This past weekend I had the joy to celebrate World Marriage Day and preside over the renewal of wedding vows for 64 couples, including one couple who have been married for 71 years.
It was a beautiful, touching moment for me to pray with these couples and to support them as they are trying to grow in holiness as husbands and wives.
Marriage was also the topic of the archdiocesan Pastoral Council’s annual interregional gathering, which I also attended this weekend.
I am so grateful that the Pastoral Council has been helping me in our efforts to strengthen marriage and the family, which is one of my pastoral priorities for the archdiocese.
We are always continuing to look for “best practices” and always seeking new ways to proclaim the Church’s beautiful vision for marriage.
You will find many excellent resources on our website, located at www.la-archdiocese.org/org/familylife, including a study guide we have developed on Pope Francis’ exhortation “The Joy of Love.”
Marriage is a “mystery” in God’s plan for creation — in God’s plan for human life.
For me, I think this is the most important contribution of “The Joy of Love.” Because the pope helps us to see that, in God’s plan, there is something sacred, something wonderful about the permanent, life-giving relationship between man and woman in marriage.
Jesus declared that marriage existed in God’s plan “from the very beginning.”
And Jesus teaches us that God is the author of every marriage and that he gives every married couple a vocation: to live their love until parted by death, to give themselves in love and to renew the face of the earth with children, who are the fruits of their love and the precious love of our Creator.
I think it is important for us to really provide practical help for couples and families.
We need to strengthen good marriages and good families, and lift them up as models to others, especially to our young people. We need to show our young people how beautiful it is to be married and to start a family — how beautiful it is to share in God’s plan for humanity.
I think it is also important for us to strengthen marriage preparation, looking for new ways to prepare people to be good husbands, wives and parents. We also need to reach out in mercy and understanding to care for those who are struggling in family situations that are complicated.
But, more and more, I have been thinking that we need to restore the sense of “mystery” to our teaching about marriage. We need to help our people understand that marriage is part of something greater than all of us. It is part of the mystery of creation, part of God’s mysterious plan of love.
More and more it seems to me that we need to help people see how the mystery of marriage is tied together with the mystery of human life — the mystery of the human person made in the image of God.
Too often what the Church teaches about marriage gets reduced to rules and regulations. But marriage is a “great mystery,” as St. Paul once said. Marriage is about Jesus Christ and his beautiful plan for our lives.
What the Church teaches and proclaims is the joy of human love, the truth that man and woman are made to come together in an encounter that reflects the love of God and participates in his plan for the human family.
We proclaim that, through the marital union of man and woman as “one flesh,” they are able to take part in God’s own creative power, generating new life, children who also bear the image of God. This is amazing.
God wants us to be his partners, his co-creators. This is why God created the human person in his image as male and female. He calls men and women to share, through the union of their bodies in marriage, in his own divinity and in his work of creation. Through the marital union of their bodies, husband and wife participate in God’s own power, with him creating sons and daughters who also bear God’s image.
In our society, we need to rediscover the authentic meaning of marriage. But, in order for that to happen, in our Church we need to rediscover the mystery of marriage and the place of marriage in God’s plan for creation and for human happiness.
Pray for me this week and I am praying for you. And let us pray in a special way this week for husbands and wives as they seek to live out their vocation to marriage.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for us, that we may all come to new appreciation of marriage and the family as the foundations of a truly human society and culture.