The Covenant of a Sacramental Marriage

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Exploring this truth with teens


Marriage in the Catholic Church is a covenant. However, a case can be made that many people, Catholic or not, view marriage as a contract. Now is a good time to help your teens wrestle with this common misconception.

Covenant: A solemn agreement between human beings or between God and a human being involving mutual commitments or guarantees. (Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Contract versus covenant

Below is a list of contractual and covenantal characteristics, followed by Scripture references that reveal God’s covenant relationship with us.

■ A contract is legally binding. A covenant is a spiritual agreement.
■ A contract is an agreement you can break. A covenant is a perpetual promise (see Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 54:10).
■ A contract is a 50/50 relationship. A covenant is a 100/100 relationship (see John 3:16).
■ A contract is an exchange of goods. A covenant is a giving of oneself to the other. More specifically, it is an exchange of persons. Another way we might say it comes from the Bible: “My lover belongs to me and I to him” (Song of Songs 2:16). God says it this way to his people: “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:12; see also Exodus 6:7; Jeremiah 30:22).
■ A contract can be voided. A covenant is about having the strength to hold up your part of the promise.
■ You can stop “paying” in a contract when the other party is not fulfilling their part in the deal. In a covenant, the party not getting their needs met supports the failing party so that they can meet their obligations together.

Scriptural support

Exodus 6:7; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 54:10; Jeremiah 30:22; Ezekiel 36:28; John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:18; 1 John 3:1

Talk about it

Explore and discuss these truths with the following activities:

■ Display contract characteristics and Scripture references in some way.
■ Read a contract characteristic and then its covenant counterpart. Ask which seems more like a description of how God relates to us. Discuss the whys and why nots.
■ Read the Catechism quote at the beginning of this article and the Scripture passages listed above. Use them to support your discussions.
■ Marriage as a covenant is a game changer. Discuss why this is so.
■ St. John Chrysostom taught: “When a husband and wife are united in marriage, they no longer seem like something earthly, but rather like the image of God himself.” Discuss.


BECKY GROTH is a writer for ODB Films.


This article was originally published in Catechist, March 2020.

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