Sunday, February 12, was a joyous occasion! Married couples from throughout the diocese joined me at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for the celebration of their jubilees. Gathered at the Eucharist we gave thanks to Almighty God for their example of fidelity and enduring love. The Marriage Jubilee is a reminder to all of us to pray that married and family life might be strengthened. The homily I preached on that occasion is printed below.
Welcome to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, our mother Church. Throughout the year, we gather here to celebrate many special occasions. Today is a particularly joyous time because we are celebrating the mystery of God’s love that has united and sustained married life for 25, 50, and more years.
Years ago, you said “yes” to each other. The day of your marriage was a lovely and graced day filled with fervor, excitement, joy, and perhaps a bit of apprehension. This afternoon we celebrate your love, fidelity, and sacrifice that have stood the test of time. I offer my prayerful congratulations and best wishes. Thank you for being here today and for the witness of your lives.
Quoting Benedict XVI, “Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in and from ourselves: it is a relationship” (Spe Salve, 27). The beautiful readings we have just heard speak about relationships. From the book of Genesis, we learn that from the beginning God did not intend the human person to live in isolation: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him” (Gn 2:18). This relationship is so close that there is a profound harmony and a unity between the two. They become “one flesh” both physically and in the union of their hearts and lives (Cf. Pope Francis, The Joy of Love, 13).
The Gospel reading drew our attention to the relationship between Jesus and His Father and the wonderful good news that as the Father loves Jesus, Jesus loves us. We in turn must live in this love by keeping the commandments, by loving one another as Jesus has loved us (Cf. Jn 15:11).
How did Jesus love us? He loved us by giving His life for us. Authentic love always involves sacrifice. Love can be challenging. The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us what love looks like. It is sincere; contributes to the needs of others; is hospitable, peaceful, and forgiving. It does not seek revenge. It forgives (Cf. Rm 12:9-18).
Paul further elaborates on the features of love in the lyrical passage from his letter to the Corinthians. I am sure you are familiar with it. In this passage, Paul tells us love is patient and kind, does not seek its own interest, is not quick tempered, does not brood over injury and bears all things (Cf. 1Cor 13:4-7). This reading is heard often at the wedding liturgy. While it is beautiful, it is also challenging. It is clear from Paul’s description that Christian love can never be reduced to mere sentiment. It needs to bear fruit in action.
You know far better than I do the sacrifices that are necessary, the self-giving love that is required in Christian marriage. You know the challenge and the cost of being kind and patient, of not holding a grudge, of forgiving one another, of showing respect and putting the interests of your spouse before your own interests and doing all of this, day in and day out, over many years. It is so fitting that we celebrate your self-offering in marriage at the table of the Lord’s self-offering. It is here you are joined to Christ’s sacrifice, His “yes” to the Father’s will. Moreover, from here you receive the grace for your love to remain constant and faithful.
In the plan of God, your mutual love is a precious sign of God’s love for us. Through the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony you “were invested with a true and proper mission, so that, starting with the simple ordinary things of life you can make visible the love with which Christ loves his Church and continues to give his life for her” (Pope Francis, The Joy of Love, 121).
God is always faithful. His love is everlasting. Your fidelity to one another and your love for each other is a sign of this steadfast love and fidelity. You are a witness to God’s grace at work in you, enabling you to be true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. You give us hope for a new culture, inspired by the Gospel, which values, promotes, and respects the dignity and sanctity of marriage and family. For all of this we are so very grateful.
“Remain in my love.” These words from the Gospel echo in our hearts. The word “remain” conveys “perseverance.” We remain in God’s love when we persevere or are steadfast in our relationship with Him. Remain, too, in the love of one another. This also requires a patient, unwavering faithfulness to each other.
I pray that you will continue to live in loving fidelity to one another, to Christ and the Gospel, to your family, and to the society that looks up to you as an authentic model of true Christian love. Remain in God’s love with the steadfast hope that He is your faithful companion as you continue the journey of life and faith.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.