Today’s readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 47; I John 4:7-12; Matthew 5:13-16
The Rite of Marriage gives us so many wonderful images for the spiritual life. Speaking of the bride, the nuptial prayer asks that she may model her life on “the holy women whose praises are sung in the Scriptures.” Speaking of the groom, it prays that he might remember that “she is his equal and the heir with him to the life of grace.” And speaking of their union, the Liturgy speaks of it reflecting the marriage of Christ with his bride, the Church.
The Scriptures portray so many people for us. Some of them are models of what not to do, but there are holy women and men that are meant to be an inspiration for us. We remember the courage of Esther as she took her life in her hands and spoke out against the pending injustice of the extermination of her people. We remember the kindness of Ruth as she refused to leave her mother-in-law alone in a foreign land. We remember the holy women who attending to Jesus on the way of the cross and who witnessed the resurrection. The wedding Liturgy prays that the bride would emulate their qualities, be devoted to the people in their lives, stand up to injustice, and always walk with Christ.
It goes on to pray that the groom would assume responsibility for leading his family in the spiritual life. The life of grace is our goal, which is realized most perfectly in heaven, and we are all heirs to that life if we would follow our Lord and live the Gospel. Coming together as equals, the bride and groom raise up children for the Kingdom of God, becoming a family that shines like a light in a dark place. The love of bride and groom reflect the love of Christ for the Church. A marriage is not a relationship meant to be kept to itself; it is meant to be salt and light, proclaiming God’s love by living as Christ has taught us: loving God and our neighbor.
So with these wonderful images to guide you, you embarked years ago on a journey of married life. Would that every day were a moment of grace, but life gives us good times and bad, sickness and health. Some days, it’s hard to be Esther or Ruth; some days we detour off the life of grace; some days spiritual equality isn’t foremost in our minds. Yet that is our calling, and where sin corrupts, grace heals: the entire story of our life and relationships cannot ever be boiled down to one moment. Thank God.
So day by day, we let God write that new covenant on our hearts. God forgives our iniquity and sin, and we once again remember that our brokenness is no match for God’s love; that sin and death don’t follow us to the Kingdom of God, that the struggles of this life make the life of faith and grace so much more important, so much more urgent in our lives.
My parents’ marriage was inspirational to me. Dad always worked so hard for our family, but was never an absentee father. He was there for mom and for all of us, every day of his life. He and mom were great partners; they always did everything together; unfortunately even to the extent of being diagnosed with cancer a month apart. Dad has been gone for five years now, but mom continues on, being the source of wisdom and common sense, and love that she always was. Their marriage nurtured them both and helped them to be a source of love and grace for us, and for so many others that God put in their lives. They taught religious education to high school kids in their home for years, and those men and women, grown up now, still have a fondness and respect for both of them. My vocation as a priest grew out of their vocation as parents. I am called to Fatherhood in a way similar to my dad’s vocation, and as a Father I am called to shepherd and love my family – this parish – into heaven.
Your lives and marriages have their own story. Times of challenge build character and endurance. Times of grace give us strength to journey on. The ups and downs of married life, lived faithfully and intentionally, have brought you here today. Your marriage is a sign that God’s love never ends.
And so it goes: our lives are bound up together in the love of our bridegroom, Jesus Christ. We live our vocations shining as a light in the dark place this world can be sometimes, seasoning a society that has grown bland with apathy and sadness with the love of Christ. Today we pray for all holy vocations, of whatever station in life, that they might be lived with faithfulness and love poured out in great abandon, confident that we never run out of love because God is the source of that love. May God’s grace continue to call men and women into vocations to priesthood, religious life, and married life. May God help us all to love as perfectly and freely as he loves us!