2/09/05 Celebration of Marriage

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
The Annual Mass for Celebration of Marriage
Saints Mary and Peter, Arklow, 2nd September 2005


First of all I think I must say congratulations, congratulations to our jubilarians, especially those who are celebrating 50 and 25 years of marriage.  I congratulate you and your children and in some cases even your grandchildren. The celebration of marriage is very much a family celebration.
25 years is a long time, 50 years an extraordinary time in any life.  I thank God for the gift of fidelity you have received, for the enrichment and support that you have offered each other in good times and in times of struggle.
The tendency today when we talk about marriage and the family is to talk about problems, even about crisis.  Let’s be clear about the fact that the majority of marriages succeed and produce fundamentally happy family environments.  We have to return to the idea that marriage and family are “resource”, they are the fundamental resource for the building of a stable society and they are the fundamental resource for building up Church.
I have launched in these days a new project within the Archdiocese to see how we as Church can serve marriage the family better, what resources we should be offering in terms of preparation and marriage support. I hope it will also look at how we can give realisation to the fact the marriage, as any sacrament, is given for the building up of the Church, that marriage is a vocation, a calling not just for the couple and their own family, but for the entire Church.   It is interesting to see in the New Testament how on many occasions people were converted “with their entire household”, which means with their entire family.  From the very beginning the families were seen as building blocks in the construction of the Church.
I can see something of this reality in our own times in the flourishing of family masses, where parents and children come to Mass together and worship and pray together, often with the children in the driving seat!
We need to restore confidence in the family and in parents especially in their ability to transmit the faith from one generation to the next.  We need to help families to be able to talk with their children about faith and to transmit faith to their children in a lived way.  We need to find new ways – and to restore tried ways – of having families pray together.  I suppose that in many ways parents pray even more intensely for the children today than at times in the past, given the challenges that young people have to face in our society.  Being a parent is not easy.
We have to help our young people to pray.  Prayer is a unique way of refinding a balance in our values in today’s world.   Young people live in a world where they are exposed so early to cramming and to the rat-race of getting on in life, where there is enormous pressure from peers or the exploitation of marketing.  Praying means placing oneself humbly in the presence of a reality that is greater than us and recognising the lordship and transcendence of God.  Prayer is that moment in which we rediscover that the values of life are not the obvious one of the media or society.    Placing ourselves in an attitude of prayer, we recognise the deeper meanings of life.  Prayer is not holy conformity but real revolution in the face of the accepted wisdom that on our own we can do everything.
But as we heard in today’s readings that “something greater” than us is not some anonymous force out there and above us.  God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, a person, a face, a concrete life.  Jesus reveals God in a special way, as love, as a love which sustains and carries us along the right path through our lives.
Of course not all marriages work out and we must be receptive and concerned towards those who take on the enormous burdens of being sole parents, very often having to do the work of two people in being wage earners to maintain family and in caring for children.  We need a society which clearly sets out a vision of family to which young people can aspire with responsibility and optimism, while ensuring that where dreams do not materialise that those who the carry the burdens are supported.
Equally not all marriages turn out to be the dreams the partners set out to realise.  Family can be a place of suffering, of violence and even abuse.  As Church, as men and women who realise what marriage love and family mean, we have to do much more to ensure that young people are prepared for marriage, that they understand the responsibilities which marriage brings with it, that we provide help and guidance when problems first emerge.
Married love as the reading reminds us “is not to be just words or mere talk”. Married love is far from the trivial, fictionalised and idolised.  It is, as the reading stresses, “something real and active”.  That means that married love is something which must be realised day by day, and better understood day by day, purified day be day through mutual forgiveness and renewed sensitivity.
The two readings stress the link between love and truth. The truth of married love, as the Church constantly teaches, is linked with the mutuality of the sexes Church teaching stresses that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman, because this is part of the basic structure of the complementarity of the sexes, something rooted in creation, and not simply a social or cultural construct.   Saying that love and truth are linked also means that love is not based on myth but on concrete recognition of the one we love as other.  Married love is not narcissistic.
Married love is gratuitous, it is not a pact which can be measured and checked out by a bar code, to see that each partner gets as much out of the relationship as they put in each day.  Love means loving and being loved.  Both of these require us to rise above ourselves, to be able to love in moment of difficulty, of anger, even of betrayal, but also to accept being loved and being carried in moments of weakness.
Every marriage has its own history and like any personal history there are moments of which we are proud and moment which we would prefer to forget.  Jesus gave himself totally for us even to the point of giving his live.  In that way he won for us the resurrection, the ability to rise up again and to begin again with renewed hope and with renew love.
We thank God that you have kept alive that love which brought you to the altar 25 or 50 or how many years ago.  May you the love of your children enrich you in the years to come.   May the love of God accompany you, a love that is gratuitous and superabundant, with no limits.