My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
In St. Mark’s Gospel, chapter one, verses 29-39, we read about some of the many cures performed by Jesus. Among them is the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, who "lay sick with a fever." This same Gospel account remarks that "when it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons …" So marvelous and miraculous are the works of Jesus that those following Jesus alert Him that "Everyone is looking for you."
"Everybody is looking for you!" Naturally everyone wants to see this extraordinary person who performs such miracles; perhaps many of them are seeking a cure from Jesus. The popularity of Jesus is always so obvious when He is performing great marvels that defy the rules of nature. At the same time, many walk away from Jesus when He challenges them to a higher way of life or their own passing success causes them to believe that they do not need the Lord. How many fall to their knees in times of crisis, yet forget the Lord in times of prosperity. But no relationship can ever be sustained when it is based solely on need; it can become erratic and even selfish. If our relationship with the Lord is to be strong, it must be active every moment, in every circumstance. We must be willing to give as the Lord so generously gives, especially in the gift of His real presence in the Most Holy Eucharist.
During the weeks following Easter Sunday, the Gospel at Sunday Mass describes Jesus telling us: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). A branch cannot attach and then disengage itself from the vine at will and still remain alive. So it is with our relationship with the Lord; to remain firm in faith is to remain one with the Lord in all circumstances.
To express the model of what our relationship with God ought to be, Jesus, His Son, becomes the groom and the Church is His bride. Marriage, then, is not only the union of man and woman, but the union of God with humanity: God’s covenant with His people expressed in Christ’s covenant with the Church. Christ is not a symbol of God, He is God. The Church is not a symbol of humanity, but its real core, for the Church is the Body of Christ, by which humanity is united with Christ Himself.
Thus, a true marriage between man and woman, lived in fidelity, mutual trust, support and love, is a beautiful witness to and image of humanity’s relationship with Jesus and lived out in the Church. The testimony to married life mirrors the charity, caring embrace, forgiveness and commitment shown to every person by Jesus.
In this June issue of the Catholic Courier we honor our sisters and brothers who have reached significant anniversaries in their married lives. These brothers and sisters are the living testament to promises made and kept in joy and in sorrow, in hope and in disappointment, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer until death do they part. The day in and day out fidelity of Christian spouses to each other is not glitzy or flashy but it is the quiet, progressive strengthening of the soul at the very deepest, most intimate level. Married in Christ, the spouses lift each other out of the confusion of the world where efficiency is often valued over persons, where "having" is often valued more than "giving," where self-indulgence is valued more than self-sacrifice. The married couple becomes a new community that is a true home, the Domestic Church. "Marriage and family are where faith finds its home and where the Divine Presence lives in the love between husband and wife, parent and child." (Address given by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks at an international conference at the Vatican entitled: "The Complementarity of Man and Women," sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, November 17-19, 2014).
The solemn union of man and woman in marriage constitutes a state "written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1603). For this reason, "the love of husband and wife reflects the love between Christ and the Church. By Christ’s will, marriage is one of the Seven Sacraments." (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 281).
Today we thank God for our married couples who have witnessed to the solemn commitment of marriage by their own lives and the number of years of their marriages. From these sacred unions the human family has been enriched, new life has entered the world to care for those grown old and to continue the beauty and rhythm of life through God’s noblest creation, the human person. For those who have not been blessed with children, their powerful expression of love, fidelity, self-sacrifice and love of neighbor are marvelous examples for our young people in the family of God, and these couples participate in the extended families that have enriched all our lives. We are all family people.
We thank you for proclaiming in your daily lives the beauty, goodness and truth of marriage. In countless ways, both heroic and ordinary, through good times and bad, you bear witness to the gift and blessing you have received from the hand of God. May the Lord continue to bless you and your dear families.
When writing about the marriage and the family, one must acknowledge that raising a family today is an extraordinary, and at times quite difficult, cooperative work with God. Parents work so very hard, worry so very much and pray unceasingly for their children. How often they wonder if their love is appreciated, even recognized. Sometimes it is not until years later that they realize how much they did accomplish. But even in the face of hardships and disappointments, a parent’s love never ends. There are many who have accepted this challenge even in the midst of growing poverty where raising one’s child is coupled with struggling to provide for the daily needs of the child. I pray that the Community of faith, the extended family, will support the efforts of mothers and fathers to guide, inspire and educate their children in the knowledge and truth of Jesus Christ, as well as to provide opportunities for parents to create a healthy and safe home.
I do wish also to address some heartfelt words to those who suffer and have suffered marital difficulties and, despite the best of efforts, must now accept the task of going it alone. It is not for us to judge harshly the trials and crosses borne by others. Rash judgment, idle gossip and slander create the timber that places additional crosses upon those already suffering. Rather what is needed is prayerful support, a compassionate heart so beautifully reflected in the words of St. Pope John Paul II: "Let the Church pray for them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope." (Familiaris Consortio, p. 159).
As we contemplate the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the commitments made in marriage, as well as the challenges that flow from that commitment, let us also pray for those who will make commitments to the service of the Church in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. On June 6, 2015, at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Arthur Sandoval Cuestas was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate; those ordained Transitional Deacons were: Justin Daniel Miller, Jorge Iván Ramírez Velásquez and Janier Erick Viloria Romero.
On June 20, 2015, at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Deacon Michael Gerard Fowler, Deacon Matthew Francis Jones, Deacon Daniel Ruiz Sierra (see editor’s note below) and Deacon Carlos Mario Sanchez Betancur will be ordained to the Sacred Priesthood.
I invite you to join with us for these Solemn Masses of Ordination. Your presence would be a tremendous support for these new deacons and priests.
On behalf of all our ordinands, I ask for your prayers that always they will reflect the sacrificial ministry of the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ. May they keep before their eyes the words of Benedict XVI on the occasion of the Solemn Mass of Inauguration celebrating his election as Supreme Pastor: "Yes, the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to human beings. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is." This same theme is now repeated by Pope Francis in the beginning paragraph of his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel: "The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew."
Allow me once again to reiterate that during this Year of Consecrated Life we are called to express our appreciation for the countless years of service that have been given and continue to be given by those in vowed religious life. As we reflect upon our own lives, I am sure there are any number of instances where religious women and men revealed to us the presence of Jesus, whether in hospitals, nursing homes or schools; in outreach to the poor, the orphan, the foreigner, the unwed mother; or wherever a need exists calling for the charity of Christ. May new ranks of women and men consider a religious vocation with the support of our prayers.
Invoking the intercession of Our Mother Mary whose fidelity to her Son inspires every vocation, I remain, with an assurance of my prayers and asking a remembrance in your good prayers,
Devotedly yours in Christ,
+ The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester
EDITOR’S NOTE: On June 18, the diocese announced that Deacon Daniel Ruiz’s ordination would be held at a later date. Deacon Ruiz was called home suddenly to his native Colombia because his mother is gravely ill.