We read the story of the wedding at Cana in John 2. We look at the image of marriage throughout the Bible, we see it is often used to illuminate God’s intentions for us. In Isaiah 61 and 62 also in the Book of Hosea, we see married love as an image of God’s love for us. Rabbis, Church fathers and spiritual masters have long seen the Song of Songs as an Image of God’s tender love for us. In the Gospel of John, we remember that John the Baptist’s big job is to introduce Jesus, and he uses two images to describe Him: The Lamb and the Bridegroom (See John 1:29, 36; John 3:29). Both are images of the gift of self. The sacred author will bring these two images together at the end of the Book of Revelation (See Revelation 19:6-9 and 21:9-10).There is a movie with Kirk Cameron called “Fireproof.” It is about a firefighter whose marriage is on the verge of splitting up, and he is ready to give up. Then his father gives him a copy of a book called “The Love Dare” which is a forty-day challenge to build one’s relationship with one’s spouse. This is put out by evangelical Protestants, but there is nothing in them to offend Catholics. The book gives the philosophy and explains the challenge of each day. We are reminded that Christians are not called to follow our hearts but lead our hearts. Love in Christianity is not a feeling, but a decision to seek the good of the other. It is not something that we fall into and out of, but something we nurture and build. Feelings are important, but they can come and go, and often they lead us in the wrong direction.The Love Dare has forty different challenges to be intentional about certain virtues involved in marriage. The first is “Love is patient.” Let’s face it, we all need patience, and we all can grow in our ability to be patient. This is about taking a day to focus on being patient with one’s spouse. The next day is “Love is kind.” While patience is reactive, kindness is proactive. One can take a day and look for opportunities to do nice things for one’s spouse that would make that person happy.In our society, many look at marriage as a lifestyle choice based on personal desire rather than a vocation of service and sacrifice based on natural law. The enemy will always present us with inferior substitutes for God’s gifts, and they will seem more attractive at first, but then betray us. If this can help more people to have more successful and joyful marriages, that would be enough reason for this effort, but there is more. When we say that marriage is a sacrament, that tells us that it illuminates God’s love for us and the response we seek to give to God. As we grow in our ability to love other people in relationships, we can gain insight into living the marriage of the Bride and the Lamb, how we can better love Jesus. With some adaptations, the same program could be an exercise in discipleship. As a husband might be extra attentive to being patient with his wife, so a disciple could be patient with God’s people. Or, perhaps, when things go wrong, be patient with the challenges that God allows us to face.As we think of all the joys and virtues of marriage, knowing that earthly marriages are imperfect, we can reflect on how God’s love for us brings all good things to perfection. Accept no substitutes.
Dear Folks,Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. In the Gospels, Jesus goes from His baptism to the desert to fight His own temptations, and then begins His ministry.As we consider what it takes to make a more peaceful world, I’ve been thinking about how people are drawn to violence, hostility, and destruction. I can’t help but think that part of the root of this is many people feeling helpless to make a difference. I know what it feels like to think that the world can make a mark on me however and whenever it wants, but I’m helpless to make a mark on the world. That is a terrible feeling and can lead to desperation.Desperation is a dangerous thing; it can lead to acting out in destructive and irrational ways.I know that lifeguards are trained to approach a drowning person prepared for that person to try to grab them and drag them down. I can’t think of a less helpful thing to do than grab and drag down the very person who is in here to save you, but that is the power ofdesperation.This leads me to think that making a more peaceful word includes helping channel people’s energy toward that which truly addresses their legitimate concerns. Besides, we Christians are in the business of changing the world by the power of the Gospel, so it is an issue for us, and I have a few thoughts.First, we need a sense of what it is that we are trying to accomplish. When we encounter something that is wrong, it is easy to say what is wrong, but harder to build a different reality to replace it. It is common to find people doing a lot of complaining andcondemning, but not as much trying to build a new reality. If we can build a vision, explain it vividly, and be ready to talk about the pros and cons of the idea, that can be more compelling. Jesus talked against sin, but He talked wonderfully and powerfully about the Kingdom, and about the challenges of discipleship. Focusing primarily on what is negative can make us negative people, but a people of joy and hope in the midst of calamity can bemuch more inspiring. How can we who believe in the resurrection of Christ not be a people of hope regardless of what happens in the world?Second, we need to have a deep enough commitment for the task. It is my observation that if we want to do good, we shall find that we have to work harder than we thought, for longer than expected, to accomplish less than we hoped. The prize belongs to those who do not then give up. Jesus warned about the cost of discipleship a number of times, and in Luke 14:25-33 He warns about family, possessions and even one’s life. He asks, “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself onlookers should laugh at him…(vv.28-29).” We must even be ready to work all our lives for something that might not happen until after we are gone. Jesus said, “one sows, another reaps (John 4:37).” Consider those who started the women’s suffrage movement at Seneca Falls in 1848. How many of them did not live to see the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920? And yet, they did not give up. We Christians are called to think in terms of eternity, so the deeper our faith, the more we can outlast the forces of the world.Third, however great the evil we are fighting, we must not use that as license to become evil ourselves. St. Paul encourages “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked generation, among whom you shine likelights in the world… (Phil 2:15).” A text I would encourage you to memorize is, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd [cunning] as serpents and simple [innocent] as doves (Matthew 10:16).”We cannot do this on our own strength. If we want to change the world, the first step is to fall more deeply in love with Jesus. Everything follows from that.