Bishop of Lake Charles
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
June 24, 2012
Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Celebration
“The Lord called me from birth.” Isaiah 49:1
In visiting the candidates for Confirmation this year, I asked them questions about the sacraments. When we came to the sacraments that we refer to as “the sacraments of vocation”—marriage and priesthood, I asked them who did the calling. They all got that answer right—God. Then, I explained that God does the calling both for priesthood and for marriage. No one should be a priest if he does not think God is calling him to be a priest. By the same token, when a couple is considering marriage, they should ask themselves the question, “Is this what God wants us to do?”
Today we are celebrating your wedding anniversaries. I want to say from the very beginning how much I admire all of you. As faithfully married couples, this society and world desperately needs the example that you are giving us. In this age where some even attempt to redefine marriage, you show us what it means to ask that question, “Is this what God wants us to do?” You have answered, “Yes.” Perhaps you didn’t ask or answer the question in exactly that way, but ask and answer it you did—through hard work, perseverance, faith, trust, love, and acceptance of God’s will—all of those qualities that make the love of husband and wife last. Again I say, I am filled with admiration for the example you give us.
Let us spend a little time looking at the call of God. We could not have chosen a better day to do this because it is the birthday of St. John the Baptist, June 24. The words of the prophet in today’s first reading are as follows: “The Lord called me from birth” (Isaiah 49:1). The prophet Isaiah is calling attention to the fact that St. John the Baptist is a Servant of the Lord. He has a destiny. His destiny is not some inevitable karma. His life is to be that of a servant, rooted in God’s plan. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
In that same spirit, St. Paul speaks of God’s plan for King David. Quoting the Old Testament text, St. Paul reminds us that from David’s line will come a savior. David is “a man after” God’s “own heart.” He will carry out” God’s “every wish” (Acts 13:22). God has a plan. This plan brings us to St. John.
He is named John, not by Zechariah or by anyone else in the family, but by God. God has a plan for John. He is to be a herald, the last of the Old and the first of the New. Zechariah’s obedience and cooperation with this plan merits the opening of his mouth to speak once again. The neighbors and family are amazed. “What, then, will this child be?” (Luke 1:66), they ask. “Surely, the hand of the Lord was with him” (Luke 1:66). God’s plan is unfolding, and we are part of that plan as well. That is the message we have to hear today.
Looking back on my childhood and upbringing, there was never any doubt in my mind that my parents loved each other. Oh, of course, they had their disagreements, even arguments. In the end, however, there was evident something binding and secure. They were convinced that this marriage was God’s plan for them. Love helped fulfill the plan, which manifested itself not simply in one way but in quite a number of ways. Love is never monochromatic. It is like a prism that disperses light into a spectrum. One beam of light manifests itself in an abundance of varied colors, just as a couple make love present in their marriage in any number of ways.
I would suggest that this love becomes even more colorful because in marriage there are two persons involved in a loving relationship that is rooted in friendship but friendship raised to a higher level. They are co-creators with God. They bring life into the world. They create a community of love in their family. And the marvel of all this is that each and every relationship is different—each with its own gifts, its own blessings, it own talents.
Make no mistake about it. A couple sees this more clearly with the mind and heart of faith. When with faith they ask the question, “Is this what God wants us to do?,” then they see God’s plan more clearly. They come to know they are part of a plan. To see God in every success and in every defeat, to experience God’s love in the simplest events of life and the greatest—this is the graced moment to which our Lord calls us. This is not what the world would have us believe, but it is what the Gospel preaches. It is what God promised us.
We were made for love. It is in love that God reveals His plan, and if we do not find the love of God present in our lives, then we cannot hope to understand the plan. This is what I think Isaiah’s Servant, King David, and St. John all had in common. God had touched their lives. They understood that reality of love’s touch. In it they discovered the call to be a prophet, a king, and a servant. They asked the question, “Is this what God wants us to do?” In answering it they discovered God’s plan.