27th Sunday B Realities Beyond
The Gospel for this Sunday brings back many memories – of preparing couples for marriage and of being with spouses on the loss of their life partners. And when I hear again those words of Jesus – They are no longer two, therefore, but one body – I remember the grief of one woman on learning of her husband’s death: “In that awful moment I finally grasped in my bones the reality of those words. Half of me had been torn off, and what remained was pouring out onto the floor in a pool of tears.” A couple, on their 25th wedding anniversary, spoke of their love and their three children, and referred to their house as “a home more than a physical dwelling place”. Marriage brought them “home.” I wonder if home is something even more than where the heart is.
Marriage points to realities beyond itself. It points towards the ultimate mystery of life, to the inexhaustible source of loving we call God. The core and central message of Jesus is the unconditional love of God for each one of us. This is the deepest level and richest context for marriage between Christians, though it’s a level that doesn’t always receive due attention. In our culture of marriage breakdown and easy divorce, many of those preparing for a church ceremony have not been regular churchgoers and are more focused on getting the legalities and church paperwork done, and talking about the ceremony itself than they are centered on the spiritual core of the sacrament, God’s love for them.
There are people who have a sense of what it feels like to be loved by God. Others might get it intellectually or even sense it in their hearts, but a real union of the soul with God happens at a deep level, when a person experiences being overtaken by God’s love. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, – when the incomprehensible Mystery we call God, the Reality of all reality, the Life of all life envelops a person. God is the Reality that is utterly present whether we advert to it of not. To be mindful of this is to feel the touch of eternal life – cf. John 3:16. Most of us, however, feel something of Jesus’ chiding of Philip at the Last Supper: Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? – John 14: 9.
The sacrament of marriage can be celebrated with or without Mass. However, to celebrate marriage during the Eucharist allows for the full symbolism of the Mystery of God’s Love to be on display. The Roman Missal describes it as the Great Sacrament. It challenges us to deepen our fidelity to one another and to Christ as members of his One Body, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. This is intolerable language. How can anyone accept it? complained many of Jesus’ followers – John 6: 60. It is a hard saying for all of us, not just those struggling with marriage. It’s a saying that invites us to dig deeper into prayer and be torn by the sufferings of our sisters and brothers in Christ, as flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone.
Fr. QQ – 09/29/2021
Prayer lets the awareness of God’s love
become ever more alive in our hearts. – Donal Dorr