Blessed are the married...
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (World Marriage Day)
[Jer 17:5-8. Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6. 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20. Lk 6:17, 20-26]
Today we celebrate World Marriage Day. As I read these readings over and over, I was thinking to myself, What do these readings say about marriage? Where would I get my theme? Hmmm...
Take the first reading: “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD." (I'm thinkin, no, not a good marriage theme.)
And the Responsorial Psalm: “Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked." (And let's not go there for marriage, either!)
I heard a story about a deacon who told a very nervous bride at her wedding rehearsal that she needed to keep only three things in mind: He said, "Remember three things tomorrow at your wedding:
First, remember the aisle, because that is what is going to bring you into the Church and into the sanctuary. Concentrate on that aisle.
“Second, remenmber the altar, because when the time comes for you to exchange your promises, you will be standing before the altar. So just concentrate on that altar.
"Third, when you make those promises, remember that you are making them to your man only, so lock eyes with your man. Just concentrate on him. That’s all you have to do.”
Well, on the day of the wedding, the bride was even more nervous. She was five shades of pale - but that was nothing compared to the groom—he saw the bride walking toward him – her eyes were locked fast on him, and as she walked in he could have sworn he heard her singing softly as she took his arm,
“I’ll alter him!”
(Now, I gotta tell you that that joke was really a lot funnier at home, so tell it to yourself at home and you'l really laugh!)
I’m sure we can all think of some jokes about marriage there! But let’s not laugh too quickly!
In marriage we have to consider not how one will alter another, but in a very real sense how the sacrament of marriage will transform both of them.
Marriage is no laughing matter.
But it is a matter of great joy.
Marriage has been called the “primordial sacrament,” and it goes right back to the first “not good” of creation: God looks around and says “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.”
When the man and woman see each other, they exchange that “look of recognition” and they see that they were literally made for each other!
That’s why a man or a woman can say, “Honey, I haven’t seen every girl (or guy) in the world, but I can stop right here with you, because God has shown me that you—in your unique and unrepeatable self—are for me—out of all the people in the world!”
That look – that intimate exchange—why, that’s part of recognizing that the couple is not alone – it is a recognition of God in the mix:
God entwining their two lives.
They see in each other the one person that are called to serve—the one person that they are called to be Christ to!
And so we know what comes next, we can probably all repeat it from memory:
"That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body." One flesh.
Marriage is a concrete sign of that divine promise of God’s love and his call to unity, just as Jesus says in John's Gospel, “that they may be one, as we, Father, are one, And “that they may be brought to perfection as one” (Jn 17:23).
This is written in our bodies.
And, hey, if it were that easy, marriage would be a walk in the park, as easy as pie.
But no, it is certainly not so easy.
A sacramental marriage is more than a legal contract.
It is a covenant, and covenant establishes eternal bonds of sacred kinship and unconditional exchange.
When a man and a woman stand together at God's altar, they promise each other:
For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health;
to be each other's all the days of their lives.
These promises say: “I am yours and you are mine. And we are both in God!”
Yes: freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.
And if you are called to be Christ to each other, you are called to be completely poured out for each other… To die to self so that you will be brought to new and abundant life together!
You are called to a transformation!
And as we honor the good and lasting marriages, we have to at least consider that marriage is being undermined these days:
According to statistics half of all marriages will end in divorce, and an even higher percentage of second marriages will end in divorce.
Attacks on the sanctity of marriage and the traditional definition of a one-man and one-woman partnership are commonplace.
The traditional notions of family are being undermined.
Society places tremendous burdens on married life and family, and there are pressures that strain at the very foundation of the promises that bind two people together.
And what is the world’s message?
Get what you can get while you can get it!
Me first, all others out of the way!
But with love comes responsibility.
People owe it to themselves and to each other to know that love calls us all out of our sense of self and into the good of the other.
Love calls us in an extreme and in a radical sense to lay down our very lives for the good of our partners.
Love has responsibility!
Love – true love – always wills the good of the other. As Paul writes, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And true love: true love? Why, it never fails!
In today’s gospel of the Beatitides, Jesus comes down and stands on level ground. He knows that he has to meet us where we are – on the ground. He bends down to bless us in our poverty.
“Blessed are the poor,” he says.
Jesus knows that we all have the potential within each of us for great good. He also knows that we can make decisions that lead us toward devastating and irreparable consequences.
We are weak and imperfect people.
We have to let God into our lives. We have to let Him walk with us—especially in the bond of marriages. We need Him to show us His example.
That, I think, is the secret to the success of marriage. I have seen it lived out in the beautiful lives of what the world might call “ordinary people” doing the ordinary stuff of everyday lives.
In the Gospel, Jesus’ first words, “blessed are you” also mean “how happy are you.” The Greek word that the gospel writer uses is makarios – it means “divine joy” the highest joy.
It is the happiness that God intends for us.
It is a joy that is rooted in Christ – as marriage is rooted in Christ.
And that is no joke!
And so, dear friends, maybe the Lord wouldn’t mind if we add another beatitude to His just for today:
How blessed are you who are married! For your very lives wear the sign of His love.