Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Wedding Anniversary Mass – June 11, 2017
Somebody once said that “all marriages are happy. It’s the living together afterwards that causes all the trouble.” Perhaps a better way of expressing such sentiments would be to say that in the living together as husband and wife, we find a fertile environment for living out the Gospel in an authentic manner.
There’s a wonderful scene from Fiddler on the Roof, when Teyve and his wife Golda are talking daughters’ marriages and Teyve asks: “Golda, do you love me?” And she responds: “Do I love you? Twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cows. … Do I love him? For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. If that’s not love, what is?” Then you DO love me,” Teyve asks? And Golda responds: “I suppose I do, I suppose I do.”
To put it simply, regardless of how life unfolds, to be whole and fulfilled in life, people need relationships. While we all long for a perfect world and environment in which to live and work – for whatever that may mean or imply – we all know very well that life is not so simple. It’s filled with joys as well as struggles, disappointments, set-backs and pain. Human nature being what it is, however, we also know that we can endure just about anything provided that we have someone in our lives who journeys with us and with whom we are able to share our deepest fears as well as our hopes and dreams.
Think of the most satisfying moments in your life. Such moments, I guarantee, were when you were embraced by your mother or father, when you were affirmed, or when you were simply in the presence of someone who loved you. … By the same token, think of the worst moments of your life. They were likely moments when you were rejected by another, when you were cut off from family and friends, when you sat alone.
Do you see the bottom line here? No matter how much we pride ourselves in our independence and personal abilities – we human beings are most fulfilled when we are in relationship. … And why? … The answer is found in today’s feast, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. We are created in the image and likeness of God. And today’s feast tells us that God is a communion. In other words, God is relationship!
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity proclaims that in one God, there are three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – intimately bound together in love. … It’s no wonder, then, that we who are made in the image and likeness of God so desire to be the same way as God – in relationship with one another. That’s why the scriptures remind us that God is love and that we are most reflect God in our lives when we are in love, give love, and receive love. This reality makes ever more real the words of Saint Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
How providential that on a day in which the Church celebrates the loving, relational nature of God in this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we also celebrate one of the most powerful manifestations of that love as evidenced in your lives through the Sacrament of Marriage. Indeed, in the marriage ritual, the relationship of a husband and wife is described as a reflection of the love that God, in Jesus, has for his people. Christian marriage is described as “so holy a mystery that it symbolizes the marriage of Christ and his Church,” an image of the covenant between God and his people.
Indeed, the love that is so reflected in your lives and that has brought you to this moment is mirrored in our second scripture reading today from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Consider for just a moment those challenging words of Saint Paul. If you are honest, every one of them can help call to mind profound moments in your marriage. … Moments of struggle, when you weren’t sure what your husband or wife wanted of you, much less what God wanted, but you were humble enough to look inside of yourself to change your plans, your dreams and aspirations for the sake of someone else. … Moments of challenge, when you didn’t quite understand what was happening or why things were unfolding in your life in the manner in which they were – perhaps because of the loss of employment, sickness or even the death of a parent or child – but you patiently and mercifully clung to your spouse and to God to carry you through to better days. … Moments of disappointment when you knew that the only way in which you could possibly maintain your relationship was to forgive – to set aside your own desires and to think of the other. … Moments of joy and gladness in which love simply and purely abounded and for which you give thanks this day.
As you reflect on your years of marriage, the stories and events that are likely racing through your minds and hearts hardly reflect a naïve, story book ideal or fairy tale notion of your relationship. Quite the contrary. Your stories and lives reflect hard work, struggle and pain, suffering and joy, and a selflessness that seeks the well being of another. Marriage – your marriage – has endured because you have come to see it as part of something much bigger than yourselves. You have come to see your marriage as something of a mystery – the mystery of God’s love woven into creation – embraced in your lives – and lived through God’s grace – in your relationship with each other.
Sadly, our world doesn’t always view marriage in the same way as you and I understand it. So often, it wants marriage not to be about husband and wife and family, but about an individual, satisfaction and pleasure, convenience and autonomy. But your daily lives for all these years, lived in the power of the Sacrament of Marriage instituted by Christ, are testimony that marriage is not magical, but far more real, demanding, sacrificial, selfless … and ultimately filled with meaning, love and peace.
Pope Francis explained this reality of your lives together with these words.
“Two Christians who marry have recognized in their history of love the call of the Lord, the vocation of two, male and female, to become only one flesh, only one life. And the Sacrament of Matrimony envelops this love with the grace of God. It roots it in God Himself. With this gift, with the certainty of this call, one can begin to see with certainty that there is no fear of anything. Everything can be faced together!”
Everything can be faced together with the grace of God. … That’s a pretty powerful assertion, isn’t it? It brings to mind words that we reflected upon at this beginning of this homily. “Do I love you?” For all that we’ve been through together, “I suppose I do.”
Now do me a favor. … Take a look at the person sitting next to you. Look into his eyes – her eyes. For all that is a part of this exchange and this moment, realize just how sacred your relationship is. … For all that you have been through, realize how blessed you are to have each other. … For as familiar as those eyes are, see through them to discover the face of God abiding within the heart of the one you love. … And give thanks. … Amen.