Homily for Golden Jubilee Mass of Married Couples
My brothers and sisters,
Marriage is a mystery and a great mystery at that. A celibate like myself has to look at marriage from the outside, but even from there I would still call it a great, great mystery. I respect marriage enormously because of the incredible good it does for society, and the tragedy that would happen if we were to underestimate its magnificence in our secular society and allow it to break down, without realising the negative implications that would happen to our culture and society. I talk about the mystery of marriage because it was my privilege in the earlier years of my life as a priest to accompany my parents on car trips around Australia and an overseas visit in 1975 to Italy, England, and Ireland. Thankfully all this happened two years before my father’s death in 1977 and nine before my mother’s in 1984. The trips were among the great experiences of my life because their intimacy helped me understand my parents much better than knowing them from a distance. I shared their laughter and marvelled at their arguments, as simple as who ordered the bacon and eggs in Ireland in 1975, or who bought the ticket that won their first prize in the golden casket in 1962. I will never forget my father standing in St Peter’s Square in Rome, eyes full of tears, as he saw the Pope for the very first time. At St Paul’s, outside the walls, I remember him, mouth open marvelling at the magnitude of the Basilica and asking himself “How on earth can I possibly tell the boys back at the Country Club, Stanthorpe about the size of this Church. They just won’t believe me.” Or in Ireland when he tried to speak and was stopped constantly by his cousin little Din Kelly who prefaced everything my father said with the words “I know”. My father put up with this for a long time before he eventually burst out impatiently, “Dinny you just don’t know what I am about to say because I haven’t told you yet.” Later, after little Din had told my mother that she was “smashin”, she quietened my father by telling our Irish relatives that my father had all the brains but she had the common sense, leaving no one in doubt about what was the most important. As I pray to my mother and father now I still apologise to them for unknowingly in London taking them to see a new movie called “Last Tango in Paris”, which pleased my father immensely but shocked my mother just as much, almost causing her to start smoking again. However above all, what fascinates me about marriage is the love that holds marriage together. The key to all creation is love, God’s love, that brings us into existence and holds us in existence. That same love from God holds a married couple together through the thick and thin of marriage, and does that for a lifetime. Love is God’s fascinating gift to all of us – but particularly to married people. It is there when a couple fall in love, and then over the years changes into an unshakable friendship that deepens from year to year. That love between man and wife trickles down through the power of God’s Holy Spirit to children and grandchildren, filling them with dignity and hope, that otherwise might not have been planted in their hearts and minds. The bond of love between husband and wife influences for the better not only their own children but also all those people with whom they come in contact.
One of the first marriages I celebrated as a priest happened in Goondiwindi in 1962. I have never ever forgotten the words of the bride. They were unique. She said “Father I am not interested in the least in the trimmings of the marriage, because I want to focus only on the sacrament”, truly amazing words. When you married, God gave you the power of the Holy Spirit that strengthened you always for a lifetime of union which is really a miracle of grace. Mentioned today in Colossians Paul reminds us all that we are baptised into Christ and filled with new life. Without that new life none of us could possibly be linked to Christ and through Christ to each other. Not unlike Colossians the gospel reminds all people individually that we need to build our lives on Christ, or when people are married to build their marriage on Christ, and their family on that same foundation. Today you are celebrating remarkable years of marriage because you are built upon the rock that is Christ. Once you know who Jesus
Christ is you will never go astray as you have proved today. So my dear married people congratulations on what you have achieved over many, many years. May God bless and reward you both for the good that you have done. Like St Paul you have “run the good race” and “almost finished the course”. Finally what I would like to say to you today as St Paul also said to his followers “You are living saints”, and indeed what lies ahead for you is the crown of glory given to those who love God. Congratulations once again on this celebration. May God bless and reward you always and may Mary, the mother of Jesus continue to be your inspiration and prayerful support in the years that lie ahead.
Archbishop John Bathersby
October 3, 2009