Marriage jubilee: a time to say thanks!
(Bishop LaValley shares his homily for the annual diocesan Marriage Jubilee held Sunday at
St. Mary’s Cathedral. Photos from the event will appear in an upcoming issue of the North Country Catholic.)
A wedding day is about pledges and promises. “I take you as my wife/husband for better or for worse, in sickness and in health until death do us part.”
The words rise perhaps too readily from the heart, trip somewhat too lightly off the tongue. Their romantic rhythm may take them far out of the realm of real life. But a wedding is a day of great hope and dreams, a day of promise.
A marriage jubilee is somewhat different. It celebrates not just promise but also fulfillment, not only the romance of first love, but it’s also an occasion to celebrate the experience of life. It is an emotional occasion, marked not with the unearned emotion of infatuation but with the hard earned emotion of life real and shared and the blood, sweat, and tears that flow from years of wedded love.
On your wedding day, the priest or deacon blessed you, the happy couple, and bound you with the solemn words: “What, therefore, God has joined let no one put asunder.” The years of shared living which the marriage jubilee celebrates endorse the force of that covenant. Life which sunders so many pledges today has cemented your partnership of love.
A marriage jubilee is a time for saying thanks to each other and to God. Thank God surely for the happy carefree days, the laughter, the moments of success. Thank God, too, for the problems, the tears, the moments of sadness. The sun shines all the brighter when the rain clouds pass. The shadow times are so often the unrecognized times of deepening awareness, the times of firming the roots for whatever the world’s winter may bring. You have learned to lean together into the wind.
The wedded love celebrated at a marriage jubilee has been refined in life’s school. Your marriage has been a journey of maturing. Lofty, wedded love may be made in heaven, but you have been busy doing its maintenance work, accomplished here on earth.
Alice and Tom had been married for fifty years. Alice was in her kitchen with her sister who was visiting. Tom walked in from the backyard, wearing his work boots. They left clods of dirt and grime on Alice’s spotless kitchen floor. Alice’s sister, who was somewhat of a fusspot, couldn’t resist saying, “Those boots of his surely do bring in the dirt.” Alice just smiled and, as she headed for the mop and bucket, said, “But I love those boots because they bring him in, also!” Gotta love those boots!
When we say that a married couple’s relationship reflects Christ’s relationship with us, the Church, aren’t we saying the same thing? In spite of all our weaknesses, all the grime and filth that we bring into our lives, God loves us anyway.
Oh, I’m sure Alice makes it clear to Tom that the boots need to be cleaned, as does our God make it clear to us that we must work on improving our relationship with Him. Isn’t that how a marriage endures? Focusing not on the boots, but the person they support? Our familiar second reading today reminds us of the great humility of our God, lowering Himself to come among us as a human person to show us the extent of God’s love for us.
Ever since the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, the boots of every person who walked this earth have surely been muddied, marked with the stain of original sin. But, when God emptied Himself to live among us, He formed a marriage with humankind where he asks us all to follow Him, dirty boots and all.
When the late Mr. & Mrs. Henry Ford celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, a reporter asked them, “To what do you attribute your fifty years of successful married life?” “The formula,” said Ford, “is the same formula I have always used in making cars: just stick to one model.” We call that fidelity.
You’ve been faithful to each other these many years, in spite of the dirty boots, because of the third partner in your marriage: God. Oh, He is seldom into spectacular special effects so that His Presence was clear to you.
God keeps the truly spectacular almost hidden, so that we can discover and accept it freely, rather than being overpowered by it.
The presence of Christ in a marriage is like the Son of God residing quietly near a stack of freshly folded laundry, or noisily in the squeals and giggles of children frolicking on a swing set. Perhaps this sounds too idyllic. There are rocky times, too, to be sure. A couple frequently makes mistakes, makes a mess of things, and even temporarily makes war. The boots can really make a mess on the kitchen floor. But at such times, does Jesus evaporate or run away until the grime wears away? Of course not.
On the day of your wedding, you stood before the altar of God and solemnly vowed your love to each other.
Today you stand before the altar in this cathedral in striking testimony of what God’s grace, His sacramental Presence, can accomplish in a husband and wife who carefully guard and use the divine treasure that has been given them.
The world today has great need of the living sermon which your example of fidelity and love shows forth. You have been dauntless in the face of many problems and difficulties, known only to yourselves and hidden from others that could have made your marriage something entirely other than it has actually been. Your life speaks loudly to the world that lifelong commitment is possible, through the grace of God.
You were married in Christ and Christ has continued these many years to be the third partner in your journey of married life. He has been your portion in happiness and your chalice in sorrow. We beg Him to continue to watch over you and your family.
With all the faithful of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, I want to thank you and your loved ones for traveling here to Ogdensburg this afternoon to celebrate your wedded love in our Cathedral Church. Our Family of Faith congratulates all of you.
You have learned that being faithful is not never losing one’s way. Being faithful doesn’t mean never fighting, never falling. It is always getting up and going again. It is wanting to follow to the end the route that you have decided on and mapped out together.
It is trusting each other, beyond the darkness and shadows. Being faithful means supporting one another beyond the falls and bruises. It is having faith in the total power of God’s love, beyond human love itself.
Continue to cherish your beloved, whoever is wearing the boots!