|Sankt Matthaeus Kirke, Copenhagen, Altarpiece - detail by Henrik Olrik|
The Gospel that we hear today is a continuation of Jesus’ great “Sermon on the Mount,” that started with him turning the world upside down, by reaching down to bless and empower and uphold the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers…
In the "long form" of today’ Gospel we hear Jesus expounding on the Law – but not to abolish it. He tells the crowd,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,”
Instead, he tells a people called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world
how to live the law that was given to Moses.
This is the great “teaching with authority” that awed and astonished the people
and irked the Scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus calls us to vocation here – he calls us to live in a specific and loving way that upholds the sacredness of everyone – because we are all sons and daughters of God.
I think this is a really great Gospel to hear especially today, because today we celebrate
World Marriage Day!
But whenever we honor the sacrament of marriage together as a faith community, there is always a possibility that someone will feel left out, or hurt at that.
It might be someone in the single state, or someone whose marriage, sadly, failed for one or another reason.
It might be a surviving spouse who wonders where his or her marriage went when the beloved marriage partner died.
But I hope that for today, all can share in joy, because,
Today, I am speaking to all of you about a particular group of you who are married - Today, February 13, 2011.
Marriage in the Catholic Church is no mere arrangement of convenience, but a covenant of life and love that is true Sacrament.
God has blessed this from time immemorial.
Genesis tells us that God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.”
And when the man and woman see each other for the first time, they recognize something in each other that they see in no other part of creation:
“At last: bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh!"
They see that they were literally “made for each other!”
They recognize that they are not alone – it is a recognition that God is there.
God is entwining their two lives.
That is God’s original plan, His original intent: That the man and woman see in each other something so sacred that the only response can be pure and true love.
And the man and woman make the decision to be with and for each other in a way by which they will complete each other!
They will serve each other in a free, total, faithful, and fruitful union that makes them one body:
that unites them in ways far beyond the physical; a unity that makes each of them “complete” in an abundant love.
My dear friends – that is true vocation! It is the primordial vocation – not a job, or a profession, but a radical way to live the whole of life!
Marriage is a sign of Christ’s abiding presence. And because it is a sacrament, it gives spouses graces to love each other exclusively and permanently.
So, why do some marriages fail today?
Marriage as it is lived out is really countercultural.
It resists the individualism of the world, it resists the call of a civilization that tells us “take care of yourself first!”
There is a constant tension between what the world tells us and what we hear from God.
Yet marriage tells the partners just the opposite: to take care of each other.
To go the whole distance:
To love and honor, to be faithful and true in good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness
and health, all the days the hours, the minutes, the seconds of life.
No exceptions, no turning back!
And when marriage is done right – when two people love and encourage and empower each other in love, great things happen!
Pope Benedict has said,
“The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
Today, Jesus tells us the same thing, because in his beautiful discourse, He, too, upholds the greatness that God intends for everyone!
But we are not made great by the trophies of the world, not by fame and fortune. But by lives well lived.
Lives that literally salt the earth and light the world… lives that speak elegantly and fruitfully to all the world.
Jesus tells us all by the witness of successful marriages:
Come with me in this union and I will give you a glimpse of paradise!
And you find this – even in the ordinary day-to-day living out of those powerful promises of love.
You know it at the end of the day, when you are with the one person who completes your life.
You glimpse the love that Paul writes about:
What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,