Topics

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB

Dear newlyweds: God stands at beginning of all true marriages

Voices Sep 24, 2017

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, chats with couples during a marriage convalidation Mass at St. Clare of Assisi church Sept. 16. (Angelo Siglos / Special to The B.C. Catholic)

This is an excerpt from a homily given Sept. 16 at St. Clare of Assisi church for a Marriage Convalidation Mass.

PORT COQUITLAM — Today, as you well know, is an historic occasion in the life of our local Church. For the first time ever, 30 couples are gathered to celebrate the Eucharist, during which they will “convalidate” their partnership, enabling them to receive the many graces of the sacrament which the good Lord will make available to them.

It is a blessed moment for you, dear friends, many of whom have waited long for this day when you are restored to full communion with the Church. You are once again welcome to partake in the rich sacramental life of the Church, especially the reception of the Eucharist, with the assurance of God’s special blessing upon your marriage.

We are all joyful that you have chosen this path and I want to thank everyone who has accompanied you on this journey with their spiritual and pastoral support, above all Deacon Greg Barcelon and those who worked so closely with him.

Sacramental Grace

Through the sacramental graces you will receive from this day forward, your married love will be purified, strengthened, and ennobled. You are consecrated and by means of a special grace build up the Body of Christ and form a domestic church.

Because you have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, your sacramental marriage is a supernatural reality. It belongs to the order of grace. Through this sacrament which you are about to celebrate by giving your consent, the saviour and the spouse of the Church, Jesus Christ, comes into your lives. He will abide with you throughout your marriage, so that just as he loved the Church and handed himself over on her behalf, you may love each other with perpetual fidelity by making a gift of yourself to the other.  As Pope Francis says, “The grace of the sacrament of marriage is intended before all else ‘to perfect [your] the couple’s love.’”

Every sacramental marriage is the image of God’s abiding love for his people and of Christ’s irrevocable fidelity to his Church. It is, in Francis' words, “a sign of how much Christ loved his Church in the covenant sealed on the cross, yet it also makes that love present in the communion of the spouses. By becoming one flesh – as we heard in the Gospel – [you] embody the espousal of our human nature by the Son of God.”

Always remember that your life together as husband and wife, as well as the entire network of relations that you build with your children and the world around you, “will be steeped in and strengthened by the grace of the sacrament,” says Pope Francis.

Now let’s take a brief look at the Readings chosen for the Liturgy to see what light they shed on what we are celebrating today.

From Tobit

In the touching reading from the Book of Tobit, Tobias and his wife Sarah pray together on their wedding night that the Lord will grant them “mercy and safety” (Tob 8:5). In his prayer, the new husband takes us back to Genesis, to the beginning of creation. He recalls God’s creation of man and woman (Tob 8:6), two persons similar but not the same, each of whom was made for the other. Lifelong love was born because God created two persons whose love would bear fruit in children. All of this is “the expression on earth of the love in heaven that is the secret life of God.”

Two lessons for your married life can be drawn from this passage.

First, God stands at the beginning of every true marriage; he played the overture in creation, and so is to be welcomed, thanked, adored and petitioned. Make sure that you pray daily together as husband and wife – it could be by reading a short passage from Scripture, the rosary, or some favourite prayers – and, if you have children at home (and not just young children), pray together as a family.

Second, because the couple’s prayer is offered on their wedding night it tells us that for Tobias and Sarah, as for each couple here, “the divine hovers over all that is human, the unseen God is intimate to every facet of his creation" (Walter J. Burghardt in Grace on Crutches) – including every dimension of marriage. So, dear friends, exclude the good Lord from nothing in your lives: not from your trials, your troubles, your temptations, your sufferings, or your joys.

Gospel

When we turn to today’s Gospel, Jesus himself, like Tobias, brings us back to the “beginning” (Mt 19:4) in response to the Pharisees who were questioning him about the lawfulness of divorce. Jesus’ response could not be clearer: “what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mt 19:6; Mk 10:5‑9; Lk 16:18).''

If divorce had once been permitted in certain cases, it was because of the people’s “hardness of heart” (Mt 19:8). But Jesus, “who reconciled all things in himself, restored marriage and the family to their original form (Mt 10:1-12). Marriage and the family have been redeemed by Christ (Eph 5:21-32) and restored in the image of the Holy Trinity, the mystery from which all true love flows.”

What Jesus is saying here, therefore, is straightforward. The inner bond that will join you together as spouses, when you soon give your consent in the presence of a minister of the Church and witnesses, will be forged by God himself. You will make a covenant, and breaking that covenant is not at your disposal.

I cannot promise that because you will be a sacramentally married couple, “one flesh” in Scripture’s words (Mt 19:5), that your difficulties will all disappear. But Pope Francis, in speaking to newlyweds did say that the Church can promise this:

"The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded, or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share.