Bottom line: Today we see how much Jesus loves marriage - and why. He comes as the Bridegroom who rejoices in his bride.
Since this homily deals with marriage, I would like to begin with a joke from Fr. Vandenberg's book on that subject:
A couple has just gone to bed when they hear a strange noise coming from downstairs. When they go to investigate, sure enough, they discover a burglar. Caught red-handed, he pulls out a gun and says, "This means I have to kill you." Before pulling the trigger, he pauses and asks the wife, "What's your name?"
Trembling, she says, "Elizabeth."
"Oh no," he says, "that was my mother's name. I can't kill you." Aiming his gun at the husband he asks, "And what's your name?"
The man answers, "My name is Jack...but everyone calls me Elizabeth."
To find out how this joke relates to marriage, I encourage you to get Rediscovering a Pearl of Great Price: The Surprising Sacrament of Matrimony by Fr. Tom Vandenberg. It's well worth reading - and I don't have to tell you how timely the topic is.
Few things are more important to Jesus than marriage. As we saw last year in St. Mark's Gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry announcing that he is the "bridegroom." In his presence the wedding guests (the apostles and other disciples) do not fast. In St. John's Gospel, as we see today, Jesus inaugurates his ministry on a nuptial note. His first miracle rescues of a bride and groom.
Jesus loves marriage.* He particularly loves young married couples. His mother, Mary, intercedes for them and Jesus himself goes "above and beyond" in order to help them.
Why does Jesus love marriage so much? We have the answer in our first reading. "As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you." Consider the joy of a groom. After months, maybe years, of courting his bride, of doing all he can to win her, finally the moment arrives when she is his. Is there any moment of greater joy? Such will be union of God with his people, of Jesus with his bride, the Church.
St. Paul says the reason God made us male and female is to foreshadow that union. (Eph 5:32) He calls marriage a "mysterion," a mystery, that is, a sacrament. It signifies Jesus joining himself with his Church. If there were no children present, I could go into greater detail - but you get the idea. God's love for us is not distant and "spiritual." It involves his whole being and ours in response.
Our whole being: There are people who think they can do whatever they want with their bodies as long as their "heart" is right. No, you and I come to Jesus with all we are - mind, heart, soul...and body. The image of Jesus as bridegroom makes that clear. Like a bridegroom his love is all-consuming, exclusive, jealous. Not that he enslaves. On the contrary, he respects our freedom and he frees us from a miserable kind of slavery. You know, we can become slaves to sin. The devil knows how use our disordered desires to enslave us.
There is an irony in all this. Young people today hold back from marriage thinking it will limit their freedom. In a similar way people hold back from Jesus. But the truth is this: Only in Jesus will we find real freedom. He is the perfect bridegroom.
Today we see how much Jesus loves marriage - and why. He comes as the Bridegroom who rejoices in his bride. Amen.
*To speak about marriage presents a particular challenge today. I have spent the past four and a half weeks in country where people hold up every bill to see if it is counterfeit. We have a similar difficulty today with the word "marriage." But it is worse. We not only have counterfeit versions in circulation, we have (in states like mine) voted to treat fake and real as the same. For sure, the vote contains a clause saying that we are free to not acknowledge the counterfeit within our places of worship. But, even that concession, how long will it last?
From Archives (Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C):
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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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