Friday, August 12, 2005

MH - The Unbreakable Covenant

The readings for today’s Mass integrate in an interesting and glorious way. The first reading reminds us of all that God has done for His people, and subliminally acts to remind us of how unworthy we are of those gifts. The Psalm takes this one step further, in its reminder that "His mercy endures forever." So not only do we have evidence of His past deeds, we also receive reassurances of His future mercies.

But then we come to the Gospel, and at first it seems a little disconnected. What does this little essay on the permanence of marriage have to do with what we’ve already heard? The answer, as Fr. DeBruycker explained in this morning’s homily, is that marriage is first and foremost a covenant, and in that covenant we see the reflection of God’s covenant with His people. Just as that covenant is permanent – it endures forever – so is the covenant between husband and wife.

We should be used to the various analogies to marriage that we read in the Bible. The Church is the bride, Christ the bridegroom. The virgins and the oil for their lamps, waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. There’s the wedding feast at Cana, and the feast to which all are invited, but which few choose to attend. The list goes on.

And these are not just figures of speech, thrown in there because they make for a good comparison. There’s a very good reason why they’re used – because they serve to underline the covenant that is Christian marriage. The first two readings today drive it home, over and over, that God has formed a permanent covenant with us. In the Eucharistic prayer, we hear Christ’s words describing His Precious Blood – "the Blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant."

Marriage is no less a covenant, and no less permanent. Rather than looking at it as a legal confirmation of a relationship that can, like other contracts, be dissolved at will, we should look at it in terms of God’s covenant with us. Would we want Him to dissolve that covenant just because something we do irritates Him, because we don’t always listen to Him at the table, because we’ve found someone or something new that strikes our fancy? We’d better hope now! (And face it, were He of a mind to do so, He would have done it long, long, long ago.)

But God promised us, and He is bound by His promises. Do we feel the same way about ours? I don’t mean this to sound harsh; many of my friends are divorced and remarried, and I don’t think it was a barrel of fun for any of them. But the staggering divorce rate – among Catholics as well as non-Catholics – tells us we have to start thinking about marriage in a different way. Are we as serious about our marriage covenant as God is about His covenant with us? And while we’re at it, let’s be grateful for God’s mercy, that He doesn’t take that covenant as lightly as we do ours.

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