Homily for Ordinary Time 2
January 20, 2019
Invite Jesus Into Your Marriage
A while back, I was teaching a religious education class for seventh graders, and we were talking about the Sacrament of Matrimony. I invited in a couple from the parish who had been married for over 50 years to present about their marriage. They gave a great presentation, and at the end they asked if any of the kids had any questions. One precocious young man raised his hand and asked, “Did you guys ever think about splitting up?”
There was a very awkward pause for a minute, before the wife finally said, “Well, yes, there have been times.”
The husband looked at her with surprise and said, “Oh really? You too?”
Marriage is fantastically difficult. It is also one of the most exciting, joy-filled adventures we embark on. This young couple in today’s Gospel may have run out of wine – a major faux pas – but they actually did one thing very right: they invited Jesus and Mary to the wedding!
As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “It takes three to get married” – the husband, the wife, and God. When you think about what marriage is, it seems impossible from a human standpoint – you put a broken, essentially self-centered man together with a broken, self-centered woman and tell them to live together for life…it’s going to take more than just determination to succeed at this challenge! It’s going to take God’s grace!
And that is the wisest thing you can ever do is invite Jesus to the marriage, as this wise couple did. But how do we do that? Here are some tried and true tips of keeping Jesus at the heart of your marriage – not from me, necessarily, as I certainly haven’t tried them! – but from observing the habits of successful, happy, healthy, holy marriages!
First, pray together with your spouse and kids – daily! We need our personal quiet time, but we also need to pray together. I remember going over my aunt and uncle’s house and before bedtime, everyone would gather together for night prayers. They consisted in saying thanks to God, asking His blessings out loud on everyone they knew, and reading a bit from the Bible. In my own home growing up, we would recite the Rosary regularly as a family. The Church calls the family “the Domestic Church” – the Church in miniature, because the family is a place where virtues are taught and all members of the family can grow in their love for God.
Statistics actually back this up. The divorce rate in our culture is about 35%, but for couples that attend church together, the divorce rate is 10%. If you attend church together and pray together daily, the divorce rate drops to 2%. Grace is not a myth or an idea – it’s a power stronger than glue, which can hold a marriage together and strengthen it, and we desperately need it!
Second, pray about family decisions and stressors. Have you ever prayed about your job, or the new house you hope to move into, or how to deal with your challenging teenager, or what to do about your mother-in-law? Just by taking a moment to invite God into the challenges of your family can make all the difference. We don’t have to face these things alone!
Some of you may be familiar with the story of St. Monica. She was a Christian woman in the late 300s who was in an arranged marriage with an unhappy, pagan husband and a wayward son. She had several options – she could nag her husband, she could leave her family, she could take a stand and force him to move out – but instead, she chose to pray and fast for him, and for her son. For years she wept and prayed for them, even pleading with the Bishop St. Ambrose to help her pray. Ambrose famously told her, “A mother’s tears are never wasted.” Her prayers were answered – her husband converted on his deathbed, and her son gave up his sinful life and became a priest and a bishop…and a saint, St. Augustine!
A similar thing happened to my friend Heidi. Her husband said he wanted out. He was just tired of the marriage, and he did end up leaving her and their four kids for about six months. Many people advised Heidi to seek a divorce, but she believes in the power of prayer. Daily she prayed, pleaded with God to change his heart. I was absolutely amazed when he returned home, repentant and with a deeper love for Heidi and the kids. Her faith is what obtained the grace to save their marriage!
Instead of trying to take on the work stress or difficult children or challenging family stresses by ourselves, why not lift them up to God?
A third thing we can do (don’t worry, there’s only four!) is to love like Jesus loves. Jesus loved sacrificially, laying down His life for us. But that looks very different on a daily basis. A friend of mine was telling me that he was speaking to his men’s group and asking them, “Do you love your wives?” Thirty tough guys nodded and grunted, “Of course we love our wives.” He then asked them, “Would you take a bullet for her?” “Of course,” they responded proudly. “Great,” he said, “Would you do the dishes for her?” They were reduced to a thoughtful silence.
Sacrifice looks different in real life than it does in the movies!
A final thing we can do is to be generous with God. That means making God a priority in your family’s time, making Him a priority in your family’s financial decisions. How much of your family income goes to God? It means being open to life in your marriage, as God may want to give you a generous gift of a new baby – will you be that generous with God? We have to put our money where our mouth is – if we really want to invite Him into our marriage, He has to be a part of our to-do list and our checkbook and our bedroom and every other part of our marriage as well!
Now, I say all this as one who is not married. But I share with you the wisdom of the Church. As Pope John Paul II said, “The Church is an expert in humanity.” Your marriage matters to God, it matters to society, and it matters to the Church. God can make your marriage into something spectacularly beautiful and holy, just as He made boring water into the best of wine at Cana’s wedding feast!