Thursday, August 11, 2016

BETTER NOT TO MARRY?


Homily for August 12th, 2016: Matthew 19:3-12.
        Once again, we hear Jesus’ telling his friends that marriage is lifelong, and can be ended only by death. What about Moses’ permission for divorce, Jesus’ hearers ask? That was never part of God’s plan in creation, the Lord responds. It came about because of your sinfulness. Shocked by the rigidity of Jesus’ teaching, his hearers suggest that perhaps it is better, then, never to marry. No, Jesus responds, the single life is not for all. It is reserved for those who freely choose to forego marriage “for the sake of God’s reign.” For most people God’s words in the second creation tale (Genesis 2) apply: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
        We tell engaged couples preparing for marriage that “it takes three to get married.” I used to think that the reason for that was because the problems which will arise when two grown up sinners, previously independent, decide to embark on life in double harness, they will encounter difficulties which they can overcome only with the help of the Lord God. That is true. But there is a further and more important reason why it takes three to get married: because no human relationship, no matter how intimate and filled with love, can ever fully satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts. We are hard-wired for God.
        That is why there is so much loneliness in the world: because people, whether married or single, fail to seek their deepest desires from the only one who can fulfill our heart’s hungers – that is the Lord God. Mother Teresa use to call loneliness “today’s greatest suffering.”
        A seminarian asked me recently: “Are priests lonely?” “Johnny,” I told him, “everyone is lonely at times. Married people are lonely. Loneliness is part of the human condition. Loneliness comes about because no human relationship can ever completely satisfy the deepest longing of our hearts: not the perfect marriage, not the ideal friendship – and how many people have found the perfect marriage or the ideal friendship?”
        Are we doomed, then, to be always lonely? Not at all. There is One who can fill that empty place in our hearts. He longs to do so. But he will never force himself on us. He waits for us to open the door, to invite him in. An evangelical hymn says it best:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus / Look full in his wonderful face, 
and the things of this world will go strangely dim / in the light of his glory and grace.