Bishop greets married couples at annual anniversary celebrationsCape Girardeau MO
Bishop Edward M. Rice recently celebrated two annual Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Celebrations. One was held in Springfield on Feb. 12 while the other was celebrated the afternoon of Feb. 19 in Cape Girardeau. These events allow couples and their families to come together to affirm and witness to the gift of marriage to the Church, communities, and society. Representing some 6,247 years of marriage, 149 couples and their families participated in these recent liturgies and receptions. The longest married couples were designated to cut the cakes. In Springfield, Vernon and Ann Cashel, celebrating 70 years, cut the cake with Bishop Rice. The honor was shared in Cape Girardeau as two couples, Bernard and Dorothy Kluesner and William and Mary Loos, both will mark 61 years of marriage in 2017.
The homily by Bishop Rice follows:
I would like to offer my congratulations to all of you gathered to celebrate your wedding anniversary. Thank you for your witness to the sacrament, thank you for your fidelity, thank you for living out the sacrament in your married life!
I would like to begin with a story told by a priest-friend of mine, a true story of when his sister became engaged. Before her boyfriend asked her to marry him, he wanted to ask her father for permission to marry his daughter. So, he arranged to meet with the dad and asked for permission to marry his daughter. And when he asked the question, her dad responded by saying, before I give you permission, let me ask you, “Will you …?”
Now, let’s pause right here and ponder the possibilities of the question about to be asked. Here is a dad concerned about the future welfare of his daughter. Certainly he might ask his future son-in-law, “Will you be faithful to my daughter?,” or “Will you protect her and provide for her?,” or “Will you help raise the children and be a good dad?” And these are all legitimate concerns.
But none of those questions were posed by the dad. What the dad asked his future son-in-law is: “Will you do your best to get my daughter to heaven?” Now, I’ve met my friend’s father a couple of times, and I dare say, he could be a theologian!
“Will you do your best to get my daughter to heaven?”
That is the goal of marriage—to do all in your power to see to it that your spouse gets to heaven. That implies that you are not an obstacle to your spouse in the pursuit of holiness and coming to know Jesus on a deeper level.
I would like to tell another story—a true story—because it involves me. My older sister was married a month after I became a deacon. I was ordained a deacon in May, and she was married in June, at St. Cecilia, our home parish in St. Louis. Prior to my ordination, she wrote a letter to me saying all the mushy things a sister says to a brother on such an occasion. But one line sticks out to this day. She wrote, “I am jealous that you have a close relationship with Jesus that I will never have.” And when I read that part of the letter, I became sad, sad to think that she really believed that statement, that deep relationship is somehow only for the small percentage of the Church, the priests and sisters, while everyone just tries to “make the best of it.”
So, when she was married, the Associate Pastor had the Nuptial Mass, but I was able to preach the homily and witnessed the vows. At the homily, I read that part of the letter and told her, “That’s not true.” A close relationship with Jesus isn’t just for priests and sisters. It is possible for everyone according to their vocation—it just looks different. I told her, your relationship with Jesus, if it is going to grow and deepen, is going to grow and deepen and be involved with and include that man you are about to marry.
And if your soon-to-be husband is to grow and deepen his relationship with Jesus—it will involve you, as his wife. Your goal, as a couple, if you are blessed with children, is to give your children the tools and support to get them on the road to heaven.
So, putting these two points together, hopefully gives all of you couples pause to reflect—are you helping your spouse grow in his/her relationship with Christ? And, do you desire that your spouse get to heaven? As a couple, are you united in that vision? Do you help or hinder in this process?
Because, as a couple, you have to be united in so many other areas, areas that are important, but areas that can take you from the ultimate goal. Go grow in your relationship with Christ on this earth, and to obtain life with Christ in heaven.
In the midst of paying the bills, putting food on the table, raising the kids, seeing to their education, keeping a roof over your head, remember that these are important matters, but they are only important in that they assist in the goal of growing in your relationship with Christ. And there is always the danger that you lose the important goal, the ultimate goal, and allow the things of this world to take over or over-shadow the fruits of your vocation as a married man and woman: to get to heaven. And when the ultimate goal gets eclipsed, you are just living together, paying the bills, are companions, merely treading water just to stay afloat.
The vision of the Sacrament of Marriage is so much more than that. Marriage doesn’t work when you do the math. Typically we think 1 + 1 = 2. But it is not so in marriage. In marriage the equation is 1 + 1+1 = 1. One man, one woman, united in Christ, the unseen yet ever present source of love, equals one solid marriage. And, as Christ is the factor in Christian marriage, His love becomes the determining factor. Christ on the Cross becomes a visual display of its authentic expression. Christ on the Cross defines love as a total commitment, unconditional, whereby one lays down his/her life for the other, one’s spouse, usually on a daily basis.
Such a love is not a “romantic” love, or a “physical” love, though it has those two aspects, certainly. NO, what Christ exemplifies on the Cross is a Sacrificial, Divine Love. Divine Love is the goal of marriage, so that each spouse, growing in their love for Christ, achieves the ultimate goal of heaven. The Sacrament of Marriage raises the couple’s human love to a higher level, to the divine.
Divine love, sacrificial love in the Sacrament of Marriage is what we celebrate today! We celebrate Divine Love, the Love of Christ, at work in your marriage! And regardless of how long you have been married, may you never settle for anything less, and may all of you get to heaven in the process.