Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
August 23rd, 2015
Year B

A couple was arranging for their wedding, and asked the baker to inscribe the wedding cake with ‘1 John 4:18’ which reads “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” The baker, however, lost the scripture reference. Working from memory he beautifully inscribed on the cake ‘John 4:18.’ Imagine the shock of those who looked up the reference to find that it reads: Jesus said to the woman of Samaria: “For you have had five husbands, and the man you have now is not your husband.”

Marriage is indeed a hot topic these days. In the second reading of the Mass, St. Paul gives us glimpse into the reality and the mystery of marriage. I know that many people cringe over this reading. The idea of being subordinate to another person seems perverse. Yet, it is not so unreasonable as we might think. St. Paul uses the Greek term: ‘hypotasso’, meaning: ‘to place oneself under’ or ‘to defer to’. St. Paul is making it absolutely clear that this is a voluntary submission that is spirit-filled. Therefore, he is making an appeal to wives to submit to their husbands in the ordinary instances of family life in the same way they would submit to the Lord and follow His way. Note that St. Paul does not use the word ‘obey’.It is not a relationship of ‘authority over’ – as if the husband were a dominating figure – but rather of it is a relationship humility and love on the part of both spouses.

Furthermore, many of us who have difficulty with these words of St. Paul stop reading after the first few verses. When we, however, continue reading we find similar instructions for the husband. He tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church and to care for them as they would care for their own bodies. A man once said that these are the hardest verses of the Bible. It was not because he didn’t love his wife but because of the standard to which St. Paul urges husbands to love. Essentially, St. Paul calls upon husbands to lay down their lives for their wives, to protect them, and care for them - to sacrifice for them in the same way that Christ sacrificed Himself for the Church.

It seems to me that in the language of St. Paul, he is speaking of a complete and total self-gift of husband and wife. He is speaking of a love of spouses that entails sacrifice and humility on the part of husband and wife. Yet, it does seem odd that he would exhort each to offer themselves in different ways. It makes sense, however, since man and woman think differently, respond differently, and love differently. In the differences of the way in which they love, man and woman essentially show themselves to go together – not just bodily – but here, spiritually as well. St. Paul is telling us that it is in the differences that make husband and wife complete and whole.

In all this we learn something of how we are called to relate to God. Marriage reveals to us not only an image of the love of the Blessed Trinity in the love between spouses St. Paul is teaching us that sacrifice, humility, the complete and total gift of self – these are the virtues we are called to adopt in our daily lives. How we love, our exercise of humility, the sacrifices that we make all point us to a bond of communion. Too often in our world today, many people think of marriage as a contract – an exchange of goods. The idea is that I get something IF you give me something. This is completely the opposite of the language of St. Paul. He calls us to voluntary humility. He is telling us that it is not about what I can get, but what I can give. When man and woman come together in marriage, body and soul are united and a bond of communion is forged between them. A covenant is established – an exchange of persons. This is what God desires for us – that we enter into a bond of communion with Him, that we offer our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice in order that our souls may be elevated by His grace. We learn this through relationships, we learn it in how we love, and we see it lived in the lives of married couples. This is the great dignity and holiness of marriage.

Today, as the Sacrament of Marriage continues to be attacked, let us remember and pray for those who have witnessed to the holiness and sanctity of the marriage bond. Let us pray for those who have showed us the true meaning of love. Let us pray for those who have taught us how to love God, how to sacrifice and be humble. In adopting the practice of these virtues in our lives, may it draw us closer to the Heart of Jesus.


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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