Today I had the distinct pleasure of returning to a parish where I served as pastor for nine years to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony for a lovely couple. The groom was only 15 years old when I arrived in 1998 as pastor. I quickly came to know and love his family.
I was very happy when I learned of his engagement to a beautiful and lovely young woman, and more than pleased to accept their invitation to celebrate their special day with them.
Congratulations Steven & Kristina Bauerla!
Below are the main thoughts from today’s homily:
Today’s Gospel, Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, captures Jesus in one of his great teaching moments. I’m sure Kristina can relate to the role of teacher, as well as to the reality that when a teacher teaches, she or he wants others to pay attention, and learn. Equally, we hear today from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians perhaps his equivalent to the Sermon on the Mount, in his great teaching on the reality of love.
St. Paul teaches us that love rejoices in the truth. Love is patient, kind, humble. Love does not seek its own interests; it bears all things, believes, hopes, endures all things. It is reminiscent of his Letter to the Romans where he says: “all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Steven and Kristina, it is good that you are beginning your married life here, before the altar of God, for it is God who created you; God who brought you together; God who will sustain you; God who is your (our) final goal. And we know all this from today’s readings.
Thus, Jesus concludes his teaching on the beatitudes: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” Such instruction speaks realistically about sacrifice, suffering, and true love.
The Book of Genesis speaks of the intimacy and communion of love God creates us to share with him. Our first relationship (communion) is with God himself. Note how God speaks with Adam. God involves Adam in the process of creation, inviting him to name all the animals. And it is God who says “it is not good for the man to be alone.”
God makes a suitable companion for the man – woman.
This creation account says that God “cast a deep sleep on the man” to take one of his ribs. Actually, the Hebrew verb here is much more expressive than a ‘deep sleep.’ A more accurate translation would be ‘ecstacy.’ This calls to mind a beautiful statue of St. Teresa of Avila carved by Bernini years ago which depicts the great saint in an ecstatic communion of love with God. This is the scene when God takes a rib from Adam to create woman…an ecstatic communion of love between God and the human person.
One may ask: “Why the rib?” My first answer is simply: “God is God.” But also, when the rib is removed, it reveals the heart – the interior place of communion and love. In a sense, it opens the human heart to God. It reveals that the human person left to him or her self, is incomplete. Thus the Church has always taught that the Christian vocation is only and always found in self-gift. This is why Jesus also teaches that it is only in losing one’s life that one saves it. In the same manner, St. Paul teaches that love does not seek its own interests.
Further, the open side of Adam calls to mind the words of the Prophet Ezekiel (36:26) “I will take from you your stony hearts and give you a new heart.”
Ultimately, the open side of Adam foreshadows the pierced side of Christ crucified – revealing his Sacred Heart and the fire of God’s Infinite Love…again…a love expressed in self-gift. Jesus’ love is a complete giving of self for another. Christ gave himself out of love for the Father and love for us. In this self-offering of love, Jesus took his Bride to himself, and his Bride is the Church.
From the open side of Christ, we are nourished by the saving water of Baptism and Eucharist – the very flesh and blood of Christ – the Bread of Life. This life-sustaining intimacy of Christ’s love for us as members of his body, the Church, is the model and definition of marital love.
Kristina and Steven, stay close to Christ and his Church. As long as your marriage and love remain open to Christ – as long as your lives seek to participate in Divine Love itself – you will lack nothing – indeed – your love will continue to grow and bear much fruit.
Remember, your love is a part of something much bigger! Your love is a part of the life of the Church. Your love is a participation in the Divine Mystery. So, my final words of advice come directly from Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount:
Live always humbly before God, that you may be blessed with His Kingdom.
Seek justice in your relations with one another and others, remembering always the poor and the least, and you will know what it is to be satisfied.
Be merciful with one another – always ready to forgive, that you may know the mercy of God.
Live with purity of heart – never yielding the sacredness of your love to the depravities of the world, and you will see God.
Live in peace with one another and all, and you will be known as children of God.
Be ready and willing to bear your share of hardship which the Gospel entails; the hardships which true love requires, and you will rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven!