Bottom line: Trust in the Lord: a theme for married couples as we celebrate Valentine's day - and for all of us, as we enter the season of Lent.
Today is the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is the last Sunday before Lent, which begins on February 17 - Ash Wednesday. Moreover, this Sunday falls on Valentine's Day. I want to develop a theme that relates to human love - especially the love between husband and wife. The theme also leads into Lent. I can sum it up in a single word: trust. Or to be more specific, trust in the Lord.
In our first reading we hear: "Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings..." And, "Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord." Jesus illustrates trust in the Lord by giving us a series of beatitudes that he contrasts with "woe." For example, he says, "Blessed are you who are poor...But woe to you who are rich." The poor are blessed because they have a greater tendency to trust in God, while the rich man can start thinking he does not need God.
I'd like to tell you about a man who had a beautiful trust in God. It is Valentine story because it's about how he found his wife. It happened back in 1920, long before on-line dating services. What the man did was place an ad in a newspaper. This is what the ad said:
"Middle-ranking civil servant, single, Catholic, 43, immaculate past, from the country, is looking for a good Catholic, pure girl who can cook well, tackle all household chores, with a talent for sewing and homemaking with a view to marriage as soon as possible. Fortune desirable but not a precondition."
A woman named Maria Peintner answered the ad. She was 36 years old, a trained cook and the illegitimate daughter of a baker. She did not have a fortune, but even so, they married four months later. In spite of their somewhat advanced years they had three children - two boys and a girl. The youngest child received the same name as his father: Joseph Ratzinger. He is better known today as Pope Benedict XVI.
After his election, someone dug up the "wife-wanted" ad and showed it to the new pope. The pope, of course, smiled. He knew that his parents gave a beautiful testimony to married love. Pope Benedict would speak often about that love. In fact, his first encyclical is entitled, "God is Love," and it describes marriage as the pre-eminent figure of God's love for us.
Joseph and Maria Ratzinger illustrate the love we hear about today. They had a love based on trust in the Lord: a love that endures because it places God first. "Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord."
If a person gets up into their mid-thirties (or forties) and they have not found that special person, they can feel life has passed them by, maybe even that God has forgotten them. That was not the case with Joseph and Maria Ratzinger. From all we know, they were people of deep faith in God. Because of their trust in God, they had an admirable marriage and deeply united family.
The important point here is trust in the Lord. In a few days we are going to begin a holy season that emphasizes trust in the Lord. The Church encourages us to sacrifice some of things that are most important to us: food, time and money. We sacrifice food by some form of voluntary fasting, for example, giving us deserts. We sacrifice time by giving a greater portion of day to prayer. We sacrifice money by almsgiving - by orderings our finances to God's glory and the needs of the poor. You will hear more about this on Wednesday - and next Sunday, the First Sunday of Lent. All of our Lenten practices have one purpose - to increase our trust in the Lord.
And since today is Valentine's Day, I want to honor some people whose lives illustrate trust in the Lord, namely our married couples. No true marriage can last without mutual trust - and no marriage can flourish without trust in the Lord. In that spirit, I will be asking our married couples to renew their vows.
In order to renew your marriage vows on this Valentine's Day, I ask all of our married couples to please come forward.
Dear Brothers and Sisters: On the day of your wedding, the bride wore a beautiful dress, symbol of the baptismal garment. The husband asked for grace to love his wife as Christ loves the Church, who willingly offered his life to protect and sustain her. Today you wish to renew your vows in the presence of your children and friends. Before you do so, I ask you first to join this congregation in re-affirming your baptismal promises:
Do you reject Satan? R. I do.
And all his works? R. I do.
And all his empty promises? R. I do.
Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth? R. I do.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? R. I do.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting? R. I do.
And now, dear husbands, please take your wife's hand. I ask you: Do you renew your marriage vows to your wife, do you promise to be true to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor her all the days of your life? R. I do.
Dear wives: Do you renew your marriage vows to your husband, do you promise to be true to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor him all the days of your life? R. I do.
Now let us turn to Lord, as we pray for these married couples and for all of our needs:
Celebrant: In the tender plan of His providence, God our almighty Father has given married love, its faithfulness and its fruitfulness, a special significance in the history of salvation. Let us therefore call upon Him saying: Lord hear our prayer.
For our Holy Father, our bishops and all priest and religious, that they may be faithful in their call to fidelity and service, let us pray to the Lord.
For all married couples, that God give them comfort and strength in each other and joy in their children, let us pray to the Lord.
For all those preparing for marriage, that God guide them to a deep appreciation of this Sacrament, let us pray to the Lord.
For widows and widowers, that God may comfort them with compassion, let us pray to the Lord.
For those who suffer the pain of a troubled marriage, separation or divorce, that God guide them into a future filled with hope, let us pray to the Lord.
For a greater respect for the dignity of marriage and family in our nation and society, let us pray to the Lord.
For all our deceased family members and those of our parish who have died in faith, let us pray to the Lord.
Celebrant (with hands outstretched):
Almighty and eternal God, you have so exalted the unbreakable bond of marriage that it has become the sacramental sign of your Son's union with the Church as His spouse. Look with favor on these married couples, whom you have united in marriage, as they ask for your help and the protection of the Virgin Mary. They pray that in good times and in bad they will grow in love for each other; that they will resolve to be of one heart in the bond of peace. Lord, in their struggles let them rejoice that you are near to help them; in their needs let them know that you are there to rescue them; in their joys let them see that you are the source and completion of every happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. AMEN
(Priest blesses married couples with holy water.)
General Intercessions for Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C (from Priests for Life - if not using the prayers above)
From Archives (Homilies for Sixth Sunday, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
My bulletin column
St. Mary of the Valley Album
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