By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Annual Marriage Jubilee Mass, the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in Arlington.
One word captures what I am experiencing at this moment in my heart: joy! Yes, joy, delight! Why? To see gathered here in the Cathedral 114 couples celebrating 50 years of marriage and 138 couples celebrating 25 years of marriage, totaling 9,150 years. Each couple here has journeyed together, sharing both times of authentic joy and happiness and times of sorrow and sadness; times of accomplishment and success but also times of disappointment and failure; times of certainty with times of questioning; and long periods of the routine, ordinary and commonplace things of daily life. Yet, through this curious mixture we call human life and, in particular, for our couples, through their journey of married and family life, they have persevered.
After all, each human person is created to live, not in isolation, but in a life-giving relationship with another, and in marriage understood to be the union of one man with one woman, in a relationship rooted in permanence, fidelity and openness to new life. In today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis, we are reminded once again through God’s Word that at the dawn of creation, the man was lonely, although surrounded by the beauty of nature and the presence of many friendly animals. So God created a suitable partner for the man, a person equal yet complimentary, the woman, to be his lifelong partner in living the covenant of life and love, a relationship so deep and interpersonal that its ultimate expression in the total giving to each other, not only in mind and heart but also in body, results in the creation of new human life, a child, the living expression of his or her parents’ committed love.
Yes, for these 50 or 25 years, you have not only heard Saint Paul’s advice to the Christians at Ephesus but actually have been seeking to live it. “Live in love, as Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us.” In the end, conjugal or married love is truly the giving of oneself to the other: husband loving his wife as Christ loves the Church, and the wife, responding through her own reciprocal gift of sacrificial love. Saint Francis deSales counseled: “Above all, I would exhort all married couples to seek that mutual love so commended to them by the Holy Spirit in the Bible. It is little to bid you love one another with a mutual love — turtledoves do that; or with human love. … But I say to you in the Apostle’s words: ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church. … wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as unto the Lord. …’”( Ibid.). This word “submit” means returning love in the very way Christ loves us, the very way which Saint Paul instructs husbands to love their wives. Ultimately, husband and wife love one another by giving to each other for the total good of each other.
Dear Jubilarians, of course, you would be the first to confess that you have not loved either one another or your family members perfectly, that you have had to seek forgiveness from God and from one another for these failures to love. But Our God understands the fragility and limitations of human love, however noble it is. As I reminded us earlier, at the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus came to the rescue of that newly married couple in trouble. His first miracle, brought about through His Mother’s intervention, was not only the solution of that couple’s imminent embarrassment but also and even more, the sign that in the New Covenant, which He came to establish, married love can be so transformed and strengthened that it is able, precisely through divine grace, to be mutually fulfilling and to enable the family in turn to be fully alive.
Today, we are celebrating, dear Jubilarians, not only your golden and silver wedding anniversaries with gratitude and pride, but also the witness of your married love, the good news of marriage and family life. Together we are proclaiming “the Gospel of the Family.”
Indeed, on this very day, the Extraordinary Synod on the Family has concluded in Rome. The representatives of bishops from throughout the world, in union with the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ, had gathered to discuss new approaches to proclaim truthfully and with profound conviction the “Gospel of the Family,” entrusted to the Church with the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Regrettably, wildly diverse interpretations have been voiced ever since the original draft of the bishops’ interim report was made public, and as a result, so many people are being prematurely elated or dejected.
I repeat what I sent out in my letter to our faithful on Friday. Be at peace and do not let yourselves be disturbed or troubled. The truth about marriage, rooted in the Natural Law and in the Scriptures will not change. What the Church is seeking, in this Extraordianry Synod just concluded, in the many discussions to take place from now through the coming months into the Ordinary Synod scheduled for next October, is to arrive at new ways of expressing the perennial truth regarding marriage and the family and to propose the demands of living the realities more faithfully, more fruitfully and more gracefully. In this way, we can both proclaim and live: “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”
Dear Jubilarians, you have yourselves been endeavoring these past 50 or 25 years to make real the truth that in marriage love is the mission so that the family can live fully alive. We thank you for your untiring efforts, for your persevering witness and for your strengthening presence with in this diocesan church. Our prayers accompany you every day and does our profound affection and love.
See more pictures from the Marriage Jubilee Mass at the Diocese of Arlington’s Office for Family Life’s Facebook page here.
Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.