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"Because you have been faithful to God, he has been faithful to you," Bishop Hartmayer tells couples at Marriage Jubilee Mass

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist | Savannah, Georgia

Homily
Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.
Gold and Silver Marriage Jubilee
February 7, 2016
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
Savannah, Georgia

 
Last Sunday, we heard the story of Jeremiah’s call to minister to God as a Prophet. We heard the words of the Lord to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you.”
 
These are awesome thoughts to hear that God has that much interest in each of us personally.
 
This was the passage from the Old Testament that was read at the very first Mass that I celebrated, the day after my ordination almost 37 years ago. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you”.
 
It is kind of overwhelming to think about God knowing us. Before we were born… or even conceived… God knew us. From all eternity, we have been in God’s mind. Our being conceived and born was a result of God’s endless love and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
 
How could anyone use their gift of free will to terminate a human life no matter what the circumstances were in which the fetus was conceived? It is so contrary to God’s will for all human life.
 
What we do with this life that God gave us depends upon the choices we make. God created us with a free will. So we can even reject God’s will and God’s love and we can refuse to answer his call.
 
And with that same free will, we can listen to God’s Word and we can follow his call.
 
The Scripture readings today are all about “call”. God’s call to Isaiah in the first reading, God’s call to Paul in the second reading and Jesus’ call to Peter, James and John in the Gospel.
 
Isaiah considers himself very unworthy of being called by God to be a prophet. He says: “I am a man of unclean lips”… “and I associate with people who have unclean lips.”
 
And the Lord enabled Isaiah to experience a purification, a type of conversion. And the Lord said to Isaiah: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” And finally Isaiah responded: “Here I am Lord… send me.”
 
In the second reading, Paul reminds the Corinthians that: “I am the least of the apostles, I am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
 
But then Paul said: “but by the grace of God, I am what I am.”
 
And in the Gospel, Peter, James and John had been fishing all night. This was their career. They were professional fishermen. But they caught nothing that night.
 
Jesus approached them and told them to go out again with their nets and go deeper. And reluctantly they responded and they caught so many fish they had to call for a second boat to help them.
 
What thoughts or reflections from this Mass are we going to take home with us today? What IS the message that God wants to put on our heart?
 
Today, we have before us jubilarians who are celebrating their 25th or 50th wedding anniversaries. Their love and commitment to each other is really the message and the homily today. They, too, responded to a call to married and family life which strengthens our society and strengthens the Church as well.
 
There was an Irish couple that went shopping one day. The stores were crowded. The wife went into one of the stores on the street and she was surprised when she looked around to find that her husband was nowhere to be seen.
 
She became quite upset because they had a lot to do and she became so worried that she called him on her cell phone and asked him where he was.
 
In a quiet voice he said, “Do you remember the jewelry store we went into about five years ago where you fell in love with that diamond necklace that we couldn’t afford, and I told you that I would get it for you one day?
 
The wife choked up and started to cry and said, “Yes, I do remember that store.”
 
He replied, “Well, I’m in the pub next to it.”
 
My dear jubilarians, you may not have that diamond necklace but you have each other which is far much more valuable.
 
Today, you gather before the altar in this magnificent Cathedral as a striking testimony of what God’s grace, conferred in the sacrament of Matrimony can accomplish in a husband and wife. 
 
The Church and the world today have a great need of the living homily which your example of fidelity and love shows forth.
 
Thank you for your commitment to each other and for not being afraid to cast your nets (your marriage vows) into deeper water and for your personal commitment to Christ and His family, the Church. 
 
Our own personal relationship with Christ, as individuals and as a couple, must be first if we are to be today’s prophets who evangelize the world about the sanctity of the Sacrament of Matrimony.
 
You have been dauntless in the face of many problems and difficulties, known only to yourselves, that could have made your marriage something entirely other than it actually has been.
 
Because you have been faithful to God, he has been faithful to you, and blessed you abundantly and with his help you have been able to accomplish, what you of yourselves without divine aid, could never have accomplished.
 
There is a song in the musical Les Miserables entitled “Take my Hand” and the last verse goes like this:
 
Take my hand and lead me to salvation
Take my love, for love is everlasting
And remember the truth that once was spoken
To love another person is to see the face of God.
 
Thank you for your many years of married life that has strengthened family life; it confirms the definition of marriage in our society and stands strong in fortifying the Sanctity of the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Catholic Church. Thank you for faithfully living that call.
 
May God bless you with many more years of health and happiness and may the Lord grant you his peace.