Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges, and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: "If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." But the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods. For it was the LORD, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God."
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the Lord; the lowly will hear me and be glad. (Refrain)
2) The Lord has eyes for the just, and ears for their cry.
The Lord confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. (Refrain)
3) When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. (Refrain)
4) Many are the troubles of the just one, but out of them all the Lord delivers him;
he watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken. (Refrain)
Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
Many of Jesus'disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
Reprinted with permission from ICEL. From Lectionary for Mass. Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved.
Catechism: #1333-1336. United States Catholic Conference, Washington, D.C.: 1994.
The Recipe for a Successful Marriage
In the second reading from his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks about the sacredness of marriage and compares the union of a husband and wife to the relationship of Christ to his Church. Before we delve further into that reading, however, we need to address two questions: 1) why Paul felt compelled to address the whole issue of marriage; and, 2) why he drew that comparison.
First of all, Paul is writing to the Christian community at Ephesus, a city in Greece. In the Greek world, prostitution was rampant. In the Greek civilization of the day, a husband expected his wife to run the home and to care for his legitimate children, but he found his pleasure and companionship elsewhere. In addition, there was no legal procedure for divorce. Therefore, home and family life were virtually extinct and fidelity to a spouse was non-existent. The situation in Roman culture was even worse, if that was possible. In a nutshell, both men and women changed spouses almost as often as they changed clothes.
Against this background, one would expect that the Hebrew faith and Jewish belief in a supreme God would provide some stability. However, this was not the case. The Jews held women in low esteem. In essence, they were considered to be a husband's property with no legal rights whatsoever. In theory, they were supposed to have a high ideal of marriage, but the fact of the matter was that a divorce was pathetically easy to obtain. Under Jewish law, a husband could divorce his wife for any reason at all, while a wife could not seek a divorce from her husband under any circumstances. At the time of our Lord, the marriage bond was in serious trouble even among Jews, because Jewish girls were refusing to marry because a wife's position was so tenuous. (1) Given this lack of respect for the institution of marriage, Paul felt compelled to stress the sanctity of marriage for Christians.
The second question we need to address is why Paul chose to draw the analogy of a marriage to the relationship of Christ to his Church. We should realize that, in creating that analogy, Paul drew heavily on the Hebrew Scriptures, where the union of the Israelites with God is also compared to that of a husband and wife. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezechiel all characterize the covenant between the Lord and Israel as being like a marriage.
But there is also one wonderful, romantic book called the Song of Songs in which God is portrayed as the lover and his people are his beloved. The following verses are just a brief sample of the beauty contained in this biblical book.
- Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm.
Set me like a seal on your heart, how right it is to love you.
For love is stronger than death, stronger even than hell.
The flash of it is a flash of fire, a flame of Yahweh himself.
Come then, my love; come, my beloved.
No flood can quench our love, for love has no end.
Now in ancient times it was not someone's signature which authenticated a document, but their seal. It was the seal, imprinted with a signet ring, which made a document valid, which authenticated a will, which guaranteed the contents of a crate or sack. In this reading then, by setting his seal on us, God has marked us as his own. Earlier in this chapter of John (6:27), Jesus tells the Jews that they must believe in him, because God the Father has set his seal on him. Jesus was telling his listeners that the truth of God can only be found in him, because God has set his seal upon him. He alone is God's truth incarnate, and it is God alone who can truly satisfy the hunger of the soul which he has created with a love which outlasts death. (2) God has created us for him alone, and only in God will we find true happiness, just as a husband and wife should find true love in their union, a love which grows stronger year after year.
Thus, Paul is drawing on biblical precedence when he compares the relationship of husband and wife to that of Christ to his Church. Just as Christ surrendered himself up totally to save us, the members of his Body, the Church, so in the same way, husbands and wives should surrender themselves up to one another, not one over the other, but both sharing equally the responsibilities of marriage. In this way, Paul was emphasizing how sacred the marriage bond should be, how marriage takes Christ's command to "love one another as yourself" to a new level, a level which is as close to divine love as humanly possible.
So let's bring all this down to a practical level for our own situation. We have all probably known married couples who love one another so deeply that you could almost reach out and touch the love that passes between them. It is not an easy thing to attain. But what is it about their marriages which brings about that closeness? Well, if we could analyze those marriages, we would probably find three characteristics which they all have in common and which all begin with the letter "r". The first "r" is for "romance".
- Writer Robert Fulghum once interviewed Alexander Papaderos, director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete. In Crete the custom of arranged marriage continues to this day. Papaderos had stumbled over a concept he found in Western literature. It was the phrase, "Making love." It confused him. "What is making love?" he asked. Fulghum explained that making love was a popular euphemism for having sex. Papaderos replied that for Cretans, "making love" is a serious notion. When two families agree that a son and a daughter would suit one another, it is expected that over time the man and woman will work at becoming compatible partners in the same spirit one might work at achieving competence in a life's vocation. This is making love. Time and experience, mistakes and difficulties, are all part of the equation whose sum is a lasting relationship. Love is not something you fall into, Papaderos explained. Love and marriage are "made." Thus, in Cretan terms, when a married couple have been overheard arguing or fighting, the Cretans smile knowingly and say, "Ah, they are MAKING love." (3)
The point is that romance in marriage is something that we must work at to keep alive. A weekly dinner out or a walk on the beach, flowers at an unexpected time, virtually any special act of consideration will all help to contribute to the permanency of a marriage. So romance is the first "r".
Equally as important is the second "r": respect. We all cherish respect, especially from those we love. This is more true of women than men according to some. They found that the husbands tended to say that their marriages were great regardless of whether or not their wife gave them support and respect. However, when the women who said that they were happiest with their marriage were asked why, they responded that they felt that all of their emotional needs were being met, needs such as respect. We still live in a world that does not accord women the respect that it gives to men. Many women crave the feeling that their opinions really matter and that their spouse is willing to make the same kind of sacrifices for them that they make for their husbands.
- Debi Dietz Crawford, a Colorado elementary school teacher, received an unexpected wedding gift from her third-grade class: they wrote and illustrated a booklet of wise words on love entitled "Advice For a Happy Marriage", which is being released by a major publisher. One youngster advised in the booklet, "My advice is this: if there are two cupcakes and the man takes the one with NOT as much frosting, he loves you." (4) This advice is more profound than it may appear on the surface.
Some of us can remember mothers who would always put themselves last in line. If there was a cupcake that had less frosting, they would make certain that they got it, and that Dad got the one with the most. That is the model for womanhood that many of us have in our minds. Most women ARE willing to go the extra mile for the man they love; but how much more would they appreciate a man who respected them enough to be willing to do the same for them. "Let each one of you," says St. Paul, "love his wife AS himself . . ." Respect.
Romance, respect and the final "r": religion. Studies have confirmed that the strongest marriages are those in which religion plays a part. The divorce rate for couples who are actively involved in their church is minuscule compared to the divorce rate for those with no religious commitment. Or, put another way, you might say that the final "r" stands for a marriage that is "rooted in Jesus". Those marriages are the strongest where Jesus plays a major role.
- Some time ago, there was an article entitled "The Nut That Saved Our Marriage." Now you can't read a title like that and not wonder who that nut was. Perhaps it might be a husband who had a sense of humor that defused situations before they got explosive. Or perhaps it might be one of their children who did something funny to make the couple laugh when situations got tense. Or it might even be a friend who made them see how silly it was to focus on the bad points each had, when they both had so many good points. Well, the answer was none of the above. One day the author was having lunch with her husband and their son, Mike, at their Los Angeles home. Mike was a navy helicopter pilot who was visiting from San Diego. At one point during the lunch, Mike and his father began talking about the helicopter that Mike flew. Mike said: "You know, Dad, as complicated as that helicopter is, its whirling rotor is held in place by a single hexagonal nut." Then turning to his mother, Mike said, "And, Mom, do you know what they call that nut?" His mother shrugged. She had no idea. "I give up," she said, "What do they call the nut that holds it all together?" Mike smiled and said, "They call it the 'Jesus' nut." (5)
If our marriage is in trouble, maybe it's because we have forgotten about the nut that God destined to hold it together. Maybe we have forgotten about Jesus. Maybe we have left Jesus out. Maybe we haven't invited Jesus into our marriage. Our personal relationships with one another need to be rooted in Christ and the commands he has given us. "Love one another as yourself." How especially true for the one to whom we have committed our lives. Romance, respect and being "rooted" in Jesus. THE "recipe" for a successful marriage.
1. The Letter to the Ephesians, by William Barclay. Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pa. 1975.
2. Ibid, pp. 210-216.
3. From Maybe (Maybe Not) by Robert Fulghum, pp. 172-173. (New York: Villard Books, 1993)(Quoted in Dynamic Preaching, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN. 37922.)[Dynamic Preaching is modestly-priced subscription service ($55 by disk or in print) may be purchased through the Homiletic Resource Center or by clicking the link above. But I highly recommend it, if for nothing else than the great illustrations it contains every week!]
4. "Almanac," Life Magazine, March 1997, p. 24. (Quoted in Dynamic Preaching, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN. 37922.)
5. The Nut That Saved Our Marriage, from Illustrated Sunday Homilies copyright 1989 by Mark Link, S.J., pp. 37-38. Resources for Christian Living, Allen, TX. [This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center. For more information, please click on the title above.]
(Copyright 2015 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
August 22, 2021
Lord Jesus, you have called husbands and wives to love one another as they love themselves. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you have called us to love and serve you alone and to forsake the things of this earth. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you alone have the words of everlasting life. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: As God's adopted children, ransomed by the Blood of his only Son, Jesus Christ, we humbly present our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is: "Lord, hear our prayer."
That the Lord will guide and inspire those who have been called to lead and serve the Church, the Bride of Christ, we pray to the Lord.
That through our caring concern, Christ may be present to the sick, the terminally ill and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, we pray to the Lord.
That all married couples may grow in their love for one another by placing the love of Christ at the center of their marriage, we pray to the Lord.
That all of us gathered here may follow the example of Joshua and always decide to serve the Lord, we pray to the Lord.
That all persecuted Christians will be strengthened in their faith and an example to non-believers, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the sight of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Loving Father, you sent your Only Son to live among us and provide us with your words of everlasting life. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to always place these words into action in our daily lives. We ask this in the name of Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.