Friday May 24, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (St. James 5:9-12) Gospel (St. Mark 10:1-12)
Jesus, in the Gospel reading today, speaks one of the more difficult of all the points for people of our society to be able to accept: When two people are married they become one, and they remain one for the rest of their lives. It is only death that separates the two who are married. People do not like that. The disciples did not even understand it. In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, they even asked Him, "Why would one want to get married? It’s not expedient! If you can’t get out of this, then why would you even want to get into it?"
The answer is to become a saint. It is a vocation. It is not a pastime. It is not something that is intended to be fun. It is a vocation. It is a call from Almighty God to be a saint. God wants each and every one of us to be saints. Now, in His sense of humor, God most often does not call us to the things that would be the easiest for us. For instance, it might have been easy for me to be married so he called me to be a priest. It might have been easy for most of you who are married to be a priest or a nun so He called you to be married because He wants you to be a saint. And you are not going to be a saint by having an easy way - we all know that.
So now we need to couple that with the first reading. Saint James says, "Do not complain about one another." That means to your friends, to your acquaintances, particularly about your spouse. It means about anybody, but particularly your spouse. That is yourself you are complaining about; the two have literally become one. That is not a nice, theoretical, cute, romantic idea. That is a reality. Your souls and your bodies are joined, and they are one. You have given yourself entirely to this other person and that person has given himself or herself entirely to you. You have no right in the world to try to reject that or to complain about it or anything else because it is you that you are rejecting. More than that, it is God who is the One who has called you to this vocation.
Now this points out the absolute necessity of making sure people are rooted in prayer before they get married so that they marry the right person and continue to pray so they grow in holiness. But regardless of the situation, if you have entered into a sacramental marriage, you are united to the soul of another person for the rest of your life. And it must remain that way.
Now let us go back for a moment to Saint James. Saint James says, "Do not speak ill of one another lest you be judged." Then he also tells us that we are to persevere and not swear against anyone else lest we be condemned. We see that the words that come out of our mouths are going to be the cause of judgment and condemnation so we need to be very, very careful. But then to be able to see what is right in the middle of those and that is the perseverance. Saint James tells us with regard to the perseverance, "You have seen the purpose of the Lord because the Lord is compassionate and merciful." The purpose, as I have already mentioned, is to make you a saint. And God is not going to make you a saint by giving you an easy, comfortable, pleasant life. He is going to make you a saint by having you deal with another human being of the opposite sex who is not easy to deal with because that person does not see things the way that you do all the time. That is the only way for a married couple to become saints.
You have made a vow if you are married - and remember, it is a vow - it was not even just a sacred promise; it is a vow to love that other person every moment of every day for the rest of your life. Do not ever forget that because God will not forget it. You have made a vow to Almighty God and to that other person to love. That does not mean having happy feelings. That means pouring yourself out, seeking the good of the other, giving yourself entirely to the other, putting the other before yourself, seeking to build them up, and giving, giving, giving, giving, giving. Giving in everything - that is what God is looking for.
That is what makes a saint: pouring the entire self out for the sake of God and for the sake of the neighbor. And the primary neighbor for a person who is married is the spouse. That is the way that God is calling you to holiness if you are married: to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself, the fulfillment of those commandments that the Lord has given to us. That is what He is going to require of any married person so do not take your vows lightly because God doesn’t either. Make sure that you maintain that sacramental unity and that you recognize your souls and your bodies are united. They are no longer two, but one.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.