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Celebrating marriage, consecrated life jubilees

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Sept. 18, 2019

Editor’s note: The following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily for the Marriage Jubilees and consecrated life jubilees. Photos of that event will be in next week’s edition.

There is real value in combining our diocesan celebrations of Marriage Jubilees and of Jubilees for those who are living the consecrated life. There is much we can learn from one another’s vocation. For instance, consecrated religious remind married people of the primacy of God and of that which does not pass away. They introduce spouses and their families to a love for the Word of God, for which consecrated persons have more time and availability. Religious also have much to learn from married people. You, who are married, teach us about generosity, self-forgetfulness, sacrifice for others. For instance, in our families we learn life lessons from our parents such as what it means to “go without” for the sake others.

Certainly, at a Jubilee celebration such as this, we look back through the years and thank God for blessings received. But, today isn’t just about reminiscing without giving much attention to what awaits us in the future. No, we continue to grow in holiness, to struggle, to learn, to give good witness. The journey isn’t over! The lifelong pursuit of happiness and joy continues.

At this Jubilee Mass, I invite you to join me in focusing on the role of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives as we journey into tomorrow and beyond. God, the Holy Spirit, has been that third partner in your marriage covenant, enabling you to remain faithful to your wedding vows, albeit for sure, not without struggles. The fruit of the Father and Son’s intense love is the Holy Spirit Who continues to strengthen our consecrated religious in living their religious vows.

I came upon a poem written by Ignatius of Latakia. It first caught my eye because of our relationship with Latakia, but the message is inspiring for this occasion:

Without the Holy Spirit:
God is far away,
Christ stays in the past,
The Gospel is a dead letter,
The Church is simply an organization,
Authority a matter of domination,
Mission a matter of propaganda,
Liturgy no more than an evocation,
Christian living a slave morality.

But with the Holy Spirit:
The cosmos is resurrected and groans with the birth pangs of the Kingdom,
The risen Christ is there,
The Gospel is the power of life,
The Church shows forth the life of the Trinity,
Authority is a liberating service,
Mission is a Pentecost,
The liturgy is both memorial and anticipation,
Human action is deified.

Yes, the Gospel is a dead letter with the absence of the Holy Spirit. Such a void will not sustain a consecrated religious or support a husband or wife in living his or her vocation. Vocations in marriage or in consecrated life will be dull, boring, uninspiring, unattractive. If there’s no difference between a sacramental marriage and living together, why bother? If there’s no difference between living the consecrated life and life in the fast lane, why sacrifice? But the Gospel has the power of life! It must not be a dead letter. With the Holy Spirit our vocations are about new life and resurrection power. The risen Christ is here!

Where can we find the Holy Spirit? One of the most important places of encounter with God’s Spirit is in our relationships. Spouses: do you pray together? Do you share your faith, talk about God at the kitchen table, yes, even in the ballfield? Our children and grandchildren must see us pray and be expected to join in the experience. You see, ours is a personal, but never a private faith. The Spirit beckons to be invited into our relationships. Do we talk about Jesus as much as we talk about politics, sports, our doctor’s appointments? God mustn’t be a distant bystander in our daily living. It’s never too late! It doesn’t mean becoming a “Holy Roller,” but it does mean we must not allow Jesus to become a stranger to us and our loved ones.

Religious, do you share your prayer experiences, how your faith challenges you and brings you peace and joy. Being a member of a community means more than living under the same roof. Clearly, all you celebrating jubilees today have encountered the Spirit of the Risen Lord. Never let Him go. I ask myself: Does my energy come from the Resurrection of Christ? Resurrection of the heart must happen every day prompting a continual rebirth of hope. You remember in Ezekiel the story of the dry bones and their coming to life. We listen in on St. Paul’s words to the Philippians: “That I may know Christ and the power of His “Resurrection.”

There’s a real danger that our married and consecrated lives can become devoid of joy and hope as we become slaves of duty, merely functioning in our proper roles, not unlike the older son in today’s familiar Gospel. In every life circumstance, make room for God’s Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be re-created. Let us all open our hearts to the living hope that comes from the resurrection of Christ. The Church is born of hope. In our vocations, we contribute to the giving of a new momentum to faith that conquers our troubled world. Like the father, speaking to his troubled, elder son, “Everything I have is yours…we must celebrate and rejoice.” With the apostles, we proclaim: “He’s alive! He has risen. He appeared; we saw Him!” and that, my friends, makes all the difference in this world and in the world to come.

In a world today that seems tired, discouraged and even fearful, we remember our God hasn’t gone anywhere. His Spirit continues to recreate whatever He touches. Congratulations and thank you Jubilarians, for your faith-filled witness of love. Surely, we would not be here today celebrating such milestones, if you had not welcomed the Holy Spirit into your lives. Don’t let Him go in these, most troubling of times. We are Christ-led, Christ-fed, Hope-filled! Thank you, Jesus, for your Spirit of peace and joy!

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