June 15, 2007

Go and Make Disciples / John Valenti

Contagious faith, hope and love

June is a popular time for weddings, and my daughter, Katie, is getting married this month. Soon she will be Mrs. Anthony Austin.

“Kate Austin” sounds like a great name.

I am reminded of the wonderful sacramental times that we take on a new name to denote a new identity, a new relationship. I can’t think of a more evangelizing event as when two individuals, out of love for each other, make a covenant in the sacrament of matrimony that is reflective of God’s love for us.

A father wants to pass along all those words of wisdom that ultimately our children need to learn by heart. I can hear them groan, “Oh, Dad!”

But there are a few thoughts that I can share from a lived faith experience that reflect the truth of Scripture and the tradition of our faith. Perhaps it can serve as a resource in your memory when your own daughter gets married some day.

Marriage is a commitment of faith and trust between a man and woman requiring openness of life and thought, free from doubt and a commitment to speak the truth in love to one another.

Marriage is a promise of hope that endures all things with understanding and compassion and a pledge never to give up in despair.

Marriage is a covenant of love in which husband and wife empty themselves of their own concerns, and take upon themselves the concerns of each other as they love and care for one another.

The message for us all is that married love works to imitate and mirror God’s love for us and his tremendous commitment to love his people unconditionally.

When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, he never sets impossible conditions on people before he responds to them. He never asks them to achieve a perfect standard before he accepts them. He loves his people where they are, whatever they have done. He is committed to them for eternity, regardless of their feelings about him.

The Epistle reading from Romans that Katie and Anthony chose for their wedding reads in part: “Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Do not conform yourselves to his age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect”

(Rom 12:1-2).

What is evangelizing about God’s love and your love for one another is the power it has to transform and make new our way of thinking. You inspire us. We don’t have to conform ourselves to anything less than God’s love.

The passage they chose from Romans continues: “Let your love be sincere, hate what is evil, hold on to what is good, love one another with mutual affection, anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, and serve the Lord. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality” (Rom 12:9-13).

As your father, I am convinced of this faith of ours and ask only one thing. I would ask that you build your lives together on something worthy of confidence and this is it: Know that love never fails and that love will always find a way.

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction and persevere in prayer. Build your lives on the tender mercies of God, which are unfailing and never disappointing. It is my hope that you be encouraged by God’s assurance beyond question, and enabled by his Spirit that you will always find his love for you revealed in Jesus Christ.

Thank you for sharing your love with your mother and I and others. Be happy and know that we love you very much.

(John Valenti is the associate director of Evangelization and Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. E-mail him at jvalenti@archindy.org.) †

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