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home : from the bishop : from the bishop February 21, 2019


Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.

Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Trenton
October 16, 2016

Every once in a while, we might give in to feeling a little nostalgic.  It can come upon us very suddenly in a quiet moment when we drive through the old neighborhood or see an old relative or friend.  Perhaps it is an old home movie or collection of pictures that conjures up a memory of the "good old days."  An old song, a familiar phrase that Dad used to say, a meal that tastes just like Mom's --- suddenly, we are transported back to another time and place.  We might even think of our loved ones, some who are no longer with us or nearby, and wonder, "If they could see us now!"  Have you had that experience?

Think back on your wedding day.  What comes to mind?  Who was there or, if you're Irish, who wasn't?  What was the name of the priest or deacon who performed the wedding?  Did it start on time?  What was the song that we danced to for the first time as husband and wife.  What did we have for dinner?  How did we escape from the reception for the honeymoon?  Details and memories ... lots of details and memories!  They could pose a real challenge to those of you celebrating 50 years since your wedding day or even to those of you celebrating 25 years.  Probably not so much for more recent newlyweds.  When you come right down to it, details from a single day lose their importance and memories start to fade.  What matters is that you are still here, still together, still in love.  What a blessing your life has been, together!  What a blessing you have, together!  What a blessing you are, together!  What a blessing you still seek, together!   And that is what brings us together today, here in this Church at Holy Mass, surrounded by children and loved ones who are also blessings you enjoy.

Our readings today focus our attention on perseverance and prayer, two dimensions of our life of faith well known to you as you celebrate the anniversary of your wedding whether you celebrate 1, 25 or 50 years of marriage this year.  Perseverance is a grace that comes with conviction, dedication and commitment.  The Gospel of St. Luke presents the story of the unjust judge who eventually relented in his judgment in favor of the persevering widow who kept at it, seeking justice.  Some would call her perseverance “nagging,” perhaps others would label it harassment.  But she knew her cause was just and right and she would not back down.  That same spirit motivated Moses and Joshua in our first reading today from the Old Testament Book of Exodus.  Much was at stake for Israel in the battle against Amalek and his armies.  While Joshua fought Moses stood watch with the staff of God in his extended hands, a symbol of God’s protection.  Moses persevered and Israel defeated the enemy.  That same kind of perseverance should characterize our prayer, never giving in or giving up.  The same holds true in marriage.  “For better or worse; for richer or poorer; in sickness and health until death do us part.”  Perseverance!  

A couple does not begin marriage with perfect love. The couple grows in loving and grows by loving. Love is hard work. Sometimes --- often, perhaps --- love has brought suffering; if not, love has been a disguised form of selfishness. But just as the Church is strengthened through perseverance in suffering, your relationship has grown in the valleys. There is always more growth in the valleys than on the mountain-tops.

Jesus has commanded you to love as he has loved. How did Jesus love? He loved until it cost him. He loved by persevering all the way to the cross and death. That is love. If he had stopped loving before Calvary then it would not have been love at all. It would have been only for what he could get out of it. But love, in the sense that Jesus means, is loving even when it means undergoing suffering for the sake of the other. That is real love, loving for the good of the other. That is precisely how Jesus explains his love in the Gospel of John when he said: No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

Again and again we have given God all sorts of reasons to turn his back on us but he kept on loving us because he made a covenant with us, not a contract. We can use all sorts of legal means to wiggle our way out of a contract --- and many do --- but not you: for you the loving, faithful covenant of marriage is irrevocable. That is precisely the love of God we see for us in his covenant with us: unbreakable, irrevocable. There are many ideas of marriage in the world today but your married life has been a sacrament you received in the Lord, joined together for many years in the Lord. And you turn to Christ to sustain your love for each other because Christ has blessed your marriage and we renew his blessing as we celebrate your wedding anniversary.

Your marriage has been something very human, fulfilling the desire in the hearts of all of us to share our lives with another, but your marriage has also been a sacrament of God.  May God bless you and continue to keep you full of faith to each other and to Him all the days of your lives.




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