Preached at Transfiguration Parish on February 9 for the 100th Anniversary of Transfiguration Parish Celebration of World Marriage Day on the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A at the 10:00AM Mass
Good morning! I am Deacon David Miller from Holy Sepulcher Parish on Route 8 south of Butler. I was ordained in June of last year. I would like to thank Father Jim for allowing me the opportunity to serve Mass with him today and for giving me one of my most truly pressure-filled moments: preaching about marriage to my wife Karen and my in-laws, Tom and Edith Jenkins.
I should also say, “Happy World Marriage Day!” as you celebrate one hundred years of marriages at Transfiguration Parish. World Marriage Day is a gift from the Church to us, a day to celebrate marriage and the family. Welcome to all the married couples and thank you for being with us today as you renew your wedding vows. World Marriage Day is special gift to the men of the Church because it usually falls just before Valentine’s Day, so it serves as a warning to us that we only have a few short days to finish our shopping and our preparations for a romantic day with our wives.
My wife Karen and I were married at Transfiguration in 2001 by Father Habe, her parents were married at Transfiguration in 1960, and a number of her relatives as well, including her great aunt and uncle who have been married 73 years. Those weddings happened in the old church, but this new church is really nicely done! What a great job you have all done in making this a wonderful worship space!
A young man entered a barbershop and happily announced, “I need a haircut because today I am getting married.”
The gentleman working there smiled, offered him a seat, and said, “Congratulations! That’s wonderful!”
“I can’t wait,” said the young man. “She is the light of my life. Our life together is going to be perfect,” and then he asked the barber, “Are you married?”
“Oh, yes. Me and the missus have been married for almost fifty years now.”
“Really? How did you do it?” he asked, looking for any tips that might help his own marriage in the years to come.
The barber replied, “I treated her with respect and I took her on special trips.”
“Trips where?” asked the young man.
“Well, for our 25th anniversary I took her to China.”
“Wow! That’s really nice! What are you going to do for your 50th anniversary?”
“I’m going to go back and get her.”
That story is funny because it illustrates a certain level of truth about marriage that anyone that has been married for any length of time can testify. If you want a marriage that is free of complications, difficulties, and disagreements, you pretty much have to have no contact with your spouse, live in separate houses, even on separate continents, like in the story I just shared with you. You never hear a couple that has been married for any length of time say, “We never fought once,” or “Everything has been perfect.” But like the young man in the story, many people believe that is what their marriage will be like, that they will “live happily ever after” without any problems or troubles. That is certainly far from reality.
But because all marriages in the Church are covenants sealed by God himself, marriages are certainly something holy and sacred, even when they become unholy and broken. We often forget that marriage is a partnership of three, among wife, husband, and God, that God is always a part of marriage. In fact a marriage is understood to become a domestic church, a Christian family living a life of faith, hope, love, mercy, forgiveness, and very importantly, prayer. It’s an awesome responsibility, and one that many often don’t live up to very well, but that is because they so often try to handle their marriage on their own, without recognizing God’s presence and guiding hand in it. In today’s gospel Jesus uses the symbols salt and light to help us see marriage as God sees marriage.
First, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.” When we think about salt we may picture table salt, a seasoning that because it can be bad for our health, we try to limit our exposure as much as we can, just like the older gentlemen in the story limited his exposure to his wife. Now that it is winter when we think about salt we may picture rock salt, used to melt snow and ice, very inexpensive at about $50 a ton. So when we think about salt we think of something ordinary and not worth much of anything. Sometimes people feel the same way about their marriage that they feel about salt, that it is nothing special or valuable. But not God.
The phrase “salt of the earth” describes someone that is devoted and honest, which are excellent qualities to have, especially in a marriage, but to fully understand what Jesus meant, we have to view salt at the time of Jesus. First, salt was rare. It was so rare that people would mix it with other minerals to make it go further to the point that it would no longer be salt, it would lose its taste and have to be thrown out. Second, because it was rare, salt was valuable. Roman soldiers were paid with salt, which is where we get the term “worth your salt” and the word salary, Latin for “salt pay.” Finally, salt was a preservative. Before there were refrigerators and freezers, salt was used to keep food fresh. So to be the “salt of the earth” is more than just being a virtuous spouse, it is about recognizing, like God, that marriage is something special, valuable, and worth preserving.
Second, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” We take light for granted. We just throw a switch and instantly we have light. It isn’t until there is a power outage and there is no longer any light that we realize how important light is to us.
At the time of Jesus light was not taken for granted. They did not just throw a switch and then there was light. It was not instant. Having light was hard work. They had to gather wood and kindling to burn, use flint and tinder sparks to light it, protect it from wind and rain, they had to add fresh wood to maintain the fire, and they had to watch it take make sure it did not get out of control. What is true for light, is certainly true for marriage. Like light marriage is often taken for granted, but it requires a lot of hard work and maintenance to keep it going. It needs to be nurtured, protected, and kept fresh. God helps us do that.
Jesus also tells us in today’s gospel in regards to light, “Your light must shine before others.” We all know family and friends that have experienced the pain of broken marriages and we live in a society with increasing divorce rates and decreasing emphasis on the family. Today married couples need to be shining examples of Christian marriage to those around them, forming Christian families living lives of faith, hope, love, mercy, forgiveness, and prayer.
Everything that I have said today about marriage applies to every vocation, because all of us, priest, religious, single, or married are part of the perfect family, the family of God. Each of us is called in a special way to live our lives as beloved sons and daughters of God. In whatever our vocation, we are all called to witness to our Christian faith, to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” It’s not easy, but we are never alone, because God is always a part of our vocation.
May we always recognize our Lord’s presence in our vocation and in the Eucharist that we are about to receive. May the grace we receive today help us to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” to everyone around us. On this World Marriage Day, we rejoice and are glad for the gift of vocation, and most especially for the gifts of marriage and family.