Homily Ė 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Today we celebrate respect life Sunday. The readings from the scriptures clearly deal with marriage. What better place to begin than in the cradle of life. All life is a gift from God. His divine plan included that the first place to receive and nurture that life is the family. The family is the place where people first learn of God and how to deal with the larger human family. It is the place from which we are normally brought into the larger Christian family through baptism. The first seeds of a family are sown from the very beginning in the convenental relationship between man and wife. Families are based around marriage. That is where we begin.
The most common image used in sacred scripture to describe Heaven is that of the wedding banquet. Of all the images Jesus could have used he said heaven is most easily understood through the sacrament of marriage. Scripture begins with the creation of man in Godís image and likeness. Male and female he made them and he intends them to be a community of persons. It ends with the wedding feast of the lamb in heaven. All throughout scriptures God uses the marriage relationship as a source of communicating truth to us about his love for us and our relationship with him.
Marriage then can be a source of great joy but it also entails great responsibility. The way that husbands and wives live their love for each other becomes for us a witness of things to come. You become a sign of hope for us that true and lasting love is possible. Loving each other as Christ loved his Church becomes your witness, and that of all married couples, to the world.
In the first reading we hear of Godís institution of Marriage as a covenant. Man and woman are made and intended for one another. It is a covenant between a man and a woman that is freely chosen by both. In the Gospel, Jesus, raises it to a sacrament by his presence. It is important, especially in our current culture, to remember that Marriage is in fact Godís institution and sacrament not ours. It is not a civil union, relationship or agreement. It is not something that can be redefined or reordered according to our will and desires or latest popular and enlightened opinion. No one of us is more enlightened than God no matter how much some people seem to think they are. The marriage covenant between God, Man and Wife may be recognized civilly but it belongs to God and we cannot change it.
In the first reading and the Gospel we see that Love is faithful. From the beginning God intended Marriage and that it would be a faithful lasting love. It is a love that cannot be divided. Marriage is faithful until death. The two become one flesh. Who would cut out a part of their own flesh. Who would divide themselves in two. If you were to divide 1 by two you would then only have Ĺ no longer two. That is why you canít stop truly loving someone.
In fact true love does not come to an end. Love is faithful. As Catholics we believe that marriage is a covenant between the couple and God. The consent is irrevocable and what God has joined together no one can put asunder. Marriage lasts until death. Jesus is very clear about this in the Gospel. Why? Because Godís love for us is eternal. He does not go back on his word. No matter how many times we might fail, Godís love is faithful and steadfast. Couples who get married in the Catholic Church agree to spend the rest of their days in faithful, fruitful and steadfast love. They become a sign for us and Godís love and His will that we spend eternity with him. Your pledge to one another becomes a witness to a world which thinks marriages are relationships of convenience to be changed whenever they become too difficult. God does not go back on his word. Your faithfulness and fidelity to each other will give us a glimpse of what is and what is to come if we are willing to accept and return Godís love for us.
Christ commands us to love one another as he has loved us. That love is revealed to us in Christ Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. We hear that we are to be merciful, to forgive, to bear with one another. These are sacrificial words. True love, while it experiences moments of intense passion, has as its core the willingness to sacrifice for the other, even to the point of laying down ones life for their beloved. In fact in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for a friend. True love is sacrificial. It wills the good of the other. It is willingness to pay any price for the ultimate good of the beloved. The real witness of marriage shows this. Not in the big things, but in the little things. How many small deaths must one die for their beloved? You might be willing to lay down your life but are you willing to lay down the remote control. Or will you be willing to let the other have the remote. The ladies know what I am talking about. Or are you willing to wait until after the fourth quarter to ask for something to be done. The men know what I am talking about. One way married couples witness sacrificial love to us is in the many ways you die to yourself for each other. Despite the thousand little deaths Love cannot be quenched. Your witness to this shows us the steadfastness of Godís love for us and his willingness to pay the ultimate price for us even to the point of the sacrifice of his only begotten Son.
True love is also fruitful. All of the trials and tribulations of this life ultimately bear fruit in the kingdom of heaven if they are done with faithful, sacrificial Love. The sacrifices married couples make, out of love for each other and their relationship, do bear fruit. Both in the growth of the love between them and its overflowing into family life and children. Children are a blessing from the Lord as the Psalms tell us. They are a visible sign of a love between two people that is so strong it becomes another person. They are the fruit of their love that lasts for all eternity. In this way you image the Trinity for us in a way that only marriage can reveal. The Father loves the Son and gives himself completely to the Son. The Son receives the love of the Father and returns it completely and this love between them is so real that it is a third person, the Holy Spirit. In the same way for married couples, their complete gift of themselves to each other, with Godís grace, results in a third person. Deliberate attempts to kill that fruit through contraception and abortion do not image the trinity. They are not a complete gift of self but a conditional acceptance of the other. At their heart, they say I will love you for our pleasure as long as it doesnít cause us any inconvenience or sacrifice. That is not true love. That is not the witness we need. Godís love is not conditional or partial but total and sacrificial.
And thus we are brought back to respect life. Every situation, every moral issue dealing with euthanasia, abortion, designer babies, etc. etc. is traced back to the family. The family is the first place we learn respect for life by learning to love each other. We learn sacrificial love. We learn fruitful love. We learn faithful love. Or, WE Donít and we will stand accountable for our failures. Today I encourage you to pray for life but more importantly I encourage you to act for life and I encourage you to begin with in your families. Take some small step today to show greater love for each other, greater respect for the life God has entrusted to you in your children, parents and brothers and sisters. Have dinner as a family, swallow your pride and say your sorry if you need to, tell each other how thankful you are that God put you in each others lives, fulfill your promises to each other and to God. The family, the cradle of life, is where we learn to respect and value life. We wonít solve societyís problems until we get the source. I ask you today to renew your commitments to each other. I ask you today to choose life. I ask you today to choose to teach your children to do the same. The choice is yours. Choose well.