Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: For You, the Married
Today’s readings give us an opportunity to consider what we mean by marriage in the Catholic Church.
In the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament is a real presence of God, the most powerful presence of the Lord possible in this world. In the sacrament of Baptism, God is present giving the Life of the Trinity to the baptized. In Penance God is present through his Son giving his forgiveness to the penitent. In the Eucharist, the Son is present nourishing the communicant and uniting him in an intimate way to the Divine Presence as Jesus is offered to the Father for us. In the sacrament of marriage, Jesus is present uniting his love to the love of the husband and wife. Their love, when lived properly, that is sacrificially, is His Love.
More and more of our young people are enthusiastically embracing the sacrament of matrimony, rather than settling for anything less than the sacrament. Also, more and more of those who are married outside of the Church are seeking to have their marriage raised to the level of the sacrament. They do this because they want the real presence of God in their marriages just as they want the real presence of God in the Eucharist and in the Sacrament of Penance.
Those of you who are in a Catholic marriage, ask yourselves, “Why did we make this decision?” Most probably you were married in the Church because you realized that marriage was the most important decision of your lives. And you wanted Jesus to be present in the way of a sacrament not just at your wedding, but as you celebrate your marriage throughout your lives. The sacrament of marriage is not just a prayer during the wedding, it is not just a blessing of a union, it is far more than this. The sacrament of matrimony is the union of God with people establishing a new unit of his Church. The sacrament of matrimony establishes the Christian home with Christ at the center. That is why you were married in the Church.
“But there is disorder,” the Pharisees say to Jesus in the Gospel reading. The Law of Moses, after all, permitted a bill of divorce.
“This was not the Father’s intention,” Jesus replies. Disharmony in homes, among people, results from all, good people and bad people, suffering the results of sin.
It was never in God’s plan for evil to enter the world. This resulted from mankind’s decision to push God, the Lord of Life, aside and to, therefore, choose death. God never meant for people to be widowed, divorced or single. In God’s original plan there was no need for celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom because all would enjoy the Kingdom to its fullest in marriage. In God’s original plan there would be no need for people to work so hard to establish and preserve their marriages.
We have so many wonderful people in our parish whose marriages have suffered. It may not be their fault; it may not even be their former spouse’s fault. Just as children suffer sickness and death due to the effects of sin in the world; so many good people suffer the destruction of their marriage or the inability to form a sacred lasting union due to the effects of sin in the world, not necessarily in either of the individuals. Therefore, we need to have a special place in our hearts and in our charity for those who have suffered the loss of their marriages. They have been pulled away from the intention of the Creator by the forces of the world. They need our support and our love.
In the same way, there are so many wonderful people in our parish who wish they could marry but who have not found and may never find a person with whom they can make a lasting union. Perhaps they are not called to the sacrament of marriage. Perhaps, they also are innocent victims of evil in the world, victims of that evil that has destroyed their potential husbands and wives by convincing that man or woman who could have been out there and should have been out there to instead seek selfishness over sacrificial love. Many single people are denied the sacrament of marriage due to the limitation of potential partners for life by selfishness. The single also need our love and support. They will never feel alone if they are cared for as members of a loving community. And if you are single and hoping to marry, pray for that man or woman who would make a wonderful spouse. Pray that he or she are open to the mystery of sacrificial love, the mystery of the sacrament of matrimony.
Finally, a word regarding the physical aspect of married love. It is sad how evil is able to distort good. The divinely created attraction of men and women to image God has been deformed into a drive for selfish gratification. Sex is portrayed by the media as having little to do with love and mostly concerned with lust.
But people know better. People have an innate knowledge that tells them that a person cannot love and take at the same time. People know that the ideal of marriage exists. But people need more than the ideal. People need witness, your witness. They need the witness of your marriages as a union with God, imaging the Creator’s Love for the Word, making real the mystery of the singular in the plural and the plural in the singular.
You, the married, how important you are to us all! We the single, we the celibate, we the separated, we the divorced, we the widowed, need you the married to embrace and to live the ideal of marriage.
We ask God’s blessing today upon all in our parish who celebrate the sacrament of matrimony. May you have the courage and strength to give witness to the presence of God in the union of husband and wife.