“This homily was given by Deacon Paul Brown. Deacon Brown is a parishioner here at St. Michael’s in Auburn. He is married with five kids. As I told the congregation at our Weekend Masses, I am very grateful to Deacon Brown for this beautiful homily. Not only because it freed me from having to prepare a homily for last weekend, but it also saved me, a 28 year old celibate, from preaching on marriage! HAHAHAHA! Seriously though, it is a beautiful and well articulated message. Thanks Deacon Brown!”
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Deacon Paul Brown
Our 7 sacraments are often categorized into 3 groupings – initiation, healing, and vocation. The two sacraments of vocation are Holy Orders and Marriage. Most Catholic Christian men and women choose to live out their adult lives in a sacramental marriage rather than as ordained clergy, consecrated religious, or as a single person. Because we live in a time when Christian assumptions about marriage are much challenged, it’s important that we periodically renew our understanding of marriage as a sacrament. Today’s Old Testament and Gospel readings serve as two primary Scriptural passages that form the Church’s understanding and teaching on the Sacrament of Marriage.
Today’s Genesis text sets the stage for the Gospel in which Jesus will cite its final verse. The words of Genesis remind us of the divine origin of this sacred institution. Having created ‘man’ from the dust of the ground, God uses the same ‘ground’ to fashion him a suitable partner. But none proves fitting. So God sets to work again, putting the man into a ‘deep sleep,’ but this time using the man’s own rib from which to create ‘woman,’ who is, at last, a suitable partner.
Created here before the rest of God’s creatures, human beings are the summit of God’s creation and God cares for them like a parent for a newborn. The reaction of Adam to Eve expresses the realization that he has met his match – in every positive sense of that word: here, at last, is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh – and life of my life, joy of my joy, and companion of my soul. Man and woman are so related and interconnected, so drawn one to the other, that when they come together, in mind, body, and spirit, they become one flesh.
We hear Jesus, in today’ Gospel, state the fact of Genesis – “for this reason a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife.” In other words, man leaves those of his own blood to cling to his woman. The relationship of man and woman is stronger than a blood relationship. Jesus then uncovers the divine command – “what God has joined together, man must not separate”.
Together today’s scriptural passages illustrate a critical feature of a sacramental marriage that is distinct from a purely civil marriage. Civil marriage is a contractual arrangement between man and woman afforded by society’s legal system. The same legal system that constructed the contact also provides a means to dissolve the arrangement. The Pharisees understood marriage in this context. However, a sacramental marriage is covenantal relationship involving man, woman, and God. [Picture a triangle.] Grace freely flows to the couple as they represent Christ to one another and help each other to salvation.
By exchanging their wedding vows, at the Altar; in front family, friends, and congregation; and before God, a man and woman administer the sacrament to themselves. The declaration of their love and consent is witnessed by the priest or deacon as a representative of the Church. Through the exchange of vows, they are making an unbreakable covenant and asking for God’s grace to reap the goods of this union: indissoluble unity, mutual fidelity, and procreative power. The marriage covenant reflects God’s constant and faithful love for His people. In a marriage covenant, both parties are to mirror God’s constant fidelity and even if the other should not live up to their end of the covenant, the other is called to reflect the fidelity of God.
I ask engaged couples preparing to enter into a sacramental marriage at what point does the covenant become permanent. They often answer in this order: the exchange of vows, lighting of the unity candle, the kiss at the end of the ceremony. Each is incorrect. The exchange of vows ratifies their consent – formally and solemnly before God and community. The unity candle and kiss are mere customs. The covenant becomes permanent through the consummation, and the covenant is renewed through each conjugal act thereafter.
God not only approves of the physical union and love between man and woman, but that union and love are God’s design for the benefit of the couple and the good of humankind. Only when a man and a woman have given themselves totally to each other in the Lord is there a secure and safe haven for sexual intimacy. This wonderful gift of God is like a beautiful rose that must be respected and protected in the security of a covenantal and sacramental marriage. Any other use of this precious gift does not fulfill the great destiny to which God has called us and does not mirror the great sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
Living out their marriage vocation man and woman are perfectly distinct and different (both are giver and receiver), but they are also perfectly complimentary. They become one flesh in mind, body, and spirit. Through their love, they model the permanence and fidelity of Christ and His Church. They live in a communion that brings forth life and models the communion Jesus offers through the Eucharist. Since it takes three to conceive, (man, woman and God) the two (husband and wife) then bear a child, the fruit of their love, God’s life. It’s no wonder the family is considered the domestic church.
Men, our job as husbands is to help get her to heaven. Women, your job as wife is to help get him to heaven. We cannot allow ourselves to be conned into the idea that love is a feeling. Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. And every day we have to choose to love each other. Every day we have to choose to lay down our life, our desires, our goals, for the sake of our spouse.