The Gospel for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time is filled with the agony and pain of a marriage that breaks up. In contrast to that, I would like to spend some time this week talking about the value and witness of married couples and the gift they are to our communities.
One of the most powerful witnesses that a person can offer in our world today is faithfulness. Faithfulness is not only staying where you are and doing what you say you will do, but also finding a way to do it with joy, abiding forgiveness, compassion and generosity.
Although I am not married, I do have some experience in being faithful. To do that with joy, generosity and compassion takes a lot of work and can be so fruitful for the person being faithful and the person who is receiving that gift. One of the keys of being faithful is having an image or an example to follow. I would invite you to take some time to remember the examples of faithfulness that you’ve had in your own life. Remember the married couples that you’ve known who have been partners in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for all the days of their lives. We all know that no marriage or relationship is perfect. None of us are. For a couple to sustain a relationship of faithfulness demands that there be a power greater than themselves that gives them life, comfort and challenge.
For those of you who are married, I hope you remember on a daily basis what power your relationship holds in the world. We thirst for any sign of love and commitment. Many of us have become so cynical about the power of a person’s words or promises. Many of us have been hurt by betrayal. Our hearts that used to be made of flesh are now made of stone and hardened to the possibility of love. Those who profess to be committed to each other for life hold the power to be a model of faithfulness of love to us. Thank you for all the choices you make, allowing your marriages to be fruitful for the world. For those of you who have been blessed with the gift of children, you are forming the next generation and teaching them by your example. Thank you for taking on that privilege and responsibility for all of us.
Please pray for all married couples on a regular basis. Especially pray for and assist those couples we know who are struggling. Instead of being a distraction from the relationship, let us be the supportive foundation that the community of the Church is meant to be for all of its members. We hold each other up when we cannot stand on our own. This includes married couples who struggle to live out their promise and commitment.
There seems to be a decrease in the number of young people considering a committed and sacramental marriage. This reflects an even larger trend within our country and within our world of distrusting institutions, including churches. Instead of blaming society for how terrible it is and pretending as if society does not include us, it is time for us to take some responsibility for the cynicism in the world. Could it be true that we as individuals, we as Church communities and we as families could be living more authentically honest and holy lives? Could it be that our settling for less from ourselves and each other has taught our young people to settle for less? I pray and hope that you’ve been able to meet some of the incredible young people as I have met. Older adults need to be responsible to hold up our part of our community commitment. We need to do what Jesus did for His disciples. He showed them what life should be like by actually living that way. Let’s make sure that we are being authentic and honest about our side of the commitment as well. Enjoy living this week with abounding love and great joy!
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.