October 12, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Wedding jubilarians are a beacon of hope for youth

One Sunday last month, SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis was overflowing with couples from all around the archdiocese.

It was our annual celebration of the golden wedding anniversary of folks who came from far and wide to be present.

Actually, a good number who came had been married 60 plus years. Most were accompanied by family members. I think it is one of the most wonderful annual liturgical events because there is so much joy and a sense that God’s grace is awesome.

The celebration of the golden years of marriage is so timely. By our baptism as Christians, we are called to live the love and mercy of Jesus in a time when it has never been needed more. Celebrating the golden years of self-giving in marriage could never be more valuable!

Over and over, we hear stories of broken promises. Some ask, are there any true stories and believable tellers of the story of Jesus? Men and women, especially our youth, are tired of broken promises and begin to wonder if promises can be kept by anyone. A university professor told me that the greatest worry she finds among her students is whether or not they can have a happy marriage that lasts. Our golden jubilarians are examples that there can be lasting marriages.

That afternoon in mid-September, we celebrated the simple beauty and the life-giving power of golden years of keeping promises. And yes, we acknowledged that fidelity is hard work, at least sometimes.

Our youth who look to us for spiritual and moral direction and support must see that fidelity is possible. We, their older sisters and brothers, their parents and grandparents and religious leaders, are challenged to tell a careful story of the unbroken promise of Jesus for which people can live and hope. The golden anniversary of marriage is a life-giving beacon of hope for our society, especially our youth.

Of course, no one can live our call to be holy perfectly, but we need to celebrate the simple fact that, as best they could, our anniversary couples have done what they were called to do on the day of their marriage. They are witnesses to the fidelity of Jesus. Their lives together in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, are a witness not only of the possibility but the fact that with the grace of God we can keep promises for life.

If our couples were to tell their stories, I am sure we would have a tapestry woven with beautiful threads of joy mixed with dark threads of pain, sorrow and heartache. Yet their stories would form a beautiful tapestry.

In fact, I suppose the details of life past are not so important. We celebrate golden wedding couples because the tapestries of their lives portray Gospel success, Christian success. We don’t measure Christian success by wealth or by what it cost.

To do so misses an essential point of the story of Jesus and our life of discipleship. Christ’s is a story of promise, yes—but it is a promise of life reached only through the reality of the cross. And so the life of a Christian, the story we live in faith, is not a success story in the eyes of many people.

Maybe the most eloquent message our anniversary couples give us is their surrender to the cross in the stuff of everyday life. Who can measure the spiritual power of the courageous and uncomplaining sacrifices in the life of parents? Our Christian parents and all of us Christians live in the difficult days of a society turning more and more to secular materialism where family wealth becomes more important than family love.

It is apparent that couples who have been blessed with a marriage that thrives in its golden years have been given God’s grace to make it work. But it is also true that they accepted that grace. In a sense, they accepted God as a mutual third party in their marriage. They are couples who kept the faith and did that in prayer.

I asked our jubilarians to continue to take all that comes their way in their golden years to prayer, together and alone. I told them that we need them as a tremendous powerhouse of prayer. Our youth need to see us older folks pray in Church and at home.

Our youth also need us to witness to a steady love for our Church. They need help to understand that the sacraments of the Church sustain us in faith, hope and charity. They need to see that we are confident in God’s grace and we are willing to place ourselves in his hands, especially in difficult times. God bless you parents and grandparents! †

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