The Distinctive Qualities of Catholic Marriage – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus is the Messiah of Isaiah Who Brings Redemption

The words of the Prophet Isaiah recorded in our first reading are prophetic both with regards to the Messiah and to us! Isaiah writes,

“Here is your God, he comes to save you. Then [at that time] … the ears of the deaf be cleared. …   [and] the tongue of the mute will sing.”

There is a important connection between this verse and the Gospel today where it comes alive. Jesus lays his hands on a deaf and mute man saying, “Ephphatha, be open,” and the man miraculously regains his hearing and sight. At the same time, Jesus is revealed as the Messiah foreseen in Isaiah’s prayer.

Miraculous Healing of the Whole Person … Perhaps for US Too.
The words of Isaiah written around 800 BC point towards this miraculous healing around 30 AD and still has applications for us in 2012. Jesus is known as a miracle worker for the physical healings that he performed, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. What Jesus is really concerned about is interior spiritual healing that liberates the person from bondage so that they can know God and follow him. In this light, I believe that Jesus is still ‘in business’ and that in some ways, if we are honest, our eyes and mouths are locked shut in need of Jesus’ prayer, “Ephphatha, be open.”

Catholic Marriages are TOO Ordinary
In this homily I would like to direct our attention towards an extremely important area that affects all of us, the Sacrament of Marriage. I fear that our understanding of marriage as Catholics has, at best, been seriously compromised by foreign worldly unchristian ideals or, at worst, has become somewhat of a joke. Startling contemporary reports seem to show that Catholic Marriage is really nothing special. That Catholics live together before marriage, contracept, and divorce at about the same rate as everyone else. This begs the question, which hopefully will be a springboard for further reflection and discussion: What is distinct about Catholic Marriage?

I would like to propose just two ideas that I think make Catholic Marriage special:

1. We believe that marriage consists of three persons, a man, a woman and God. 

Consider this: The biblical figure Tobit is set to marry Sarah who has already been married seven times. On the wedding day of each of these marriages a demon tragically kills each of her husbands. She is cursed. To comfort Tobit who fears for his life, the angel Raphael says to him,

“The demons power extends only over those who enter the married state banishing God from their hearts, and thinking only of satisfying their sensuality. You have nothing to fear, for you enter into this marriage with the proper dispositions.”

To enter into marriage without God as the primary focus is to poison the whole thing. Catholic Marriage means that God is the glue that holds the union together. Perhaps a few good points to consider are: How often do I pray for my spouse? And how often do I go to God looking for inspiration and guidance on how to love my spouse better?

2. We believe that marriage means each person gives of themselves totally and forever to the other. 

A couple were celebrating their golden jubilee and they were asked by their priest, “What’s the secret to the success of your fifty years of marriage?” The husband responded, “Well, you know, my wife and I are both of Irish background, so, for our 25th anniversary, I took her back to Ireland.” The priest remarked, “How thoughtful of you.” And the husband responded, “Yeah, and then, for our 50th, I went back to get her! There’s the key to our success!

Obviously, this story is ridiculous. We know that for a marriage to last it takes a total commitment and, not just 50 or 80% of ones energy and attention, but 100%, all of it! As Christians we look to the example of Jesus and how he loved his spouse the Church, pouring out every drop of blood that he had in him as he died on the cross for her. To hold back, to live a double or secretive life is disastrous for a marriage. To develop habits that speak the words to your spouse, “I give most of myself to you but not all of it,” whether that is by getting caught up in a career, material things, wealth, appearances, or power, it just doesn’t fit with the way we see marriage. Further, it is out of concern for the total gift of self of the spouses that the Church has been sceptical about contraception. There seems to be great hope in NFP both scientifically and spiritually as it respects the gift of the spouses along with the place of God within marriage.

Jesus said to the man, deaf and mute, “Ephphatha, be open.“ We need God and sometimes we need Jesus to say those words over us. For the married, formerly married, and hopeful to be married, I would ask you to consider carefully: what is different about a Catholic Marriage. I believe that there being three persons in the marriage man, woman and God as well as the determination for total self-gift are just the beginning of what is a gold mine of wisdom and insight that our faith can offer to help married couples have the best marriages possible.


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