The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the annual Marriage Jubilee Mass on Sunday, October 22, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.
What is really taking place this afternoon in this Cathedral of St. Thomas More, our diocesan home, as we gather to celebrate this annual Marriage Jubilee Mass, which began in this diocese in 1978? What is really happening as we surround 92 golden jubilarians and 111 silver jubilarians with our prayers, support and grateful affection? Yes, what is occurring here in our midst?
First of all, the Lord Jesus, Who reveals God's love to us, is present among us and He is greeting in a special way each of our jubilarians with a smile of deep love, reminding them that He is as much with each of them now as He once was with the couple at the wedding in Cana, for whose benefit He worked His first miracle at His Mother's request. Yes, the Lord Jesus is saying to each of you jubilarians: "I thank you for remaining faithful to your vocation of marriage these past 50 and 25 years and, with my continuing grace at work within you, be faithful to your vocation of marriage as you continue to journey together as husband and wife." The same Lord Jesus greets as well the rest of us here, urging us to be likewise faithful to the specific vocations He has given us. Finally, Dear Jubilarians, by your presence here and your willingness to renew your marriage commitment today in our midst, and by your living faithfully your marriage these 50 and 25 years, you are saying to every married couple in our society, more by your witness than by your words: "Be faithful to the marriage vocation as God intends it to be."
In today's first reading from the Book of Genesis, we hear what God intends marriage to be: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him. The Lord then built up into a woman the rib he had taken from the man. That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body." As Pope Benedict XVI stated two weeks ago in his Sunday Angelus Message, "the truth about marriage dated back to 'the beginning of creation' when, as written in the Book of Genesis, 'male and female he created them; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one' (Mk 10:6-7; cf Gn 1:27; 2:24). This is God's original plan, as the Second Vatican Council also recalled in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes: 'The intimate partnership of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws: it is rooted in the contract of its partners. God himself is the author of marriage'" (Benedict XVI, Oct. 8, 2006).
So, how do we define marriage? We go straight to back to its creation by God at the beginning of time. Before any religion or any government, marriage was instituted as the union of one man with one woman. As you know, both Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, the Bishop of Richmond, and I, as the Bishop of Arlington, sent together a pastoral letter on marriage and on its implications regarding the upcoming state constitutional amendment affirming marriage as the "union between one man and one woman," and drawing a clear distinction between the public institution of marriage and other voluntary relationships. We wrote: "In our ever-changing and increasingly complex society, the Genesis story brings us 'back to the basics' by reminding us that marriage had a design and purpose long before any nations, religion or law was established." Therefore, we continued, "no religion, government, or individual has the right or the legitimate authority to alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage that has existed ever since the first man and woman were created."
We remind both the Church and society that their role regarding marriage is "one of stewardship, to preserve our Creator's great gift of marriage from one generation to the next." Moreover, we clearly state that "the marital bond is very different than any other voluntary relationship, because of its stability, the environment it provides for the development of families, and the protection it accords spouses and children."
I make my own the words which Pope Benedict XVI spoke two weeks ago: "I thank the Lord with them [you, the Christian spouses here] for the gift of the Sacrament of Marriage and I urge [you] to remain faithful to [your] vocation in every season of life, 'in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,' as [you] promised in the sacramental rite" (ibid.). Dear Jubilarians, Jesus will continue to be at your side, and His Mother Mary will also be there. Follow her advice, "Do whatever He tells you," and He tells you, "love each other and be faithful to your vocation of marriage."
Dear Jubilarians, you too are heralds of marriage, as God intends it to our society. Yes, you are witnessing to the truth of marriage as the union of one man with one woman. You are urging the people in the Commonwealth: "be faithful to the vocation and institution of marriage as willed by the Creator." You are the missionaries of love and life as it is lived within marriage. We thank you and congratulate you and we pledge our prayers to you " for health in mind and body, for inner peace and for a deepening awareness of how much God loves you " today, tomorrow and always.
With you, we shall support and sustain marriage as intended by the Creator, so that "the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin or washed away in the flood" may remain fundamental to the common good of all our citizens and be the foundation of true love and life for every couple and family now and in the future. Again, congratulations! The Lord journey with you all the days of your lives!