Guest Commentary: The love of husband and wife
September 2nd, 2009
By Bishop William J. Justice
If I would ask you where do you meet God? Where do you deeply sense his presence? I am sure I’d hear many unique answers. Some may say, “I meet God when I walk the beach along the Great Highway or at Stinson Beach. The power of the waves and the salt air give me a sense of God’s majesty.” Others may say, “I meet him when I’m hiking along a trail in Marin, or when I walk through a grove of Redwoods, or in the majesty of the High Sierra.” A further response could be in the love of family and friends. And some may respond, “In the quiet of prayer and the scripture.” God meets us in many ways.
In the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, we hear of a very special place where God meets us, touches us: it is in the love of husband and wife. The author of Ephesians is reflecting on the love of husband and wife and he sees in this relationship Christ’s love for his Church, his body: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her…that he might present to himself the Church in splendor.”
As Christian married couples care for one another, struggle to grow in the oneness of love, share the healing power of forgiveness and service they are living the love of Christ who does the same thing for them and all the members of his body the Church. This mutual love in marriage brings about the fulfillment of the challenge of the book of Genesis, “…the two shall become one flesh” and is the image, or as we might say today, is the sacrament, of Christ’s union – presence – with us as members of his body the Church.”
This is an incredible reality, especially because the daily routine and challenges of marriage can begin to dull the realization of how intimate is the marriage relationship not only between husband and wife but also between Christ and them, and the power of their Christ – like love to help us to see and touch the selfless love of Christ for us.
God can be found in the sea, in the mountains, in the events of our lives, in prayer and quiet and in the presence of those who love us. This profound daily presence is also revealed to us in the day in and day out faithful presence of husband and wife to one another and family.
The Letter to the Ephesians states that this is a great mystery. Remember that Greek was the language in which the Christian Scriptures were written. In Greek, “mystery” has a much deeper meaning than in other languages. It does not necessarily mean a mystery novel revealing who committed the crime. Instead, it means that the reality of which it speaks is a mystery that is so profound, so awesome, that you can never come to fully understand the reality. But, and this is very important, you can understand something of it. Love itself is a mystery. We can never fully understand why we fell in love with a particular person, but we know we have and rejoice in it. Husband and wife will never touch the limit of their love for one another if they are open to one another, but they do know they can sense the mystery by continuing daily to say “yes” to one another.
Ephesians is telling us that we will never touch the limit of Christ’s love for us because there is no limit. Yet in viewing the journey of the love of husband and wife we touch, have a taste of, this limitless divine love. What a profound and wonderful mystery!
As the people of God in today’s first reading and the disciples of Jesus in the Gospel, we say “Yes” to the mystery of God’s love and the presence of that love in our lives, especially in husbands and wives. We join Saint Peter and declare, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” You, Master, are love.
Jesus offers us himself in the Eucharist. Let us prepare to take, bless, break and receive the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice so we might be faithful to our commitment to follow him: to hear the words of eternal life, which we see, here on the altar and in the love of husband and wife.
Most Reverend William J. Justice, Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, delivered this homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time at St. Anne of the Sunset Church and St. Monica Church in San Francisco.
From September 4, 2009 issue of Catholic San Francisco.