The Look of Love

The Look of Love
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
World Marriage Day

[Jb 7:1-4, 6-7. Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 . 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23. Mk 1:29-39.]

Whenever we honor the sacrament of marriage together as a faith community, someone or other tells of their hurt--even of their offense at the subject. Often it is those in the single state, or those whose marriages, sadly, failed for one or another reason. Sometimes it is a surviving spouse who wonders where his or her marriage went when the marriage partner died.

But I hope I will not offend anyone today.
Today, I am speaking to all of you particularly about a special segment of the group: those who are married and whose marriages are good and working, because today, on this second Sunday of February we celebrate World Marriage Day.

Jesus in today’s Gospel goes right to the heart of the matter: He enters Simon’s house, finds Simon’s mother-in-law sick, and cures her—first thing! The mere mention of Simon’s mother-in-law tells us that Simon Peter was married, and for the Jews, marriage was and is a sacred state.

Marriage has been called the “primordial sacrament” the “original sacrament”: it goes right back to the first pages of the Book of Genesis: God looks at man and says (Gen 2:18) "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him."

And God fixes it by casting Adam into a deep sleep.
When he wakes up, Adam looks at the woman and says:
"This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”; and of course, we all have heard what follows:

"That is why a man leaves his father and mother andclings to his wife, and the two of them become one body."

This is God’s original plan, His original intent:
That the man and woman would look at each other, and be with and be for each other in a way in which they would complete each other!

Marriage reminds us of that “original glance” that “bone of my bone” experience that tells both a man and a woman that God has entered into their relationship—that God guides and nurtures two people as unique and unrepeatable complements of each other.

I'd like you to try a little something: If you are with your spouse, look at him or her. If you are married and your spouse is not with you, close your eyes and bring him or her to mind. And please do the same if your spouse is deceased.

What do you see? This is what I hope you saw: I hope you saw the one person in the world whom you are called to be Christ to by the sacrament of marriage!
You see the person that you are called to serve in a free, total, faithful, and fruitful union; the one person who makes you one body; who makes each of you even more complete!

Now, isn’t that a miracle? That is a sign of Christ’s life-giving love!

A sacramental marriage is more than a simple legal contract. It is a covenant, and covenant establishes eternal bonds of sacred kinship. It unites the participants in a relationship with God that is to last forever.
Your marriage covenant is an unconditional exchange. When you stood together at God's altar and exchanged promises, you promised, better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health to be each other's all the days of your lives. These promises say: “I am yours and you are mine. And we are both in God!” Yes: freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.

How beautiful is that? And how can anyone do this?

You can do it because Christ Himself is the source of this grace of the sacrament. You bear each other's burdens and help each other to rise when you have fallen. You forgive one another
“He gives the strength to take up your crosses, …to rise again after you have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens.

My grandparents were married just short of 43 years when my grandfather died suddenly. My grandmother was a widow for 33 years afterward. On their anniversary day each year, she would lovingly remind me, "Pop and I are married –," whatever the number of years was. My grandmother believed in St. Paul’s teaching that love breaks the bonds of death, that “love never ends—never fails.”

I know a couple who were married in excess of 25 years when I last visited them in upstate New York. They like to sit on the side porch in the summer evenings after dinner. The husband would bring his wife’s sweater from the upstairs bedroom always at just the right time, because he sensed that she was going to be cold.

I know a young lady who has been married for about two years. She said recently, “My husband had “Peace be with you” inscribed in my wedding band. Sometimes just remembering that helps me calm down.”

Imagine that! Even when she is not with her husband, his peace is with her. That’s God Himself at work!

Whenever I think of marriage, I think of the miracle of the water being turned into wine at Cana. Only the servers at Cana, the ones who had actually drawn the water, knew what had happened. Something very ordinary had become something else, something completely outside of itself, something very extraordinary! And that’s what happens at marriage.
And those of you who share this precious relationship know that!

Oh you still look like two people to the world. You may even act like two people. But in the core of that marriage, you become the one new thing—joined heart to heart in a love that never fails.
That is the special occasion we celebrate this day.

And those who are married know that there will come a time--maybe you know it now--when you are so thoroughly two-made-one.

When you finish each other’s sentences.

When you wives know, for instance that your husband, always likes his striped tie to be near his blue shirt and the polka dot tie with the white shirt.

When you husbands, know for instance, that on your children’s birthdays you will always buy a bouquet of flowers for your wives.

When you do little things like that, these little just because things in a world that has become all too heartless, too humdrum, and all too routine, you will know that you are, and will always remain, the “new wine” for each other.

Jesus tells us all by the particular witness of successful marriages: It doesn’t have to be the way of the world.
Jesus says: Journey with me in this life-giving union and I will give you a glimpse of paradise! That is what the happiness of Christian marriages tell to the world!

And this is what we celebrate today: the sign of your bond that points us to the reality of God’s eternal love for us all! Today we celebrate you, we celebrate what God has done for you, and we celebrate and bless what your sign of love has done to show God’s presence and love to all of us who know you.

May your marriages and your days always be blessed!