Gn 2:18-24; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16
This man was really lonely, so he posted an ad on a popular website. The ad said, simply: “Wife wanted.” He was surprised the next morning to find he had over a hundred replies in his inbox. Unfortunately, they all said the same thing: “You can have mine.”
“Honey, I’m so sorry that I let out my anger at you so often. How do you manage to stay so calm with my foul moods?” the husband asked his wife. She said “I always go and clean the toilet when that happens.” “And that helps?” “Yes, because I’m using your toothbrush.”
There are two ways to ruin your life, and they pull in different directions. Unless we aim high, unless we strive for what is best, it is unlikely that our life will amount to very much, or that we will really make any difference in the lives of others. If we are going to live well then, we must live with high ideals. But high ideals are not in themselves the whole picture. We must also have hope in times of failure. Because all of us, at one time or another, will fail. We will all make mistakes. Some of us will make disastrous ones. In those moments, our future hangs upon our ability to find hope, to rally our courage and begin again.
Jesus in today’s gospel centers on marriage as a prime example of the call to a high ideal. Even in a society where the divorce rate is 50%, we as a community continue to follow Jesus’ teaching and believe that a life long commitment in marriage is possible. Even though our society denigrates the value of sexuality, we continue to hold that marriage is a sacred union, a life-giving relationship, not only for husband and wife, but for the family and the community that surrounds them and witnesses their faithfulness.
We know that marriage is founded on love, but we also know that marriage is much more than love. Marriage entails more than physical attraction. Sam Levinson, the Jewish humorist, says, “Love at first sight is easy to explain. It’s when people have been looking at one another for 40 years that love becomes a miracle.” We are a community that believes in that miracle. We believe that life-long growth and faithfulness are possible. Yet to reach that possibility, the high ideals of patience and forgiveness and sacrifice must be embraced. We are proud to recognize that there are people here this morning, people that we know in our family and friends who have taken on those high ideals and have made them real.
Marriage then, calls us to live with high ideals. But this is not the whole story. We also know that in this assembly this morning there are those who have tried to live those high ideals and failed. For them, nothing is more important than to find hope in such failure. Our call is to assist them in finding that hope. Our role is to be there for those who have failed in marriage and remind them that even though divorce seems like a death blow, there can and will be life again, and love again, and perhaps even another marriage in which to live the high ideals of lifelong fidelity and love.
We need to be a community that assures those whose marriages fail that God does not reject them, nor does the church excommunicate them, and that there are ways in which we can pastorally resolve a second marriage, and invite them to full Eucharistic fellowship. Marriage then, is a clear example of how we as a Catholic community hold to the highest ideals and are still willing to support one another to find hope in times of failure.
Our faith in Jesus Christ gives us a deep perspective on both ideals and failures. Christians believe in high ideals, because we know that God has created us good and we have the dignity of God’s own sons and daughters. Therefore, we can strive for all that God calls us to be. Yet we as Christians also understand the cross of Christ. The cross tells us that there is always hope, even in our darkest moments, even in our deepest failures. We believe that the final word is not death but life. So let us aim high. Let us never think that failure eliminates hope. Let us strive to excel, but never despair in our disappointments. Let us leap for the stars, always believing that if we fall, God will be there to catch us.