Thursday, February 18, 2010

200 Couples Renew Vows on St. Valentine's Day

On St. Valentine's Day, more than 200 couples from around the Kansas City metropolitan area renewed their marriage vows at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception during a Mass for World Marriage Day. Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann and Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn concelebrated the Mass which also honored the 40th Anniversary of Marriage Encounter. Following is Bishop Finn's homily:

Dear Archbishop Naumann,
Dear brother priests, deacons and esteemed Religious,
Dear Married Couples and Families,
Friends in Christ All,

Each Spring since I have been here, I have had the joy of gathering at the Cathedral with Jubilarians, husbands and wives celebrating significant anniversaries of marriage, particularly those noting 50th anniversaries and longer. The church is always full – usually more than 200 couples attend. Other couples who are not able to be with us often send us notes expressing gratitude to God for their vocation, and the grace of health and perseverance. It is always a touching moment for me to see these husbands and wives, and how powerfully God has worked in their lives and homes.

For the first time – at least for me – we have come together for World Marriage Day. What a blessing that Archbishop Naumann and I have been able to do so many things together as neighboring dioceses. I know I speak for him when I say it is a beautiful sight to behold you as couples and families. God has done great work in calling you and holding you together, blessing many of you with children, calling all of you to be living signs of Jesus Christ’s love for His bride, the Church. It is right that we say, YOU are sacraments for us and for the world. You make Jesus Christ present – full of love and life. Thanks be to God for His call, and for your response which His grace makes possible.

It is so important – today perhaps more so than at any other time in our lives – to give witness to, and to be outspoken witnesses of, God’s plan for marriage. The life-long, mutual and exclusive fidelity of wife and husband, open to children, is the foundation of our whole human society. Family is the human core of the Church. Your love is an image of the life and love of the Most Holy Trinity. There are other vocations, but clearly, priests and Religious come from families where faith is taught and nurtured.

Therefore, we must never stop telling the world about the magnificence of God’s plan in marriage. It is clear in the order of nature: in the physical and psychological complementarity of male and female, man and woman. It is clear in the revelation of God’s Holy and Eternal Word in the Old and New Testament; and it has been and must always be upheld in the law of our society.

Yours is a wondrous calling from God which He has made powerful, both in the way it fulfills and completes each partner, and also in your participation in God’s masterpiece of creation. The work of procreation and the education of children, so singularly dignified and primary in God’s purpose for marriage remains under attack, particularly since the introduction of modern contraceptives. How important it is that we persevere in maintaining the inseparability of the unitive and procreative ends of marriage. How vital it is to your complete self-giving; how wonderfully it shows your complete filial trust in God’s providential love. The prophetic teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae remains a valuable source for our formation as witnesses to God’s design for marriage, and as an antidote to the cynicism of our age which sometimes treats pregnancy as a disease and so readily regards children as expendable inconveniences.

Family life brings both inestimable joy and significant challenges. This life with its challenges and rewards is our path to holiness. The love of Jesus Christ that we see reflected in the eyes of spouse and children, those with whom we are privileged to share everything, sustains us and gives us hope. What a gift!

Particularly after love has been tested and matured, we come to see its supernatural breadth and depth. When we have experienced each others’ shortcomings and have acknowledged our own failings, we discover more and more how our married friendship is meant to rest in Jesus Christ. In today’s first reading, Jeremiah warns us against placing all of our trust in what is merely human. Our lasting strength, he says is not in flesh, or in material things, but in the Lord. “Blessed is he who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.” In the New Testament, Jesus establishes and blesses marriage as a sacrament, a moment of meeting God, and a relationship that brings two together as one in Him. Prayer and the life of the sacraments, therefore become the foundation of all we attempt. We live differently because of God. Our poverty, our hunger, our sorrows, need not be obstacles to the fruition of married life. They are, rather, the “Beatitudes,” the moments of holiness and even happiness. With Jesus Christ at the center of your partnership, nothing need diminish your faith, your hope, your love.

Many of you here today, have had an enriching experience in Marriage Encounter, and today we mark also the 40th anniversary of Marriage Encounter as an instrument of renewal and evangelization for marriage and family. I myself encountered M.E. as a theology student and then as a young priest. I remember well in my first assignment how, for several years, I would gather each month with three married couples. One couple was married only five or so years, another for about 15 years, and the third for more than 25 years. You know the process: We would pray, “write and share” our responses, have a good talk and usually share a snack. I am convinced that my participation was a formative grace of my priesthood. I received so much. Some of those friends have died. I think of them often and sometimes have occasion to hear from them and their families. I believe it is true, dear friends, that as we all grow older, we know that our lasting home is in heaven: this is our vision and our ultimate goal. As spouses your vocation is all about getting there, and getting each other and your children to heaven.

Today is Valentines’ Day, a day we often offer affectionate gifts or express the love of abiding friendship. Throughout our two dioceses, we have a wonderful opportunity for us to thank God for Holy Matrimony: the vocation and the sacrament which enriches the world. We entrust our individual families and the institutions of marriage and the family to Mary and Joseph, God’s chosen pillars for the family, and the husband and wife to whom He chose to entrust His eternal Son the Savior of the world. With the help of their prayers, may all we do in fulfillment of authentic marriage give God glory and build up His kingdom.