Homily of Bishop Kevin at Mass to Celebrate the Jubilee of Marriages in the Diocese of Elphin
“The kingdom of God is very near to you”. The Gospel passage which we have just heard is not specially chosen for our celebration of the Jubilee of Marriage. It is the one assigned for the fourteenth Sunday of the year. Jesus sends his disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and tells them to trust in providence rather than bringing a whole lot of things with them. It may not have been specially chosen but I think it speaks very well the the reality that we are celebrating. Perhaps our image of disciples is sometimes limited to travelling preachers, but anyone who accepts Jesus as Lord and tries to live accordingly is a disciple.
When you were married, ten or twenty-five or fifty years ago, you probably thought it was the most natural thing in the world to do – and it was. You may or may not, at the time, have been aware if the super-natural dimension of your love (which is God’s gift to you) or of your commitment (which is made possible by God’s grace). You became disciples at your Baptism, but your love for one another is a reflection of the love of God and it is your particular way of being a disciple. Now, against that background, let’s look again at the Gospel.
The Lord appointed seventy two others
The Gospel reminds us that disciples are chosen or called. It is said of Zelie Martin, the mother of Saint Therese of Lisieux, that she first set eyes on her husband Louis, as she was crossing a bridge over the River Sarthe in Alencon. She knew in her heart that this was the man that God had chosen for her. I’m nit sure what your experience was, but I hope that, over the years, you have been able to recognise God somewhere at the heart of your relationship.
He sent them out in pairs:
Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs to be a support to one another and so that they could learn from one another. The Scripture tells us that, in the beginning God recognised that “it was not good for the man to be alone”. The first and most important pairing is the pairing of man and woman, so that they can be companions and helpers to one another and so that, if it be God’s will, they can give life to children who are also created in God’s image and likeness. You have been sent out in pairs.
I am sending you out like lambs among wolves:
What is your recollection of those first days and weeks of your marriage. Was there a certain innocence and vulnerability about your relationship as you tried to work out how you could become what you were called to be. What harm if there was? I hope that, in spite of the hardness of the world and the challenges that you have undoubtedly faced, there is still something of the gentleness of the lamb about your love for one another. Pope Francis speaks a lot about the importance of “tenderness”.
Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals
Jesus sent his disciples out with nothing to spare, not because he wanted them to go hungry, but because he wanted them depend on divine providence. I’m sure many of you started with little or nothing. I remember my parents saying that it is better not to start with everything, because then you have nothing to look forward to. I wonder, however, if Jesus was just talking about material possessions or was he encouraging his disciples to let go of their baggage in every sense of the world. I imagine many of you will look back now and think of how you had to let go of some of your own personal baggage over the years in order to walk the road that you have walked together. That is possibly one of the bigger challenges of being married.
Stay in the same house taking what food and drink they have to offer:
When Jesus asked the disciples to “stay in the same house”, he wanted them to focus primarily on their mission rather than always moving around to see if they could be better off materially. It is really about remaining faithful or, as Pope John Paul II would say, giving a greater priority to who we are as individuals and as a couple, than what we have.
Be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near
I wonder, as you look back over the year of your marriage, were there times when you felt that the kingdom of God was very near to you. What were those times. Maybe it was when a child was born. Maybe it was on the occasion of a home-coming, or perhaps a time of reconciliation after a row. Our society today is not that open to any awareness of the kingdom if God, but I think that makes it all the more important that married couples, as disciples, foster that sense of God’s presence in the family home, even in very simple ways, such as the moment if prayer and thanksgiving, aloud or in quiet, as we sit down to eat together.
Rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.
Disciples walk together, day after day. As we go through life, we probably ask ourselves quite often what it is all about. As we walk through life, the scenery changes. Each day has its own beginning and ending in God’s grace, but our journey is always about the Kingdom of God. It is good to remember our destination, which is the happiness prepared for us in heaven. Part of the vocation of Christian marriage is that we accompany one another towards that destination, supporting one another in faith, being the visible sign of God’s love for one another. I take this opportunity to acknowledge those here present who have lost a marriage partner through death. Our commitment remains authentic even when death parts us.
May God continue to bless you and keep you. May he make his face shine upon you and may he give you his peace.
St. Anne’s Church, Sligo 7th July, 2019