A couple had been married for 60 years and had no secrets except one: The woman kept in her closet a shoe box that she forbade her husband from opening. On her deathbed, she allowed him to open the box and he found a crocheted doll and $95,000 in cash. “My mother told me that the secret to a happy marriage was to never argue,” she explained. “Instead, I should keep quiet and crochet a doll.” Her husband was touched. Only one doll was in the box. He figured that meant she’d only been angry with him once in 60 years. “So what about all this money?” he asked. “Oh,” she said, “that’s the money I made from selling the dolls.”
This week, coming off of the excitement of the visit of Pope Francis, our media quickly became wrapped up in a made-for-TV scandal reporting that Pope Francis apparently had a private visit with Kim Davis, the embattled town clerk from Kentucky who refuses to fulfill her duty by not issuing same-sex marriage licenses there. Was the Pope’s meeting with her an endorsement of her position and her cause as she claims? The Vatican was quick to clarify that the Pope had not asked for the meeting and it was little more than one of dozens of quick meet-and-greets that the Pope engages in while traveling. In fact, the only planned audience he had was with a gay friend of his, a former student from Argentina, and his longtime partner.
The timing of all of this is interesting as we gather today for Mass. We heard our Scriptures speak of God’s hopes and dreams for the way we are to live with one another. Also today, the Cardinals of the Church have gathered in Rome to begin the Synod on the Family which hopes to tackle issues of strengthening family life as well as the way we talk about our divorced and remarried brothers and sisters, and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
All of this raises a number of the problems that we face in our culture. Yes, the family as God dreams and imagines it is threatened. Yes, it has an impact on our society, and that impact is harmful. But, the problem isn’t with the laws of ours or any other nation. The problem isn’t a conspiracy by politicized groups to threaten the dignity and sanctity of marriage. The problem is the increasingly polarized and antagonizing way that we have come to relate to one another – not just in families and in loving relationships, but in virtually every aspect of our common life together.
There is something wrong with the way too many people in our world relate to one another today. The key to this problem is the profound lack of kindness, compassion, care and joy that is so often missing from our lives and from our world. The problem is that we increasingly fail to see ourselves as connected; as related; as concerned with and for one another. The problem is with the way that we impersonally interact and treat family and relationship like a commodity or in a purely material manner.
Just take a look at the reality TV shows that proclaim to be about love and relationships. There’s “Joe Millionaire” where women try and woo a man who they believe to be rich pursuing the relationship for money. There’s a show called “The Love Test” in which a couple purposely puts themselves in situations of temptation to see if there love will survive. “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” likewise turn the process of love and marriage into a competition. Then there’s the show, “Cheaters” which turns infidelity into entertainment for the masses. There’s “Who Wants to Marry My Dad” in which children judge the competition of women vying to marry their father. Fox has, “Married By America,” where you can call in and vote by phone on who should be married. There’s “Married At First Sight” which has people who have never met and are paired to see if it will last. There’s shows like “Race to the Altar,” “Meet My Folks,” “Love Stories,” “Love Shack,” “Love Cruise,” “Manhunt,” and more than you can imagine. Surely, this isn’t God’s plan for us?
To all of this God speaks some loving words to us today in Scripture. He says, “It is not good to be alone.” He says, “The two shall become one.” What He says to us is essentially this – you are connected, you are related, you must care for one another. Care for those who are closest to you; care for those you don’t know. Care for those who are on the margins because of their poverty or homelessness or hunger. Care even for those who are your enemies. Because of your common origin in Me, you are all related. See each other as brother and sister; as related and loved.
Just last night in St. Peter’s Square in a prayer service as a prelude to the Synod which begins today Pope Francis said, “A Church which is family is able to show the closeness and love of a father…A Church of children who see themselves as brothers and sisters, will never end up considering anyone simply as a burden, a problem, an expense, a concern or a risk. Other people are essentially a gift, and always remain so, even when they walk different paths. The Church is an open house, far from outward pomp, hospitable in the simplicity of her members. That is why she can appeal to the longing for peace present in every man and woman, including those who – amid life’s trials – have wounded and suffering hearts. This Church can indeed light up the darkness felt by so many men and women.”
This, my brothers and sisters, is God’s plan for each of us. Our good and loving God desires for us to be in a relationship first with Him – one that is built on faithfulness, timelessness and the gift of life. And, He calls us to mirror those same things – life, love, fidelity, commitment and sacrifice – in all of the relationships we have in life.
Pope Francis is calling us to have a bigger picture than the small partisan squabbles we usually engage in; and he is also calling us to have bigger hearts that can embrace and love as God loves; that can see and care as God cares; that can be part of transforming this world of darkness into the kingdom of light that Jesus came to inaugurate in our midst. We are being called to live relationships – within marriage, with the person we love, within families, with the stranger and even our enemies – that have Christ at the center; that Christ Himself be the lens through which we live our lives. Having the courage to do this will make all the difference in our lives; will make all the difference in the world. That is God’s plan for us.
It is not good to be alone, and thank God, we have each other, we have our God, we have our Church. What God has united, let no one divide.
May the Lord give you peace.