If Your Vocation is Marriage, Choose a Spouse with Prayer
Friday February 28, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 6:5-17) Gospel (St. Mark 10:1-12)
In the readings today, we hear about relationships, friendship in Sirach and marriage in the Gospel. And the question of who one should marry then becomes critically important. It is something that oftentimes our young people do not really think about. They get caught in a trap that makes them think only about themselves and what is immediately in front of them without necessarily thinking about the long term and what the rest of their life is going to be like. On one level, of course, you cannot know what it is going to be; but, at the same time, one can make a reasonable estimation based on what you know.
And so Sirach gives us lots of information today about how careful we need to be with who we are going to let very close to us. He tells us that we need to test people who are going to claim to be our friends. We need to be very careful that while we have many acquaintances there is only one in a thousand who is a confidante because most are going to prove themselves not trustworthy. He tells us also about how there are fair-weather friends. There are people who, when times of sorrow and distress come, are going to abandon us. There are people who will not even acknowledge us when things are difficult. But then there is that one rare person who will be there even in difficult times, that one person who is not going to abandon us, the one whom we can trust in all things, the one to whom we can open up.
When we look at a friendship that way – and in a friendship there is no ultimate commitment – and we see that this is what Scripture is telling us about our friends, how much more then would we have to say about the person that one would marry? If we have to be so careful about choosing who our friends will be – who will not live in the same house, who will be there in times where we are going to be in need of having that friend, who are going to be the confidante for us – how much more important then when we look at the person who will live in the same house, who will share the same bed, who is the one to whom we should be able to open the heart in all things? It becomes critical that we be so careful in choosing that individual.
What we need to make sure we are teaching our young people is that not only do we look at this on the natural level (because marriage is not just about a friendship) but that we look at it on the supernatural level (because marriage is a vocation), and that we bring the whole situation to prayer. We have to bring it to God and ask Him, first of all, “What is my vocation?” which, sadly, most young people never ask; they just simply assume that they already know because they feel like being married or they like the opposite sex and therefore it must be that God wants them to be married. They have never really prayed about it. So that is the first thing we need to teach them: They need to pray and they need to ask God because the vocation comes from Him. We want to do His Will if we are going to find true happiness and fulfillment in our lives. Secondly, if it is determined that the vocation is marriage, then we need to pray about who the person is going to be because we want to marry the one that God has chosen for us, not the one that just happens to be there, not the one who is actually willing to marry “somebody so rotten as I am” as so many people today seem to think; but rather, “Who is it that God wants me to marry?” And we need to leave it in His hands to set it up and not to be worrying about all these things – because if God’s vocation for a person is to be married, He obviously is going to arrange somehow that you are going to meet the person you are going to marry because it is His vocation for the other person to marry you! We need to learn to trust, which most of us do not do very well.
We understand, as Our Lord tells the Pharisees as well as the disciples, that marriage is a lifetime commitment. It is not going to be an easy task to live with one other person, and particularly one other person of the opposite sex; it is very, very difficult. And so when one makes that decision to marry, it needs to be made in prayer. We need to make sure that it truly is God’s Will. We need to make sure that the person to whom we are getting married is the right person, the one who is going to help us to become a saint, and the one whom God wants us to help become a saint. This person becomes our other half, the one who fulfills us and the one whom we fulfill.
We need to take this counsel from Scripture very carefully to look at the seriousness of the commitment of marriage and what is required. And then to look very seriously at the person, at the vocation, to make sure we are teaching our young people that they need to pray and that they need to be very careful to be sure that the person they are marrying is the one God wants them to marry – not the one they have convinced themselves that God wants them to marry because they are infatuated, but that in fact it is God’s Will that this is the person they marry. There are lots of people with broken hearts who thought they were doing what God wanted them to do without ever asking. Now we need to make sure that through the lessons we have learned in this society, with a divorce rate that is astronomical, that we teach our children to avoid the same pitfalls, that we teach them the way to true happiness and true holiness in the married state, that we teach them how to choose their spouse and how to choose their vocation. There is only one way to choose that, and that is in prayer.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.