Bishop David celebrated the annual Diocesan Mass for Marriage and Family Life on Saturday 30 September. As part of the celebration, Bishop David presented certificates to those couples celebrating a significant anniversary including one couple celebrating 64 years of marriage.
Here is Bishop David’s homily from the Mass:
Today is a special moment in the life of our diocesan family. We are celebrating the covenant relationship to which most disciples are called, the vocation to marriage and family life. It is good that we do this. In recent years, Pope Francis has invited the Church to reflect upon our understanding of marriage and family life within two synodal gatherings. His reflection which followed these meetings is called Amoris Laetitia, the Joy of Love. It is clear from this text, that the Church’s pastors are invited to accompany married couples with pastoral compassion and an openness to discern the Lord’s will within the challenges which married people experience within their striving to live as disciples of Jesus today.
Pope Francis has a beautiful way of expressing the heart of the marriage relationship. He writes, ‘With a gaze of faith and love, grace and fidelity, we have contemplated the relationship between human families and the divine Trinity. The word of God tells us that the family is entrusted to a man, a woman and their children, so that they may become a communion of persons in the image of the union of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ (AL 29)
I would encourage you to read the text for yourselves. It certainly does not look at the world through rose-tinted glasses. The Holy Father is only too well aware of the challenges facing married couples and family life today. At the same time, there is the awesome awareness of what we behold when we see a married couple, hand in hand at the beginning of their honeymoon, or perhaps later in life, sitting together, not saying too much to each other, but devoted and loving, not needing to express in words the profound bond of communion that is their marriage relationship.
And as always, when we gather together to celebrate the Eucharistic presence of Jesus amongst us, his dear friends, his brothers and sisters, we listen to the Scriptures. This word is sometimes challenging. It may stand uncomfortable against the feelings we have on an occasion such as this. So let’s reflect for a moment on the Gospel we have just shared together. The people are filled with admiration for what the kingdom of God looks like. It is exciting to see the signs of the kingdom, the miraculous signs, the teaching which has authority, the ways in which the word of Jesus casts out the demonic and brings new life and fresh hope. So why does Jesus change the mood with just a few words?
Our Lord is speaking to his disciples when he says, ‘The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.’ Of course, they do not understand what Jesus is talking about. Why are they afraid to ask him about the meaning of this? It may be that they do not want to think about what this could mean. It may be they are frightened of what this involves for them, having invested so much in their relationship with Jesus.
If we are going to understand marriage as the image of the Blessed Trinity, then we should dig into these words of the Gospel. Jesus is of course speaking of the cross. And it is to this place the Lord would have us stand, to discover the meaning of discipleship and the paradox of the new life offered to us in the crosses we carry in our lives today.
Many of us have been brought face to face with our own crosses. We have chosen to stand before the length and breadth, the height and the depths of the cross of Jesus, and not to run away. The challenges of parenthood can sometimes be overwhelming. The demands of patience and perseverance when our relationship is wearing thin, these are the places where we experience what Jesus means when he speaks of being handed over, to go where he would rather not go. And it is through our standing in these places in our own lives, we begin to experience the life of the resurrection too.
In the first reading, we heard the rather strange image of a Jerusalem without boundaries, the holy city which cannot be measured. When we celebrate the many years of married life present in the Cathedral today, we are entering into the mystery of the holy place. We are gazing upon the life-giving mystery of a love without limits, a loving relationship which cannot be measured, but one which truly follows the love of the Lamb of God to the Cross.
With these reflections to encourage us and to deepen our understanding of your sacramental covenant, I invite our married couples here to renew the commitment they made to each other on their wedding day.