October 20, 2015 // Uncategorized
Wedding Anniversary Masses
The following is Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ homily for the wedding anniversary Masses in South Bend and Fort Wayne.
We are celebrating this Wedding Anniversary Mass while in Rome this month the Synod of Bishops is meeting to discuss marriage and the family. The bishops and Pope Francis are looking at the crisis regarding marriage and family life in many parts of the world and how the Church should confront this crisis. The working document of the synod focuses on the cultural crisis and the many problems that face the institution of marriage and the many difficulties that result for the life of the family.
This past week, many bishops stood up at the synod to say that the Church needs to focus, not on all the challenges, problems, and difficulties, but on the Good News of the Gospel of the Family. This is the way forward. The Church needs to present the truth, beauty, and joy of the vocation of marriage, while at the same time, showing deep pastoral care, sensitivity, and compassion for those who have experienced failed marriages.
Our gathering today at this Mass is a celebration of the truth, beauty, and joy of the vocation of marriage. Gathered here with us are couples who are a living sign, that despite the frailty of the human condition, fidelity in the vocation of marriage is not only possible, it is worth the effort. It is possible for a husband and wife to live the vow to love one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, forever, until death do they part. I thank all our anniversary couples for your witness to God’s love. Your marriage is an icon of God’s love for us. You mirror that love which is faithful, fruitful, and forever.
No doubt you have experienced challenges in your married lives. The important thing when couples experience difficulties is to remember that God has united them in the sacred bond of marriage, that He is the foundation of that bond. The true bond that keeps couples together is God. That’s why prayer is so important in marriage: the husband praying for his wife and the wife praying for her husband. This helps to preserve the bond and make love grow. When there are disagreements or arguments, part of the human condition, the bond is strong enough not to be broken when the couple is open to the power of God’s grace received in the sacrament of matrimony.
One of the problems being discussed at the synod of bishops is the decline in the number of marriages. Many young people are opting to cohabitate without marriage. They question if it is possible to make the definitive decision to marry, to love one person forever. There is a fear to make a definitive choice, a life decision. We live in a culture of the temporary, of the provisional. Dear couples, you bear witness that the definitive commitment of marriage is possible, that the permanence of marriage is not only possible, it is beautiful. You walk together as spouses in the sometimes difficult journey of life with all its demands and challenges. You’ve learned how to face these challenges together, to journey together, hand in hand helping each other to grow, with trust in God’s faithfulness. You don’t run away from your commitment and mission, rather, you trust the truth of God’s word that what He has joined together, man must not divide.
In our second reading today, Saint Paul gives important counsel and advice to the Christians in Rome. His exhortation is totally relevant for us today. Many of the points he makes are particularly relevant for married couples. He says to them “not to be conformed to this age,” but to “discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” In a culture of the provisional, the temporary, what Pope Francis calls a “throw-away culture,” we must resist. In all things, including marriage and family life, we must always seek first the will of God. We know His will about marriage because He is the author of marriage. He established it to be permanent and life-giving, to be the foundation and fundamental cell of society. But how can a marriage last, given our weak human condition? Saint Paul gives a whole list of what we need to do to be good Christians, many of which are important in building a good and strong marriage. He says: “love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.” I was thinking that in the marriage vows, couples promise not only to love, but to honor, their spouses. This is so important, essential: the honor, the deep respect, for the other. And to show this honor and respect. This can be done in many different ways. Pope Francis in Philadelphia emphasized the little acts of love that build a marriage and family.
Saint Paul also tells us: “Do not grow slack in zeal.” This is a temptation, the temptation of acedia, becoming lazy, taking one another for granted, losing the joy of love. It’s true that life can become very routine sometimes, but one must be careful not to neglect one another. One must keep love alive, avoiding the temptation to withdraw from each other when things are tough. This temptation from the devil must be resisted.
Saint Paul writes to the Romans: “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” When one grows slack, becomes indifferent, withdraws, refuses to forgive, or stops praying, the marriage will go off course. The good news is that with effort the joy and peace of the married life can be restored, but we need the help of God’s grace, the grace of the sacrament received. “Persevere in prayer,” Saint Paul says. Prayer is so important for all of us, in our vocations, mine included, to make us strong in our vocational commitment, to help us, to give us strength and courage to live what we promised, to go forward, to always go forward and not turn away from the path He has marked out for us.
There are crosses in every vocation. But the Lord is always there to help us carry the cross and move forward. The good news is that the cross triumphs. The love of Christ is victorious. Marriage is “the sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the cross” (Pope Francis). We must ask Jesus to help us to love as He loved. Pope Francis said to a group of engaged couples that when they pray the Our Father and say “give us this day our daily bread,” they can also learn to pray: “Lord, give us this day our daily love.” This is the true bread of the soul which sustains us in going forward, the Holy Father says. So, anniversary couples and all married couples here today, I invite you to pray that simple prayer: “Lord, give us this day our daily love.” It’s the love of Christ that sustains and strengthens all of us on our journey through life. It is our daily bread, the bread of our souls.
May the Lord continue to bless all of you with His love! With your lives, may you continue to radiate to others the beauty and joy of the Gospel of the Family! Our world needs this Good News. This is the Good News we celebrate today. Dear anniversary couples, may Mary and Joseph, who teach us the splendor of married love, accompany you on your journey and intercede for you always!
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