Homily for August 26, 2011, Friday of the XXI week in Ordinary Time
If we were to take a poll to ask people what makes someone holy, we might get a variety of answers. Some people would focus on the importance of prayer, others on doing works of charity for the poor, and still others on bringing the Gospel to people who do not know Christ. These are certainly all facets of the road to holiness, but St. Paul brings up another important element in today’s first reading. He says it is God’s will and our path to holiness that husbands and wives treat each other with honor and respect, with true Gospel charity, not taking advantage of each other, but building each other up in Christ.
That is certainly easier said than done. It’s normal that there be tensions at times between husbands and wives; marriage means putting together two people who have different personalities, different family traditions, often different preferences and backgrounds. There is not always the same willingness to compromise on the part of both spouses, and there may be different levels of commitment to living a life of faith and religious practice.
But marriage is not aimed at eliminating the differences between husband and wife. It is about two people loving each other and giving themselves to each other, learning from each other and adapting to each other. Some differences are enriching; others are an opportunity to practice self-sacrificing love. Either way, they are opportunities to grow in knowledge and love of each other and of God. It’s also an invitation to remember that God gave Himself completely to us, in a relationship that St. Paul also compares to marriage. God loves us with all our defects, because He also sees all the good in us. He loves us so much that He gave His life for us. And so we must also love each other.
Those of us who are not married or who are widowed or separated from a spouse are not left off the hook. We are all called to love and sacrifice ourselves for others, and to treat everyone with honor and respect, not as means to achieve our own selfish goals, but as equals, whose salvation is as important to us as our own. May God help us all to approach this lofty ideal of love closer each day, helping each other, so that we will all be found ready and waiting when the Lord comes as the bridegroom of the Church to usher us into the wedding feast of heaven.