with another. To understand another, one needs to get to know all aspects of the other and to proverbially try walking in the other’s shoes. Understanding is to be able to be compassionate towards one’s spouse in every situation. When patience was mentioned, there was a bit of a chuckle from the wedding attendees, and that one is probably the most challenging of the three. Practicing patience with a spouse is loving and understanding the other in the most challenging circumstances. Like the continuous band of a ring, these three attributes of marriage cannot be divided since each encompasses the others. Some days may require more effort in understanding, other days require more patience, but no matter what, love — that act of choice — is made over and over again, moment after moment.
There may not be a deity in Buddhism, but those three attributes made me immediately think of the Trinity, and not just because of the count. Can there be any better representation of love than God? Catholics often use love as a definition for God, so that Love (with a capital L) is synonymous as the name of God. Can anyone understand us better than Jesus Christ, who put aside His divinity to live and die as a human? Jesus is the epitome of understanding, since He knows what it’s like to feel temptation, hunger, thirst, tiredness, sadness, as well as joy, mirth, and merriment. We should never fear that Jesus would not understand our trials or our successes because He has lived a full life on earth. While the Holy Spirit is often referred to as the Advocate or Sanctifier, patience is one of the fruits when we strive to live a life centered in God. As a tree is known for its fruits, so too is the spousal relationship when it seeks to reflect Love and Understanding.
No matter what religious practices a couple may have, God is a part of every marriage. He brings together two people, binding them into one union. He may choose to bless the union with the gift of children, which reflects the love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in a more concrete way. Let us take time to pray for all marriages: those newly formed to those spanning a lifetime, for those whose spouses have passed onto eternity, and for those considering a marriage commitment. May God guide them, grant them the grace to live out their vows and comfort them in the difficult times.