Marriage, a living prayer: Homily for October 7, 2018, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Marriage, a living prayer: Homily for October 7, 2018, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time October 8, 2018

The scriptures this Sunday focus on a subject that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: marriage.

Whether you are married or not, everyone here this morning has some experience with marriage—through our parents, our friends, our relatives.  It is intrinsic to who we are, how we live.  It is as old as time.

Genesis this morning tells us, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” and describes how God created for him a perfect companion, woman. And in the Gospel, Jesus reminds his listeners, “What God has joined together, man must not separate.” The bond is meant to be unbreakable.

But it breaks. Again. And again. And again.

A law firm that specializes in family law and divorce published some sobering statistics a few years ago, pulled from the U.S. census. On average:

41 percent of first marriages end in divorce.

60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.

73 percent of third marriages end in divorce.

In the United States, there is one divorce every 36 seconds. 2,400 divorces a day. 876-thousand a year.

And despite what the culture will tell you, living together doesn’t necessarily help. Living together before marriage increases the likelihood of divorce by as much as 40 percent.

“What God has joined together” continues to rupture. How do you keep the bond from breaking once it has been sealed?

Do couples even understand what they are undertaking when they marry?

I mention this often when I preach at weddings: remember one of the most important reasons for getting married.

You are doing this for a greater good.

It is this—something disarmingly simple but so often overlooked or neglected:

Whether you realize it or not, it is to help the person you are marrying become a saint.

And, by the grace of God, that other person will also make YOU a saint.

And I know: right now, you who are married are looking at that person you married and thinking, “Yeah, with all I have to put up with I’m a saint, all right.”

You’ll all have to get in line behind my wife, who—with all she has to put up with being married to me— is in the express lane to heaven.

But understand this: there is a reason the Church refers to marriage and family as “the domestic church.”

It is where we practice, in a small but meaningful way, what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves.

It is where, day after day, we are challenged to look into the eyes of that neighbor we live with—even when it isn’t always easy to love them—and love them anyway.

Love them consistently and unfailingly.

Because when you look into that familiar face, you see the face of Christ – one made in the image of God.

And the miracle of marriage is not only trying to see Christ, but trying to BE Christ.

It means loving selflessly, giving tenderly, offering mercy generously.

In living as a “domestic church” in the home, we make marriage more than just a living arrangement.

We make it more than cohabitation.

We make it a prayer.

A living prayer.

I asked my wife the other day, “What do you think I should say about marriage in my homily Sunday?”

And without hesitating, she said, “It’s so important to pray.  Separately and together.  Because God knows the strengths and weaknesses of the other person better than you do.  You need His help.”

Every marriage does. Because every marriage has tests and trials. It needs strength to persevere, to never give up.

After all, this is part of what it means to love.

In his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis includes a beautiful meditation on St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and its famous section on love: “Love is patient, love is kind.” It’s a wonderful reflection.  I’ve told people who are engaged: read this. Every Christian should read it, share it, study it. It’s magnificent.

At one point, the Holy Father writes:

“Love bears every trial with a positive attitude. It stands firm in hostile surroundings. It is a love that never gives up, even in the darkest hour. It shows a certain dogged heroism, a power to resist every negative current, an irrepressible commitment to goodness.”

And the pope continues: “Here I think of the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who met every kind of trial and tribulation with fraternal love: ‘The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls ‘the image of God’, you begin to love him in spite of [everything]. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there.”

As I mentioned earlier: it is seeing Christ…and being Christ.

The famous line from Les Miserables puts it so well: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Pray for that grace—and for so much more, too, because we need to make of our marriages a prayer.

Better yet: we need to make prayer the key to marriage.

This month, October, is the month of the rosary. On the church calendar, today is the Feast of the Holy Rosary. We’ll be saying the living rosary outside the front doors of our church after the 1 pm Mass. I invite you to join us. I can’t think of a better opportunity to pray for marriage, to pray for all of our marriages—and to pray especially for healing in marriages that are wounded, or suffering, or broken.

We need it now, more than ever.

If those statistics I mentioned earlier are accurate, in the time I took to deliver this homily, another 16 marriages in this country will have ended. By the end of Mass, it will be over 100. By the end of the day, over 2,400. And the numbers keep growing.

Let us work to change that – and pray to change that.

We do that by encouraging something else to grow: love. Love within our “domestic church.”

Love nurtured by faith.

Love uplifted by hope.

Love supported, day after day, with prayer.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for our marriages…and pray for us.

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