Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Vocation of Marriage

Twenty Seventh Ordinary Sunday Year B

Many people think that marriage is a matter of personal right. They feel that the decision is purely that of the couple. So long as they love one another and decide to marry, that’s enough. No matter what others may say, no matter what the church may teach, no matter what advice we receive from others, we still insist that we have a right to marry. The Church also recognizes the right of the individual to get married. But the Church also requires that the party who wish to marry understand the implications of marriage.

As a priest in this parish and as a judge in the church’s marriage tribunal, I’ve seen so many marriages fail. Some marriages don’t even last for a month. Couples separate weeks, months and just a few years after marriage. When I speak to couples who are separated or who are already divorced, it is always the same story. Many felt that they were not ready for marriage. They had not known each other enough. They had not understood what commitment in marriage is all about. They were more concerned about their own needs and issues. And very often, God was not present in their minds when they decided to get married.

Today’s readings may help us to understand what marriage is all about. I truly wish our young people would listen to the message contained within these readings. I also wish that those who are preparing to get married or their family members will also pay attention to the lessons to be learnt from today’s mass. For couples that are already married, today’s readings will be reminder to you of the commitment you made on the day of your wedding.

First, marriage is not a human institution. Marriage is a divine institution. It is a vocation. Very often, God is forgotten in all the busy-ness of making preparations for marriage. The couples are more concerned with the wedding dress, the dinner, the floral arrangement, the invitation cards and the wedding photos. God and the church is a necessary inconvenience. Many often think that the only reason why they have to see the priest is because they want to get married in church. The only reason why many want a church wedding is because of pressure from family members. In fact, I’ve seen many couples insisting that they want to get married in church but have never stepped into church for the last 10 years and would most likely not step into church again. The wedding has become a sentimental ceremony rather than a spiritual celebration of Gods’ love. I would like to remind everyone here that without God, there cannot be a true union in wedding. It is God who makes marriages possible and lasting. If God is absent from our lives, it would really be very difficult to make the marriage work.

Second, marriage calls for a conversion in the lives of the couples. Conversion must take place because “the two must become one body.” Conversion must take place in order for the couples to die to their selfishness. That is why the preparation is so important. I often hear of complaints from young couples who want to have a quick wedding with little fuss. They don’t seem to understand why they need to go for marriage preparation. Many who attend, do so out of compulsion because the priest tells them that they cannot get married unless they go through the marriage preparation course. Conversion can never be compelled. It must come freely.

Lastly, marriage is about commitment. A lack of commitment is a sign of immaturity. Love is all about commitment. Love is never about feelings and emotions. Commitment means accepting the whole package and not just the parts which we like – “for better or for worse”. Commitment means learning to forgive not only once but again and again. Commitment is more concerned with giving than with taking and receiving. Commitment calls us to change ourselves, not only once, but throughout our whole lives.

Today, family life and married life is under siege. Divorce is becoming a normal everyday occurrence. But the Church’s role, the role of every Christian is to continue promoting married life and family life in spite of the many challenges. Married life is a contradiction to the selfish and self-centred lifestyle of today’s generation. In such a selfish and self-centered generation, people are seen as objects to be used. When they are no longer seen as useful, they are then discarded. I especially appeal to parents to take up this responsibility. Your children will learn from your behaviour. Your marriage will affect your children and their future. If your marriage is in trouble, I hope that you would do something about it. Seek help. Seek counseling. Get the support of family and friends. Don’t wait till it’s too late.

Today, let us pray for all marriages and families. Let us pray especially for the marriages that are in trouble and for broken families. Let us pray for ourselves – whether we are still single, married or divorced – that God would continue to bring healing into our lives so that our lives would be marked with selfless love rather than selfishness.

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