As witnesses to the sacrament of marriage, couples are examples of what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew: “You are the salt of the earth,” said Bishop J. Mark Spalding during his homily at the World Marriage Day Mass on Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation.
That’s what he told the nearly 50 couples in attendance who will celebrate their silver and golden wedding anniversaries this year. The special Mass was organized by the Diocese of Nashville’s Office of Faith Formation.
“Your witness to fidelity, to everlasting union, and your openness to life gives me life, gives me courage to take on whatever I need to take on in my own formation, so I thank you for your witness,” Bishop Spalding said. “It is appreciated.”
“You give something that enlightens our world,” he said. “Your witness of commitment throughout the years tells us there are going to be mountaintop experiences as well as valleys. Some days you rejoice. Some days you just hold on and take another step together, and the world needs that kind of example.”
Through their commitment to their marriages, the couples are an example of discipleship “as we live each and every day as disciples of Jesus in his way of speaking, in his way of acting, in his way of offering ourselves for others,” Bishop Spalding continued. “That’s why marriage is constantly this offering of self for another and others. First and foremost, for your beloved … and in that self-offering you open yourselves up to children in the world and you rejoice in that.”
Referring to the Gospel reading, Bishop Spalding said the couples are not just salt of the earth, they are not just the light of the world or a city on the hill. They are also leaven.
“Those stories where Jesus talks about leaven in the bread, it just takes a little and it can do so much,” the bishop said. “Your presence in the pews, your presence around the table, makes the difference.”
By remaining present, they become witnesses to the faith in the diocese, in their parishes, and especially in their families.
“Tell your children, your grandchildren you love them. But as much as you tell your children you love them and you want the best for them, make sure you remind them that the best for them means also being a person of faith … and showing how, in your own life, especially in the moments of trial and trouble, you are thanking God that you are a believer in Jesus and in his Church,” Bishop Spalding said.
Telling the story of St. Monica’s constant prayers for her son, St. Augustine, and the latter’s conversion to faith, he continued, “Be patient with yourselves and with the Lord, but never stop preaching and teaching that you’re a person of love, a person of hope, and a person of faith.”
To conclude, he asked the couples to recall the moment they made their vows to their spouses, noting how it’s their responsibility to help get each other into heaven.
“That’s your job,” he said. “You’ve still got work to do and that’s OK. That will always be our work until we see the face of Christ.
“May we be true witnesses,” Bishop Spalding concluded. “May we be the salt of the earth, the light in the world, the city that sits on the hill that all will want to journey to, shown in our promise to each other in Christ.”
Following the homily, Bishop Spalding led the couples in renewing that promise, as each couple stood to face each other and join their hands together, just like on their wedding day.
“I have taken you and take you again,” the husbands began, followed by the wives. “I promise to be true to you in the good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
With a final blessing, Bishop Spalding announced, “You may now kiss the bride.”