Good stewards strive to maintain a balanced life by not overindulging in personal wealth or material goods but by sharing their blessings with others. We value life at all stages and give credit to the creator in which we share by giving life to others. We strive to make this a better world by storing eternal rewards.
In the years that I was involved in liturgy planning for weddings, engaged couples almost invariably wanted to include a secular song as part of the ceremony. Often it would have been a song they heard on their first date, one they may have danced to, or one with some other special meaning to it. Almost invariably, the lyrics’ shallow and saccharine images of love fell short of the depth and meaning of the love they would be vowing to each other before God and the Church. In those instances, we would try to explain why the song was inappropriate and suggest some other time it might be played either before or after Mass or at the reception.
There was one secular song, however, that I was glad to include in the wedding Mass. It was Wedding Song (There is Love) by Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary. Though it was a well-known song, it drew heavily from Scripture. I was always impressed by how it connected the texts on marriage with Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It is a beautiful way of expressing the truth that the love of man and woman in the sacrament of matrimony makes both Christ and the Church present. In so doing, it accomplishes what no other secular song and, frankly, few other liturgical songs can—elevating a romantic image of love to its full sacramental reality.
As it turns out, this popular song was written for the wedding Mass of Paul Stookey’s bandmate, at Saint Mary’s Church in Willmar, Minnesota. In fact, because the song relied so heavily upon Scripture, Stookey declined to receive any royalties for it assigning it instead to the public domain.
Marriage as the sacramental image of Christ and the Church is the theme of this Sunday’s second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. The line which so grates on us in today’s society, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” is balanced by the command to husbands to “…love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her.” Both husband and wife are to submit to one another, putting the needs of the other before their own, striving to live the love that makes Christ and the Church present in the union of their lives and of their flesh. Christ promises to be present whenever two or three are gathered in his name. However, in the sacrament of marriage, that presence is even more profoundly imaged in the sacrifices a husband and wife make for each other in their daily lives. For a world in which love is reduced to the romantic feelings it produces and marriage is treated merely as a government-recognized union, the love of a man and woman which draws its strength from Christ and perseveres through hardship can be truly countercultural and transformative.
Another compelling lyric in Paul Stookey’s song is the line, “Woman draws her life from man and gives it back again.” Reflecting on this lyric through the years, I have always understood it as focusing on the bodily realities of marriage. In their sexual unions, woman and man give themselves totally to one another. From that union springs new life which, long after they have passed away, will bear witness to their love. In the daily chores of family life, they will feed and clothe each other. Through their bodies they will soothe each other in pain and sickness. In old age, they will care for each other’s bodies. These realities of married life challenge our culture to see the soul of intimacy not in romantic feelings but in the real, daily giving of oneself, body and soul, to our beloved.
This Sunday will end the reading of the Bread of Life discourse that we as a church have been praying over and meditating on these past few weeks. Jesus makes the shocking claim that he will give us his body as food. Throughout the centuries, many have wanted to spiritualize these words, reducing them to a metaphor. However, we have come to believe that Jesus meant what he said. Just as he allowed his body to be broken on the cross, just so his risen body is now broken for us in the Eucharist and we partake in a real union with him through the sacramental sign of bread. Marriage is also a sacrament, like baptism and the Eucharist. Christ becomes truly present when a man gives his body to his wife and a wife gives her body to her husband. “There is love,” not just intensity of feeling but the real, sacrificial gift of oneself to another. And where there is love, there is God. Not a God who is only comfortable in spiritual realms but who communicates himself to us in the flesh.
Douglas Sousa, STL
we thank you for your tremendous gift of the Sacrament of Marriage.
Enable us to grow in our intimacy with You and with each other.
Teach us the beauty of forgiveness
so that we may become more and more one
in heart, mind and body.
Strengthen our communication with each other,
and help us become living signs of your love.
Help us to be examples of commitment, love, and service
to our families and children.
Make us a sign of the unity which Jesus prays for at the Last Supper.
We open ourselves to the guidance of your Holy Spirit,
Who empowers us to love in Jesus’ name and walk in His footsteps.
—Prayer for World Marriage Day, Worldwide Marriage Encounter.
When we contemplate stewardship at it’s most basic level, we see it is about to whom do we belong. A person cannot serve two masters. A good steward sees that not only does all he has been given belong to God, he himself belongs to his Creator.
Our lives our not our own and God has given them to us with a purpose and a plan. We can be instruments of God even if we sometimes say no to His requests, but we can never achieve our full potential without constantly discerning His will for us and responding in maturity.
Going to Mass brings the grace of Jesus Christ to each of our celebrations, he said, since it is in the Eucharist that we encounter his presence, love and sacrifice. The Eucharistic celebration, he said, is Jesus’ way of being with us and forming us into a community.
Yesterday, we celebrated the birthday of Fr. Michael J. McGivney, a Irish-American priest who founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 with a small group of parishioners in his Connecticut parish. What began in a parish meeting of a few has become an unbelievable force for good in our world.
What is your idea to begin changing the world today?
Maturity in our modern American society sometimes seems to be in short supply. So often we are about immediate gratification and we focus more on our wants instead of our needs. We find ourselves unable to see the big picture or the value of waiting for anything. This is true with money, possessions, sex, and relationships. And certainly it is true with faith.
For Sunday, August 16, 2015, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When it comes to anniversaries, this August has been particularly poignant.
Within a few days of each other, we’ve noted the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the one-year anniversary of the invasion of northern Iraq by the Islamic State, displacing tens of thousands of Christians and other minorities. The toll these events have taken on the human spirit, and the scars they have left on human history, are extensive and deep. Consequently, this has been a time for reflection and resolve, a moment for taking stock.
Sister Maria Hanna, the prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Iraq, was one of many who had to flee last August when ISIS stormed through her home town of Quaraqosh in Iraq. She and her sisters were forced to settle in Erbil, living in tents or abandoned buildings while attempting to rebuild their lives and those of other refugees. She wrote recently: “This memory impels us to pray to the Lord, so that we might be enlightened to understand his will for our lives during this crisis.”
By coincidence, or Providence, we are commemorating these events at a time when the Sunday Gospels ask us to reflect on St. John’s Bread of Life discourse, the challenging and enigmatic verses that teach about how Christ feeds those who hunger—and does it in ways we might not easily understand. The Gospels offer insight not only into the Eucharist, but also into God’s own ceaseless love for his creation. Whatever our needs, whatever our hungers, God provides.
At this moment, reflecting on the events we are commemorating, we might take time to remember in an especially prayerful way some hungers that even now need to be met.
There is the hunger for peace, in a world devastated by war.
There is a hunger for justice, in places torn apart by mistrust and hate.
There are the ongoing hungers of the human family for safety and security and understanding and hope.
The Gospel reassures us that our very human hungers—yearnings that go beyond mere cravings for food—are met in the person of Jesus Christ. That is ultimately what the Bread of Life discourse seeks to teach us.
Are we open to hearing that message and taking it to heart? Are we ready to be fed with that Bread of Life?
Dcn. Greg Kandra
O God, Creator of the universe, who extends your paternal concern over every creature and guides the events of history to the goal of salvation, we acknowledge your fatherly love when you break the resistance of mankind and, in a world torn by strife and discord, you make us ready for reconciliation. Renew for us the wonders of your mercy; send forth your Spirit that he may work in the intimacy of hearts, that enemies may begin to dialogue, that adversaries may shake hands and peoples may encounter one another in harmony. May all commit themselves to the sincere search for true peace which will extinguish all arguments, for charity which overcomes hatred, for pardon which disarms revenge.
—Prayer for Peace by St. John Paul II
If you haven’t seen “Heroic Priesthood”, you can watch the full ten-minute film at the link below. Please share it with friends and family, especially young men who may be interested in the priesthood. You can also purchase DVD copies in bulk through HeroicPriesthood.com to pass out in your parish or diocese.
What has God called you to do? Do you really think He would ask something of you and not give you what was needed to complete the task?