07 October 2006

Homily - 8 October 2006

We see in the first reading that man, that Adam, is lonely even with the “various wild animals and various birds of the air” running and flying around (Genesis 2:19).

“Of all other creatures, not one is capable of being the helper that man needs, even though he has assigned a name to all the wild beasts and birds and thus made them fully a part of his life. So God forms woman from the rib of man. Now Adam finds the helper that he needed: ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’” (Genesis 2:23).

In this we see that Adam, that man, “is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete’.”
[2] “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

I wish to pose here a question to all of our young people: when you chose someone to date, for what do you look? Do you look for someone with whom you can have fun, or someone with whom you can relate? Do you look for something that will last, or do you look for something just to keep you occupied for a short time. Do you look simply upon externals, or you do you look to the soul within? When you look for someone to date, ask the Lord to lead you to that person who will complete you, who will help you become fully human, who will help you journey to the Lord and then – if you are indeed called to marriage – you will find your spouse.

In his Encyclical Letter, Pope Benedict XVI points out that two aspects of this account of creation are important:

“First, [love] is somehow rooted in man’s very nature; Adam is a seeker, who ‘abandons his mother and father’ in order to find woman; only together do the two become ‘one flesh’. The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, [love] directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it [love] fulfill its deepest purpose.”

This is the deepest purpose of sexual love: to unite man and woman as “one flesh,” all within the context of marriage.

There are many today who wish to redefine marriage for their own aims and agendas. “While the Church clearly teaches that discrimination against any group of people is wrong, efforts to make cohabitation, domestic partnerships, same-sex unions, and polygamous unions equal to marriage are misguided and also wrong.”
[4] None of these other ideas reflect the divine plan of love seen in marriage. This is why we can neither accept them nor encourage them. What do I mean here?

Marriage as given us by God involves a mutual and exclusive love that is pledged until death. Marriage involves one man and one woman who complete each other and is a permanent bond. This “marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.”

Ponder this for a while, if you will: God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love. To you married couples, I ask you this: do you “cling” to each other? How does your spouse experience God’s own love through your marriage? Where this answer is lacking, so also an essential purpose of marriage is lacking. How are you to know if your marriage lives up to the high honor that the Lord has called you? Tertullian puts it this way:

“What kind of yoke is that of two believers who share one hope, one desire, one discipline, one service? They are mutual servants with no discrepancy of interests. Truly they are ‘two in one flesh.’ Where the flesh is one, the spirit is one as well. Together they pray, together bow down, together perform their fasts, mutually teaching, mutually entreating, mutually upholding. They stand equally at the banquet of God, equally in crises, equally facing persecutions, and equally in refreshments. Neither hides anything from the other. Neither neglects the other. Neither is troublesome to the other.”

This is the beauty and challenge of marriage; it is to this that the Lord calls all married couples.

Some might ask what a celibate priest knows of the challenges and the difficulties of marriage. I, too, grew up within the context of a family, two families really and, because of this, I do know something of the challenge of marriage and also of the reward of a marriage well lived.

My own parents, Bill and Pat, were married and two years and six days later, I was born on Easter Sunday. Their marriage – which ended after ten years and one month when Dad died – was not at all easy. When I was born, Mom gave birth to twin boys; Matthew died that same day and the doctors feared for my life as well. I was in and out of the hospital as a young boy and by the time I was five years old Mom was confined to a hospital bed at home because of brain cancer. Dad was then burdened with the heavy responsibility of caring for two young boys and his wife.

Certainly this is not what he bargained for when he married my Mom, nor is this what she expected. And yet, Dad must have remembered the commitment he made the day of his wedding; he must have known the seriousness of the covenant into which he entered. Do you know the promise you made the day of your wedding?: “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

How easy it would have been for Dad to run, to leave and to abandon the promise he made to love his wife. And yet in the keeping of his promise shines forth the love of God as if through a prism. In this, my parents shared in some way in the sufferings of Christ and gave to me a glimmer of hope and comfort in a troubled world. As I reflect on their short and trying marriage, I can see the love they had for each other, the same love with which God loves his people. This is the love that did not run from the Cross but embraced it.

Today we think also of the sad reality of divorce. There are many who claim that the Church is unsympathetic to those who experience divorce but this simply is not true. It is the Church’s great duty to guard and protect the dignity of marriage, and for this reason the Church upholds the validity of every marriage until proven otherwise.

Jesus himself says, “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mark 10:9). The Church herself cannot dissolve a marriage validly entered into. From time to time, the Church investigates a marriage to see if a sacramental bond was truly entered into. When it is found that something required was lacking for a true sacramental bond, a declaration of nullity may be issued, declaring that the marriage was not a sacramental marriage from the beginning. It makes no moral judgment on the couple or on the children. These declarations are given both with great respect for the sacrament of marriage and for the dignity of those involved. In all she does, the Church desires to lead all people to Jesus Christ and to experience his love.

We know, too, that one of the purposes of marriage is the procreation of children and the stability of family life. This being the Month of the Rosary and today/yesterday being the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, I invite – I beg you – to pray the Rosary together as a family. Discover the simple riches of this time-honored prayer together. Through the Rosary, “we ponder . . . the mysteries of our salvation, and ask the Lord to help us grow in our understanding of the marvelous things has done for us.”
[7] In understanding his love more deeply, we will each grow in our vocation as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 11.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 11.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, 11.
[4] United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, 280.
[5] Pope Benedict, Deus caritas est, 11.
[6] Tertullian, To His Wife, 2.8.
[7] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 1 October 2006.

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