30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Three of my closer friends have kids who are getting married next year. Actually, I know all six sets of parents, and through them, am fairly well acquainted with the three brides and three grooms. They have honored me by asking that I preside at their wedding liturgies and witness their marriage covenants.
I have always felt that it is a good thing to do “marriage prep” in groups because the truth is a Christian Marriage is not simply about the couple or even their families and friends. A Christian marriage is about the entire Catholic Christian community. Through this new union, our Church experiences new life and growth. When the engaged couples come together to prepare for the Sacrament, the group dynamic offers them an experience of faith community and reminds them that the enormous step they are taking is much bigger than just the two of them…it involves the entire family of faith!
The majority of the six young people I will be working with over the next few months are products of Catholic schools. Moreover, all six are very spiritual. I think probably that is something that has drawn them together in loving relationships with one another…their already loving relationship with The Lord. So, this should really be easy sledding for me since they are already fully aware that the commitment they will be making is not simply to one another…but to God as well, and that the entire Church will benefit if they always strive to live out their marriage vows.
Actually, because these three couples distinguish themselves in the way in which they are living out their Baptisms, I see my work in helping them prepare for Christian marriage to be especially challenging. I need to find ways of helping them to build as a couple on the strong foundations that were laid in their parents’ homes. I need to inspire them to do great things in and through their marriages. I need to somehow put them in touch with the enormous power that, through their marriages, they will enjoy…a power that they could use to make this world a better place for everyone to live. Actually, I have been stressing a little bit over how I can best use this opportunity to benefit not only them…but The Body of Christ…our Church.
As I mull over what I will say to them next week, it occurs to me that these six are a full half of our very beginning. What did Jesus say to the 12 the first time they were all gathered together as Apostles, messengers He picked so that He could send them out with The Good News? Maybe the Readings this Sunday hold the key.
I wonder if His starting point might not have been our First Reading (Exodus 22:20-26). There, we are reminded that the world is a very harsh and dangerous place. We have it within us, however, to tame our hostile environment if only we can bring ourselves to treat one another with charity and love…even strangers.
In our Second Reading, St. Paul recounts how he went into a pagan land as a stranger…an alien…a foreigner with a foreign message: The Good News. The people began to believe the unbelievable…the news that Jesus rose from the dead and will return to usher in God’s Kingdom in its fullness…not simply because Paul was a good teacher…and preacher…but because he imitated Christ. St. Paul did his best to be an imitator of Christ. Because he lived Jesus, others came to imitate Jesus as well. Christians who strive to LIVE what we profess to believe have the power to change the world.
It would seem that in working with the 12 to prepare them for their vocations as messengers, Jesus needed to find ways of helping them to build on the strong foundation that was laid as they sat at His feet listening to Him…or as they stood on the fringe of a crowd watching Him cure and heal…or as they cowered in a boat while He calmed a raging storm. Jesus’s challenge was to inspire the 12 to do great things in His Name. The Lord worked with the 12 so that they would recognize the great power the Holy Spirit had placed within them; power to effectuate change. And it is entirely reasonable to believe that at the very core of each of His “vocation preparation sessions” with the 12 was His response to yet another trick question from misguided individuals…you shall love the Lord Your God with all your hearts, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
This week’s Readings seem to come together to emphasize that regardless of what vocation we are preparing for…or living out…if we are to be faithful to Christ, it’s all about love. Love is the foundation on which the Kingdom of God is built. Love is both the inspiration as well as the power to continue the work Jesus began. Love enables us to do great things. The whole Law and the Prophets depend on love!
This is what I will share with my six young friends preparing for the Sacrament of married love. If you’ve got the love…you’ve got the power!