Marriage is a School of Love and Forgiveness

Homily for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

It is the wish of young people in school and college to complete school and get a job. But there is a sense in which we are in school for the rest of our lives because we never stop learning. I have heard it said that when you marry it is like going back to school again because one learns to love and forgive in marriage.

People want to go back to this second school because as our first reading states, “it is not good that man should be alone.” (Gen 2:18) As the boys admire the girls and the girls admire the boys they remind us of the words from elsewhere in the book of Genesis, “God saw all that he had made and indeed it was very good.” (Gen 1) When the girls look at the boys they say everything God has made is very good and when the boys look at the girls they say everything God has made is very good, and so after some time they get married to enjoy this goodness more fully.

A wedding lasts only one day, but marriage for the rest of life. When a couple gets married, it has been said both go back to school again, the school of marriage. They begin to learn again, to learn to love each other in a deeper way. They join themselves to each other to become one, as our first reading stated (Gen 2:24), without losing their individuality. Becoming one doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that is learned and that the couple becomes better at as they share their married life together. Becoming one means loving each other, sharing their lives with each other, and taking each other into consideration always. Becoming one means getting rid of all selfishness because there is no room for selfishness in marriage. If selfishness is not rooted out or creeps in later on, it is sure to cause problems. If God blesses the marriage with children, then the children are taken into consideration in all that the couple do. So for these many reasons I have heard it said that marriage is a school of love.

When two people get married they bring with them to their marriage normal human weaknesses and discover weaknesses in the other which previously they did not know. This is an opportunity to love the other, heal the other, and forgive the other. There are times when like at the wedding at Cana it will seem as if the wine really has run out, times when they forgive each other and make a fresh start. For that reason I have also heard marriage described as a school of forgiveness.

What I have spoken about up to now the human aspect of marriage would be true of any couple who live together. But marriage in the Catholic Church is much more beautiful. It is not just being partners, not just fulfilling the natural human desire to share one’s life with another, because marriage in the Catholic Church is also a sacrament. Like all the sacraments, marriage unites the couple with Jesus, and brings them God’s blessing. It is not just husband and wife united to each other in marriage; it is husband and wife united to each other with Jesus in marriage.

All sacraments have lasting value, and the sacrament of marriage has lasting value. The couple’s promise to each other is until death, to be faithful to each other always, and that is why Jesus rules out divorce in today’s Gospel (Mark 10:2-16). He said it was not in God’s plan, it was introduced by humans because they lowered their vision of marriage and drifted away from God’s plan for marriage. The couple’s fidelity to each other symbolizes and reflects the faithfulness of God to us his people, the faithfulness of Christ to the Church. God is always faithful to us his people, Christ is always faithful to the Church and the couple’s promise to be always faithful to each other until death symbolizes and reflects the love of God for his people and the love of Christ for his Church. This is another way in which we see marriage in the Catholic Church is a sacrament.

The question is asked, “Is there anything more beautiful in life than a boy and a girl clasping clean hands and pure hearts in the path of marriage? Can there be any thing more beautiful than young love?” And the answer is given. “ Yes there is a more beautiful thing. It is an old man and an old woman finishing their life’s journey together on that path. Their hands are gnarled, but still clasped; their faces are wrinkled but still radiant; their hearts are physically bowed and tired, but still strong with love and devotion for one another. Yes there is a more beautiful thing than young love. Old love.” (Anonymous)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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