Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

World Marriage Sunday

February 13, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Jeremiah 17:5-8
Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20
Luke 5:17, 20-26

Last week in Luke’s Gospel, we listened to Jesus’ call of Peter and the sons of Zebedee to follow Him.  This week, we listen to Jesus’ further instructions for discipleship in which He cautions us that prestige, power, and complacency can prompt us to lose our way with Him.  To be a disciple of Jesus involves our dying to these selfish preoccupations so that the life of Jesus can exist in us that we might rise with Him from the dead in the last days. 

His teaching on the Beatitudes in todays’ Gospel requires us to invert the sense of values and means that our contemporary world espouses for success — power, money, and pleasure that seem to bring security to the individual. This teaching of Jesus in His Sermon on the Plain invites His disciples to risk estrangement from the world and to trust Him by following Him in the way that He lives and loves.  This way of life and love that involves surrender and trust is most clearly manifested and made present in the sacramental vocation of marriage with its graced and promised intentions of permanence, fidelity, and openness to God’s gift of children.

Remarking on the teaching of the Beatitudes as presented in Luke’s Gospel, Pope Benedict XVI once remarked, “The Beatitudes are based on the fact that a divine justice exists, which exalts those who have been wrongly humbled and humbles those who have exalted themselves. In fact, the Evangelist Luke, after repeating four times “blessed are you,” adds four admonitions: “Woe to you that are rich…. Woe to you that are full now…. Woe to you that laugh now,” and “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you,” because as Jesus affirms, the circumstances will be reversed; the last will be first, and the first will be last…This justice and this Beatitude are realized in the “Kingdom of Heaven,” or the “Kingdom of God,” which will be fulfilled at the end of times, but which is already present in history.” I offer to you as we commemorate National Marriage Sunday that marriage is the sacrament that most clearly makes present the Kingdom of God for each of the husband and the wife, for the children, for the entire family, and for society.

Just as much as it is a sacrament of love, marriage is also a sacrament of justice that corrects the injustices brought about when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This original sin in a particular way brought injustice into the relationship between man and woman initially designed by God to be a relationship of perfect trust and intimacy.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations; their mutual attraction, the Creator’s own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust; and the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth was burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work.” (CCC 1607)

It is the compendium of values of the contemporary world with its assault on the goods of marriage — permanence, fidelity, and openness to God’s gift of children that has prompted so much fear in young adults when faced with a decision to pursue marriage in their lives. Marriage is the journey of a man and woman who unite with each other in a bond that lasts until death, is lived in fidelity, and is inseparably ordered to the transmission of human life, the procreation and education of children. Marriage involves a lot of trust between a man and a woman and truly between each of these two people and God. This trust is the marrow of the Beatitude of discipleship as taught by Jesus in the Gospel today, the Beatitude of eternal life in God’s Kingdom brought about by our resurrection from the dead as a share in Christ’s resurrection of the dead.

The shared life of a husband and a wife requires and is offered to and with each other to prepare each other for a life of holiness and virtue to be experienced fully in the Kingdom of Heaven. So, the beatitude present in the generous and selfless actions offered by a husband and wife — most frequently expressed in forgiveness and mercy. These are actions of hope born of faith. “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” The relationship in sacramental marriage between husband and wife offers respect born of that hope because as Saint Paul reminds us today, “If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.”

This hopeless view that sin has the last word and selfishness is inevitable is the “woe” promised by Jesus in today’s Gospel. Jesus clearly warns us about this way of selfishness and fear that upon consideration are the same values presented in the contemporary world as the relationship between men and women. The values that discourage the risk for loving commitment of married life that cynically suggest that sexuality is utilitarian, that marriage is inevitably directed to the pain of divorce, and that children are an expensive investment but can serve as an alleviation of the occasional loneliness of human existence. Premarital sex, the use of contraception, divorce and secular remarriage, the use of pornography, and cohabitation — for whatever length of time — are sins that undermine the love and stability of marriage, the love of God, and the love of neighbor. They discourage and damage the human capacity to trust and to love as afforded us by God. They compel us to hopelessness.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church succinctly clarifies, “This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.” (CCC 1615)

The grace of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony opens the eyes of a husband and wife and each of our eyes to acquire the understanding of what is eternally true and authentically real about our humanity redeemed in Christ. God offers this Grace to heal the cynical shortsightedness with which the woeful spirit of this world infects us. With his paradoxical Word Jesus through the gift of the Holy Spirit stirs us and enables us to recognize what is truly good and satisfying and restores our joy and dignity; the risk of love that truly gives meaning and fullness to human life.

As Christians and as members of Christ’s Catholic Church, we become prepared to take the risk of following Jesus and to live our vocation — whether to Holy Orders, the religious life, or in a particular way to Marriage — by regularly receiving the grace of Christ’s risk to love us through the acceptance of His Cross.  Jesus nourishes us with His loving sacrifice of the Cross in the Holy Eucharist to draw us into His life, death, and Resurrection that become our own.

We now approach the altar of Christ’s sacrifice and banquet where we can be so nourished as a foretaste of His Kingdom of justice and love.

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