HOMILY FOR THE CELEBRATION OF MARRIAGE IN THE CATHEDRAL.
Greeting and Welcome
I warmly welcome all of you as you celebrate significant marriage anniversaries this year. It is a time of memories as you recall, relive the joy, excitement and hope of that day. This evening we thank God for all that and we express our gratitude to Jesus Christ who travelled the road of life with us in our marriage.
Our celebration coincides with a number of important events.
- At this time Bishops are meeting in Rome to reflect on what Pope John Paul called the New Evangelisation.
- Secondly, our celebration coincides with the beginning of the year of faith inaugurated by Pope Benedict on the 11th October.
Faith at the Heart of Marriage
Faith is strengthened when it is given to others. Marriage is a privileged place for living and sharing the faith for the work of evangelisation, spreading the Gospel and sharing Christ’s values. It is appropriate then as we celebrate marriage anniversaries we would at the same time inaugurate the Year of Faith. Faith is a central ingredient in marriage.
Family – the ideal unit for passing on the Faith
Considerable attention is being devoted to the family in the transmission of faith. The Christian message on marriage and the family makes the family the model place for witnesses to the faith, because of its prophetic capacity in living the core values of the Christian experience. Those values include: the dignity and complementarity of man and woman created in the image of God, openness to life; sharing of communion; dedication to the most vulnerable; and a focus on formation and trust in God as the source of love, the basis for family unity.
Cultural Challenges to Family
Inevitably marriage is profoundly affected by the changes in our society today. Families are subjected to great distress due to the hectic pace of life, the uncertainty of work, increasing instability and fatigue in the education of children which is becoming more difficult. Aware of these difficulties, the family needs the support which comes from being a part of a community and being accepted and listened to. The family likewise needs to be bolstered not only by the proclamation of the Gospel but also by guidance in the work of education. The family has an increasingly active role in the process of the transmission of faith.
The Church at the Service of Family
The Church shares in the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of peoples’ daily pilgrimage. Serving the family is one of the Church’s essential duties. Promoting the dignity of marriage and the family must be a constant concern of the Church. This becomes all the more necessary in those places where the family is suffering from internal crises or is exposed to adverse cultural, social and economic pressures which threaten its inner unity and even stand in the way of its formation. The Church must engage with and be committed to the pastoral care of the family. Here in our own Archdiocese we have the work being done in the Family Centre, promoting marriage and all the work done by Accord in preparing for marriage. The close bonds between the Church and the family arise from the assistance which the Church seeks to give to the family and which she expects from the family. While certainly conscious of and sensitive to the many complex crisis situations in which families are involved, as well as the moral frailty of every human being the Church is convinced that we must remain absolutely faithful to the truth about human love. Otherwise the Church will betray both its founder Jesus Christ and the true dignity of the human person. An awareness of the beauty of marital love must be constantly renewed and safeguarded in the face of serious opposition which the Church meets on the part of those who advocate a false civilisation of progress.
The Challenge for Marriage in an ever-changing society
Our age is marked by a crisis of truth. Do the words “love”, “freedom”, “sincere gift”, and “rights of the person”, really convey their essential meaning? In our culture “love” is tossed about with reckless abandon. In our culture nothing lasts forever, contracts are made to be cancelled, rules to be broken, promises to be abandoned. In this context married couples dare to say with conviction not “as long as it works”, or until “we tire of each other” but “all the days of our life”. Married couples rest their hopes for happiness in the conviction that whatever befalls, however surprising, God will be there, the risen Christ interceding for them. With such conviction, such faith they can with confidence take the risk that surrounds all marriage, the risk that imperils all that is human.
The Huge Challenge Posed by LOVE
This love is costly, it costs us as it costs Jesus. The test of love is the willingness to make sacrifices. In difficult times love has the opportunity to become even more unselfish. To love when there is little gain for the self from it. Frequently when we do what we would not choose to do if left to ourselves, we grow in love. We know from nature that growth takes place more naturally in valleys rather than on mountain tops. We learn more from difficult times than from success because we have to dig deeper into our reservoirs of perseverance.
Seeking God’s help in Marriage, in Love
Marriage is too delicate, too risky an undertaking to leave in the hands of mere humans. God must be the unseen guest in the home and the hearts of married couples enabling them and encouraging them to share knowledge and understanding, ideas and insights; to share feelings, emotions and passions, hopes and fears, resentments and disappointments, ups and downs. They have the power to activate the gifts latent in each other, to encourage, support and rejoice, the power to make each others dreams come true, miraculously the power to create, to bring to birth human images of themselves and human images of God.
As married people you know better than most that love does not begin with perfection. We grow in loving and we grow by loving. Love is costly.
Fidelity – Another Bed-Rock of Love, of Marriage
Fidelity is the seed of love, the proof of commitment to another: love has been put to the test, survived and matured. Without that depth of commitment our relationships run the risk of succumbing to the superficiality of the consumer culture, something to be kept going as long as one is getting satisfaction from it. Jesus calls us to more, to the love that is ready to self-giving even to great sacrifices.
Our world today needs living witnesses to fidelity. These are the most convincing signs of the love which Christ has for every human being. An enduring marriage is a process of growth into an intimate friendship and a deepening peace. To live faithfully in a marriage as you yourselves can testify requires humility, trust, compromise, communication and a sense of humour. It is a give and take experience, involving hurt and forgiveness, failure and sacrifice.
Giving Marriage the Gift of Time and Attention to Succeed
The incredible busyness of family life can take its toll on loving relationships. Daily we observe families overwhelmed by the demands of work, business travel, getting to and from school, keeping appointments, fulfilling civic responsibilities, balancing home and work responsibilities as a shared obligation for spouses. It is a critical issue facing families today. Where choices exist hours at work need to be weighed against their impact on family life. To thrive, love requires attention, communication and time. To share a story or confine a need, to play a game, to watch and cheer on, time to be present at another’s failure or success, confusion, despair or moment of decision. In a culture where commitment is regarded as rare and often ridiculed, married couples continue to give themselves totally to God and to one another. In a culture where all too many rest their hopes for happiness on the triumphs of technology, married couples must sing ceaselessly with the Psalmist: “You, O Lord are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth”. (Psalm 71:5)
Congratulations, Blessings and Best Wishes.
I warmly congratulate you as you celebrate this significant anniversary and jubilee of your love for each other. Go maire sibh bhur nuacht. I thank God for your witness and for the wonderful witness you provide as you contribute to the building up of God’s kingdom in the Church and the world. I pray God’s blessing on you all and your families.