By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
The Bishop drove out to a small town on the edge of his Diocese. He was visiting the parish to confer the sacrament of Confirmation upon the young adults. The pastor of the parish had diligently prepared these folks for Confirmation. Wanting to impress the Bishop in front of the congregation the pastor asked the class a few questions before presenting the young folks to the Bishop.
The pastor turned to a young nervous girl and asked, “What is matrimony. The girl quickly responded, “It’s a state of terrible torment which those who enter are compelled to undergo for a period of time as they prepare themselves for a better world.”
“No, no, no, said the pastor, “that’s not matrimony. That’s the definition of Purgatory.” With that, the Bishop chimed in and said, “Leave her alone, Father. Perhaps the child has seen the light.” This year, World Marriage Day (celebrated on the second Sunday of February-February 11th) coincides with the World Day of the Sick (Feb. 11). The liturgical readings this Sunday are appropriate for both occasions as they provide an opportunity to reflect on the forgiveness and compassion of God who stretches out His hand to heal our wounds when we approach Him with confidence. Marriage and sexuality are gifts that often need redemption and healing.
As a mother was tucking her son into bed one night, she said, “Troy, I love you.” Troy replied, “I love you, too mom.” The mother teasingly said, “No you don’t.” He said, “Yes, Mommy, I do.” So the mother asked, “How do you know it’s love?” The little boy’s response was, “I’m not really sure what love is, bu you make my heart smile.”
What a beautiful definition of love, “You make my heart smile!” Imagine how the hearts of many married people are smiling at the time of their marriage. Oh how we pray that those same hearts are shining brightly with smiles after 10, 30, 50 years of marriage. On this day we uphold the sacred institution of marriage. We congratulate all married couples. We ask God’s blessings upon you as you take each other’s hands and reflect upon-
‘The Hands of Matrimony.’
Beloved wife, take your husband’s hands and look at them” These are the hands, young and vibrant with love, that held yours on your wedding day, as he promised to love you all the days of his life. These are the hands that you placed with expectant joy against your stomach, until he, too, felt his child stir within your womb. These are the hands that looked so large and clumsy, yet they were so gentle as he held your baby for the first time. These are the hands that have wiped tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow and tears of joy. These are the hands that have comforted you in distress, and held you when fear or grief racked your mind. These are the hands that caressed your heart throughout the years, to make the wonder of love come alive for you. These are the hands that tenderly lifted your chin and brushed your cheek as they raised your face to look into his eyes; eyes that were filled completely with his overwhelming love and desire for you.
Beloved husband, take your wife’s hands and look at them: These are the hands that held yours as she gave you her pledge to love you, and accepted your ring on your wedding day.These are the hands that were smooth and young and carefree then, but lined and rougher now from thousands of dishes washed, tons of laundry cleaned, and hundreds of meals prepared. These are the hands that are nicked and burned from irons, hot skillets and pans. These are the hands that held you in joy and excitement each time she said you were to have another child; that together you created new life. These are the hands that have held each child in tender love, soothing them through illness, disciplining them, diapering them, and sewing for them, baking for them and wringing themselves in worry when trouble came. These are the hands that massage tension from your neck and back after you’ve had a hard day. These are the hands that through the years have caressed you in the passion of love. These are the hands that held your face and wiped tears from your eyes, in wonder and awe that you would cry for her.
Beloved couple: These are the hands of the Sacrament of Matrimony. These four hands are your armor and shield against the evils of the world. These four hands are God’s plan for renewing His Church. These are the hands that will reach our to the teenager, bring hope to the lonely, teach the engaged the wonders of married love, heal the abused and hurting children of the world. These hands are the hope of a troubled humanity. These are the hands that will change the world. Amen.
A husband and wife lost their six month old baby while they were missionaries in a third world country. An old Punjabi woman came to comfort the mother. She said, ” A tragedy like this is similar to being plunged into boiling water. If you are an egg your affliction will make you hard boiled and unresponsive. If you are a potato, you will emerge soft and pliable, resilient and adaptable.” The missionary concluded, “It may sound funny to God, but there have been many times when I have prayed, “O Lord, Make me a potato.”
When I fall, He lifts me up! When I fail, He forgives! When I am weak, He is strong! When I am lost, He is the ?’way! When I am afraid, He is my courage! When I stumble, He steadies me! When I am hurt, He heals me! When I am broken, He mends me! When I am blind, He leads me! When I am hungry, He feeds me! When I face trials, He is with me!
During their wedding the bride and groom took two smaller candles and together lit the Unity Candle. A non-Catholic friend of the groom asked his buddy what it meant. “Could it mean, ‘No more old flames?'”
In the Redeeming Christ,
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.