We should encounter Jesus through our spouse

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Feb. 21 in Hot Springs Village for couples married 50 or more years.

I want to thank you for your flexibility in rescheduling this Mass, which was originally set for Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. The reason I asked to reschedule it was that this was my Dad’s first Valentine’s Day since the death of my mother and I wanted to be with him because I figured it would be a hard day for him.

As it was, we had Mass and brought flowers to the cemetery. We prayed over her grave and talked a lot about their 63 years of marriage. It wasn’t such a hard day after all, because Mom was very much present in all we did that day.

In retrospect can you see the hand of the Lord in coincidences that couldn’t have happened merely by chance?

I pray that when the time comes for your spouse to return to the Lord, that your first Valentine’s Day apart will be like that. In other words, separated by death but not really separated at all. Your vows were “until death do us part” but a spouse of many years never really leaves.

On Valentine’s Day I asked my Dad two questions about his marriage to my mother and it occurs to me on this day when we celebrate your marriages, that you might benefit from asking these same questions to each other. So here goes:

  • What was there that so attracted you to your spouse that you realized that this was the one? Maybe it was simple: You were ready to marry and she was in the right spot at the right time. Or did someone who knew you well arrange for the two of you to get together? Did you spot her across a crowded room, like in the movies? Or were you rebounding from a traumatic breakup and this was the lucky guy who caught you? What method did Jesus use to get the two of you headed to the altar? Even if you weren’t aware of it at the time, in retrospect can you see the hand of the Lord in coincidences that couldn’t have happened merely by chance?
  • When were the times when you and your spouse felt closest and most deeply in love? The day your first child was born? You felt so helpless: she was so vulnerable and in so much pain and you were crazy with worry and your heart was in your throat? Or during a time when he who had always been so strong was struck down with cancer and now fighting for his life. You did everything you could to make him comfortable and wanted to do so much more, but could only accompany him on the journey into a very uncertain future, praying that it would go into remission.

You found you could do this because the two of you had long since become one, and so whatever he was going through, both of you were going through.

Many couples find that in retrospect, the love they felt in courtship was shallow compared to the much deeper love that grew step by step as they shared the joys and adversities of many years of married life together. Much more in love at 80 than they were at 50 or 30 or 18.

The first reading in today’s Mass taken from Proverbs 31 was also the first reading at my mother’s funeral last April. In it the author describes “the woman of worth.”

In this passage the ideal woman is described through her activity as a wife. She and her husband are united in all that regards the home. He provides well and she runs the household well.

These were traditional roles, but in each successful marriage the couple works out the specifics of how this will play out in practice in their home.

In our family we always knew that Dad was the head of the family and that he did whatever Mom said. I’ll bet that some of you who are participating in this wedding anniversary Mass had a similar set up.

In any event, if your marriage is truly a sacrament, you should be able to encounter Jesus in your spouse. He brought you together, he kept you together and he has sometimes helped you to carry a cross together.

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