For all the days of our lives ….

This weekend’s scripture readings [Genesis 2:18-24 and Mark 10:2-16] often present a challenge to those who preach.  Some preacher’s of the Gospel might wish they had scheduled a missionary for the weekend — some might even welcome a letter from the Bishop to be read in place of the homily.

The feeling of reluctance is not because the preacher doesn’t believe in the goodness of marriage or the sanctity of marriage.  It is not because the preacher does not know many happily married couples.  All of us do see marriage as a sacrament of the Church — a vocation, a calling, just as is the calling to priesthood and ministry.  We want people to be happily married.  We encourage young couples preparing for marriage to see marriage as more than a wedding — but as a lifelong commitment.  We draw the distinction between the feeling of romantic love — and the commitment of love — that is, doing the loving thing even when we do NOT FEEL like loving.  The feeling is not always there — but we are still called to love.

At the same time, we all have dear friends who are divorced — and we consider ourselves friends with both the man and the woman.  Divorce has touched all our families.  We know people who are struggling to hold their marriage together.  And, as we preach, we know that many before us have gone through the pain  of divorce –despite their best effort.

Let me begin today by sharing a quote from the Dalai Lama:

     “We come into the world as the result of other’s actions.  We survive here in dependence on others.  Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment in our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities.  For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationship with others.”  {Celebration,October 4, 2009, p. 1)

Remember, the Dalai Lama is not married …. and, he recognizes that for all of us, relationships are what make us whole, relationships are what make us real, relationships are what make us happy.    It is not good for man/woman to be alone!  This does not mean we are all meant to be married — it means we are not meant to be alone.  For an unmarried priest, relationships with friends, family, and church members are what keep us going.

The next step for me is to make three things clear:

1.  First, I repeat what I have already said — marriage is a sacrament; marriage is a vocation.  Marriage is a way to be holy and to create holiness in the world through married love.

2.  Second — divorce is not a sin.  Despite the best efforts of many people, despite the hard work of many — divorces happen.  Two free wills sometimes collide and lead to a violent disruption in life.  Sin might lead to a divorce — but divorce is not a sin.  People get a divorce, but they are not divorced from life or from friends.  People get a divorce, THEY are not divorced …. cut up and separated into parts.

3.  Third — divorce itself does not excommunicate people from the Church or from communion in the Church.  Everyone is welcome here — everyone has a home here in our faith community.

As we realize, those who approached Jesus did not have the purest of motive — their goal was not to hold up the sanctity of marriage.  They were once again hoping to trap Jesus.  In the time of Moses and in the time of Jesus, many rabbis allowed for divorce — that is, if the man wanted to divorce his wife.  The woman, on the other hand, had little to say about either opposing the divorce or even seeking a divorce from her husband — the woman was little more than property.

Some rabbis were strict — saying things like, “the very altar sheds tears when a man divorces the wife of his youth.”    Some allowed for divorce only if there was proof of adultery.  Others were much more lenient — they allowed for divorce if the husband — for whatever reason — found his wife unpleasant or unpleasing.  Some might say, “if she proves to be a poor cook — divorce is permissible.”  So, those who came to Jesus were trying to find out where he fell in this spectrum.

Jesus upholds the beauty of marriage and the holiness of marriage.  He says, “what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

Relationships — all relationships — rooted in God will be of a higher caliber than others.  Friendship should not be based on selfish need.  How much more so then, should marriage be above selfishness and selfish desire.

Question # 1:Each of us can test our relationships:  which one(s) have a spiritual basis? which one(s) are rooted in God?  which one(s) would Jesus want to be a part?

I remember an older priest who once said:  roll a bowling ball up and down the church aisle and it will not be changed one bit.  So it is with a couple who are not intent on building a relationship on God — walking up and down the church aisle will not make them a happily married couple.

A marriage between two true believers lifts their relationship out of the day-to-day into the realm of the eternal.

Question # 2:  This is a tough question to ask ourselves — at this point in my key relationship(s) am I a giver or a taker?  In other words, am I focused on what I can get or on the needs of others?  Am I flexible in schedule and wants so as to be able to respond to the requests and needs of others?

Question # 3: Am I dealing with something that is interfering with my ability to truly be present to another?  Examples: addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling?  Is there a secret-relationship [sexual infidelity] that occupies my heart?

Question # 4: What am I doing … what are we doing … to keep our relationship growing?  Am I/are we doing things to keep our relationship fun and lively?

Finally, Question # 5:  would I want my son/daughter [grandchild] to marry someone like me?  Would I consider someone like me to be a suitable partner for my child or grandchild?

There are many jokes about marriage and about married life.  But, marriage and relationships are serious matters.  We all want happy relationships and we all want marriages to succeed.  In the wisdom of our Church, we are called to reflect this weekend on ourselves in relationship to others.

I truly believe that there is nothing on this earth that will affect us like our relationships with family, friends — and for many with a spouse.

In good times and in bad — in sickness and in health — let us love and honor those dear to us —- all the days of our lives.

hjm

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