Bishop emphasizes importance of marriage in Jubilee of Anniversaries homily
Catholic Times – 15 July 2018
Bishop Frederick Campbell offered a powerful reflection on the sacrament of Matrimony at the diocesan Jubilee of Anniversaries Mass on Sunday, June 24 at Columbus St. Andrew Church.
Bishop Campbell drew three parallels to marriage and St. John the Baptist, whose solemnity was celebrated that day on the Catholic calendar.
“I don’t know if it ever occurred to you that the feast of John the Baptist was chosen to be celebrated on this day because it is halfway between the two celebrations of Christmas — Christmas celebrated during the darkest time of the year, St. John the Baptist during the high point of light. There’s a lesson here that John the Baptist taught when he pointed that out to his disciples when he said, ‘I must decrease and He must increase.’ As the year increases from Christmas to the birth of John the Baptist, it decreases in length of day.
“The second issue about John the Baptist is perhaps onethat people don’t think about ormaybe have not remembered. John the Baptist met a martyr’s death. And many people assumed that he was martyred by King Herod because of his powerful preaching of the coming of the Messiah, which was taken to be a threat to King Herod. But that was not why he was martyred. He was martyred for the defense of the truth of marriage, when he preached opening about the invalid marriage of King Herod to his sister-in-law, Herodias.
“There’s a third reason. That is, John the Baptist sensed a mission to his prophetic call. Now, in the Christian understanding, John the Baptist is the last in the line of the Old Testament prophets. All of the prophets really came toward John the Baptist. But it is not that in particular what he preached is important but the fact that he shared in the gift of prophecy. Now, all Christians by their baptism participate in the threefold ministry of Jesus Christ: priest, prophet and king. And it is in John the Baptist that we see that mystery of prophecy.
“And a prophet is not really someone who is telling the future. A prophet in the Biblical sense is one who is called by God to preach a truth to those may have forgotten it. And to preach it not only with their words but with the very character of their lives. And their lives became a symbol of their prophetic mission.
“You may notice in our first reading Isaiah prophesied the coming of John the Baptist by talking about how carefully God prepares his instruments. From the very beginning Isaiah said I have shaped you. I have called you to his mission … especially in the case of John the Baptist, we are called to do something that we may not see the result of. John the Baptist was called by God to announce the coming of the Messiah. But John did not know when or where or who. In spite of that, he was true to his prophetic mission. That’s something for us to remember about the great sacrament of marriage.
“I suspect that very few who are celebrating these marvelous anniversaries are now in the place where you planned to be when you were first married. But all down that that path there has been a guidance, a presence. And we talk about all sorts of programs for marriage preparation and so forth. But we sometimes forget that marriage is the entrance into a sacrament. It is in fact intended to be a channel of grace from God for his people. That husbands and wives in the exchange of vows become ministers to one another and to their family and to the world. And that sacramental reality has an extraordinary meaning not only for the Christian faith but for the whole world. If you look through sacred scripture, you will find numerable passages that use marriage as a sign of God’s work in this world.
“From the very beginning, the writers of scripture used marriage to indicate love of God. That sin became a kind of breaking of the marriage vows. For God is always faithful to his promises and he wished that marriage would become a sign of that gift to each other. In fact, St. Paul tells us that marriage is a sign of the love of Jesus Christ for his church. That’s why I touched upon John the Baptist as a prophet and fulfilling a prophetic mission. Men and women, husbands and wives, are called to be prophets. They are called to be prophets by how they live and how they relate to the world around them. How the promises they first made at their wedding endured, blossomed and bore fruit, and in that way spoke to the world that Jesus Christ is here. And his love of the Church is symbolized in his blessing of marriage.
“In the first 19 years of my priesthood I suspect I witnessed more than 220 marriages. And I used to try to follow them all, and I discovered a few years ago, that of the 220-some marriages, only three of them did not last. And I would consider that not my achievement but the achievement of the Lord. But over those 19 years I began to notice how the people coming to me for marriage had changed.
“When I was first ordained I used to get very young couples, 18, 19, 20 years old, who were deeply in love with each other. In fact, in talking to the couple, in one instance raised the issue that neither of them had jobs. And they looked at me and said, but Father, we’re in love with each other. And I said, yes, but have you planned where you’re going to live? No, but God will show us the way. And you could see stars floating between them as they looked at each other.
“As time went on, the couples became older. And I remember a couple in their early 30s, never been married before, very successful careers. And as we talked about preparation, I realized their challenge was living as a couple. And I swore I was presiding over a business merger, as they began to talk their individual investments, their properties and whatnot. But in all instances, I wanted to talk about the sacramental reality, the fundamental meaning of marriage between a man and a woman. For when we exchange those vows at your wedding, you accepted a mission from the Lord Jesus Christ. The whole idea of being in love changes and matures. It changes and matures because of the challenges, the difficulties of life.
“I once asked my father, why did he and mother got married in the worst year of the depression. And he said, your mother and I thought it was about time to raise a family. Now, of course, that made me feel good that they wanted children from their family. But I remember later I was with my father – I must have been 14 at the time – and someone asked him, well, what do you do for a living? And he said, ‘Oh, I raise a family.’ The man looked at my father as if he’d slipped a disc. And my father said, ‘Oh, you mean how do I earn my money.’ A powerful witness that he gave us. I sometimes wonder how my parents survived our childhood, five boys in the family. And as you know, people will tell you, girls bring drama, boys bring destruction. And I and my brothers fulfilled that description. But in all of that, it was my mother and father simply looking toward each other, looking for the future.
“My dear friends, as I celebrate with Mass with you, I ask you to remember John the Baptist, accepting your prophetic mission as married indi-viduals. I’d like to thank you for the years of your fidelity, for your steadfast faithfulness to your vows and for your marvelous expression that the knowledge of Jesus Christ is always with you. What a powerful work and what a wonderful word you speak to our culture. I thank you.”