Today I want to speak about the focus of our first and second reading, that is, the institution of Marriage and fidelity in it. However, I would like to start from our second reading, the letter to the Hebrews, which says that Christ was made lower than the angels according to the Father's Will so that he could be “made perfect through suffering.” In His faithfulness to the Cross, we see that Suffering is the path to perfection for Our Lord, and thus also the same path for all of us.
On Friday I was bringing Holy Communion to the homebound, and visited a couple celebrating sixty years of marital fidelity. “Thanks be to God! Congratulations!” I said to them. “I hope I can say the same about my own priesthood in 59 years!” Then they said, “Well, it wasn't always easy!” Then we discussed how as priests and married couples we have crosses of different types, but they are all exactly that: suffering which makes us perfect. If the cross is the Lord's instrument for our salvation, then how can we reject it in our own lives? Rejecting the Cross would be to reject our path to salvation.
This is what makes the permanence of the institution of marriage (and also priesthood) so beautiful. They are beautiful because they reflect God who is love, who shows us the fulness of love from the Cross, who loves us while we are still sinners so that we can love Him in return, and others for His sake. The cross, the Eucharist, marriage, and the priesthood are meant to witness by their permanence that God will never abandon us, no matter what. No matter what, God is there.
“Made perfect through suffering,” Hebrews says. For the Christian, whether married or dedicated to the Lord and service of the Bride of Christ, the Church, we can translate this simply as: “made holy through self-giving love!” This is the path to holiness, and anything that helps us to do that is going to lead to our salvation. Whatever fails to do so weakens that in our lives.
In our world, the institution of marriage is suffering some serious challenges under the shifting sands of our culture. Many are attempting to re-define it so that it no longer has the the crosses that come with it, those crosses that stretch our self, that turn our focus from our needs toward that of another. If we fail to learn to love here, where will it be taught? If children are raised without the witness of the loving fidelity between husband and wife, how can they prepare themselves for the same vocation as adults? Where will the faithfulness of God be modeled for them?
Yes, marriage isn't always easy. Priesthood isn't always easy. Being Christian and standing up for your faith isn't always easy, because loving God and following His Will is not always easy. Look at the Cross where our Lord was made perfect through suffering, where we are made holy through self-giving love. He has loved you so that you can do the same. Let us pray that in the Eucharist, where the love of the Cross comes into our world, we may be strengthened by God's faithfulness, so that we may never abandon Him in carrying the cross shaped for us and receiving the gift of eternal life.