27th Sunday Ordinary Time October 8, 2006

Homily — 27th Sunday Ordinary Time October 8, 2006

THE ARNOLFINI MARRIAGE by Jan Van Eyck

“I take you to be my wife. I promise to be true to you, in good times, and in bad; in sickness, and in health.
I will love you, and honor you, all the days of my life.”

“I take you to be my husband. I promise to be true to you, in good times, and in bad; in sickness, and in health.
I will love you, and honor you, all the days of my life.”

These beautiful vows first exchanged by a husband and a wife on their wedding day, are another way of saying everything Jesus says in today’s Gospel: that marriage for the Christian is permanent, until death; and that the marriage bond is the best way for children to come to know, to love, and to be loved by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is one of His most frequent teachings in the Gospels. He states it four times: twice in Matthew, here in Mark and again in Luke, to emphasize how important He sees this teaching to be.

Also testifying to Marriage’s prestige and importance in Christ’s eyes was Jesus’ choice of the very first miracle He worked. Jesus chose to work His first miracle at a wedding banquet in the town of Cana, turning 180 gallons of water into 180 gallons of the finest wine.

While the Gospel’s don’t tell us who the couple getting married at Cana were, it is very possible that the couple were both disciples of Jesus. And since the miracle at Cana happened very early on in Jesus’ public ministry, this man and woman may have been the very first two disciples of Jesus to tie the knot. This would make the wedding at Cana the first sacramental marriage! In any event, the manifestation of Christ’s power and glory through that marriage was Jesus’ way of saying He would to manifest His power and glory through every Christian marriage.

Because of the Gospel passages mentioned above and similar ones from the letters of St. Paul, since the time of the Apostles the Church has seen Matrimony to be one of the seven sacraments which Jesus instituted to confer His grace until He comes again. Of course, marriage was around before Jesus’ time, but Christ “restored the original order of matrimony and raised it to the dignity of a sacrament” (Compendium of the Catholic Church, 341). The sacramental marriage of two Christians is a sign of Christ’s indissoluble love for His Bride, the Church.

On Good Friday, Jesus the Bridegroom in effect said “I, Jesus, take you, One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, to be my Spouse. I promise to be true to you, in good times, and in bad; in sickness, and in health. I will love you, and honor you, all the days of my life (which for Me is eternal).”

Jesus and His Bride the Church are no longer two, but one Flesh. And Jesus will never divorce His Spouse. The Risen Lord Jesus will always love His Bride the Church with a Supernatural Love.

And it is this same Supernatural Love that the Risen Lord Jesus gives to a husband and his wife to love each other with on their wedding day. This is the grace the Sacrament of Marriage imparts.

But Christian Marriage is not only a Sacrament; Christian Marriage is also a Vocation, capital V.

Whenever engaged couples come to me to get married, the first time I meet with them I kind of quiz them on what a Sacrament is and what a Vocation is. They will be getting both, so they should know what they are getting! And I think in the six or so years since I’ve started asking, only one couple really knew what a vocation is.
So what is a vocation? A Vocation is a calling from God.

If you are married, God’s mysterious plan from all eternity was for you and your spouse to freely come together as husband and wife. Just as the rib was tailor made for Adam and Adam for the rib, so a particular wife is tailor made for her husband and a particular husband is tailor made for his wife.

And a Vocation, capital V, is a person’s main mission from God in this life. And sacramentally married couple’s God-given mission in life is three-fold: 1) to love each other, 2) to pray for the salvation of their spouse, and 3) (as the marriage ritual puts it) “to accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church.”

Which is why in today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus goes from speaking about the indissolubility of marriage immediately to speaking about letting the children come to Him. (Jesus does the same thing in Matthews Gospel.)

By pairing up these two passages, Jesus is making the point that simply through the parents living out of their marriage vows, children will come to know the love of Jesus.

And all parents, young or old, might want to reflect on the verse from Hebrews in today’s second reading: (I)n bringing many children to glory, (Christ was made) perfect through suffering.

In bringing your children to the glory of knowing Jesus, in bringing your children to the glory of eternal life, Christian parents are also made “perfect” parents through suffering, the suffering of patience and trust in the Lord’s grace being more powerful than the bad influences children might for a time be tempted by. Through suffering, parents will bring their children to glory.

This Sunday, may Jesus help us all to esteem and uphold the Sacrament of Marriage as He Himself esteemed and upheld it, and as His Bride, our Holy Mother the Church, herself esteems and upholds Marriage. May the Lord Bless and guide all who have been called, or are being called, to this great and important Vocation in the Church.

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