I can honestly say that, throughout all of my primary, secondary and even college years, the class that I always dreaded the most was English. I was never very good at it and since I’ve always known that I wanted to be an engineer, I didn’t really think it was important. However, as I have gotten older, I have come to realize that language and how we use it, and understand it, is very important. You see, in English, we often use one word to mean several different things and sometimes this can get us into trouble.
Our second reading today is a perfect example of this. It’s a classic reading for weddings. It’s one of my favorite scripture passages, and my wife and I chose it for our own wedding years ago. However, when we read it in English, if we are not careful, we can misunderstand what Saint Paul is trying to tell us.
I think that most of us, when we hear the word love, we think of a feeling. We think about how we feel when a special person walks into the room or when they give us a hug. There is certainly nothing wrong with that but that’s not what Paul is talking about and what he is talking about is the key to a happy marriage. It’s what makes a marriage good even when things are going bad.
The New Testament was not written in English. It was written in Greek and the word that we translate as love is agape. If you were to look at a Latin translation of this passage you would find that caritas is used for agape. We would typically substitute the word charity or service for caritas, and we don’t always think of these words as synonyms for love.
So to avoid any further confusion caused by the complications of translating Greek into English, I’m not going to talk about love in marriage. Instead, I would like to talk about sharing because I believe that it is a much easier word to understand. After all, by the time we get through kindergarten almost everyone understands what sharing means, even if we have not mastered it.
So, here are some tips on how to nurture the love the Saint Paul is talking about:
First, share your time. I don’t know about you but I have never had much luck finding time. There never seems to be enough time for everything. However, I have discovered over the years that if I make time for my family, I never regret doing so. The sacrifice is always worth it.
Share your thoughts and feelings. A marriage is like a road trip with two cars traveling together. The likelihood of the adventure being enjoyable goes up if everyone is on the same page. Both of you need to understand where you are going and what route you will be taking to get there. Always practice those good communication techniques that you learned about during your marriage formation weekend and make it your goal to never go to bed angry.
Share the dirty work. Dinner needs to be cooked and the table needs to be set. Afterwards, the dishes need to be cleaned and put away. The grass needs to be cut and the broken limbs from the last storm need to be picked up. Three AM feedings and diaper changes are no fun, but when the little one cries, someone has to get up. Remember, if the two of you work together, it takes half the time. Divide and conquer.
Finally, share your faith. Pray together. Perhaps you could start by holding hands and saying grace before meals and giving thanks for the good and ask for help with the not so good. Read Scripture together, maybe the Gospel reading for the day or something from a verse of the day app on your phone. Take a walk together and enjoy God’s creation. Worship together.
If you remember to share everyday in your marriage with a spirit of concern for each other and hearts open to God, you will receive the grace to overcome the trials that will inevitably come your way.
Every year around Valentine’s Day, our parish has a renewal of wedding vows for couples who are celebrating milestone anniversaries. Once you’ve made it to 50, you can come up every year to do this, if you choose. I’m always struck by the way these couples gaze at each other, especially the ones who have been married 50, 60, 70 or more years. It’s exactly the same way that we have seen Rob and Jessyca gaze at each other here today.
After my wife and I participated in this ceremony 2 years ago (we were celebrating our 20th anniversary that year), Jeannie said to me, “You know, it’s funny, but when I look at you, not just today but any day, I don’t see a middle-aged man. I see the 22-year-old man I fell in love with.”
Time takes its toll on everyone. But if you have shared a lifetime of charity and service with the one you love, that feeling of love never fades. Jessyca and Rob, my prayer for the two of you is that on your 60th anniversary, the two of you will still be looking at each other the way you are today.