Discerning the Call to Marriage
Friday August 12, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Joshua 24:1-13 ) Gospel (St. Matthew 19:3-12)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord gives us this beautiful teaching on marriage. The question, of course, is: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason whatever? He goes on to tell us that if someone divorces and marries another that he commits adultery. The reason is because the two souls are united at the moment a couple is married. And because that is a union that only God can forge, and a union that brings back the fullness of humanity that was divided in the Garden of Eden, that is for life. Once God has joined something together, no one can separate it. There is no judge on the face of the earth who can declare that a couple is no longer married. The judge did not put them together; the judge cannot take them apart. Only God can put two souls together to be one, and the only thing that removes them is death – and only God can do that. So we need to recognize the dignity of marriage.
But if we listen to what the disciples ask when they say, “Well, if this is the case with a man and his wife, it’s better not to marry,” that is not necessarily the case. What it does demonstrate very clearly to us is the importance of discernment. This is something we need to teach our children. Most of us, I am afraid, grow up with the idea that we are simply going to be married and we never think about it (at least, we never pray about it). We never give anything else much of a thought. The question really is: Is God calling a person to be married? If that is the person’s vocation then that is precisely the direction they need to go. But if it is not the vocation to which God is calling them then that is not the way they ought to go.
More importantly, once the person has discerned whether or not marriage is his vocation then he needs to pray about to whom he is to be married. If God is calling two persons to marriage then God is also going to provide for the spouse. We have this weird idea: “If I want to be married then I have to go out and find the person. I need to go to the bars and I need to go to singles’ places. I need to find somebody because I need to get married now.” That is wrong. We need to get married when God says, “It’s time to get married.” And we need to get married to the person whom God says we are to be married to.
The only way we are going to know, number one, if we are supposed to be married; and number two, when we are supposed to be married; and number three, to whom we are supposed to be married, is if we pray. We need to do it God’s way, in His time, and with the person He has determined. You must understand the principle here: If God is calling you (or, in this case, if He is calling one of your children) to be married then He is also calling the other person to be married to you (or to your child). You do not have to run around looking. Just put it in God’s hands and trust. God has the person all picked out already. He already has the timing all set. It is just that when we decide to take things into our own hands we mess it all up.
We need to make sure we are doing it His way, that we are seeking His Will. It may not happen in the timing that we think it should. We think if somebody gets to a certain age and they are not married yet that this is somehow a total disaster, that their life is somehow ruined because they did not get married by a certain point. If God has determined the time and the person then just leave it in His hands. There will be some who will be married very young. There will be others who will be older when they get married. It does not matter; all that matters is that we are seeking God’s Will. If God has the person already picked out for you then wait. God will bring the person to you and will bring you to that person when both are ready – not when both think they might be ready, but when both are ready. God will take care of the whole thing if we are faithful, if we simply pray and trust and leave it in His hands. That is all we need to do. It is quite a simple task when we look at it that way.
We know, of course, that when you put a male and female together in the same house it is not always easy. And because there are going to be struggles, you need to be sure that this is the right person, that this is the person you love so much, and that this is the person God has chosen for you so that no matter what comes in the future it does not matter. You are going to stick it out with that person thick or thin because you know this is the person and God has put such a love in your heart for this person that no matter how difficult it becomes you are never going to abandon that. That is the way this works.
Marriage is a vocation; it is a call. If God is calling a person to marriage then and only then should a person get married. If God is calling a person to something different then that is the direction they need to go. But there is only one way we are going to know, and that is to pray. Not to kneel down, say a little pray, and say, “Okay, Lord, You want me to be married, right?” That is not the way to do it. It is to come back before the Blessed Sacrament – day after day after day – and discern. Do not tell God what the vocation is because the vocation is a call, God’s call to you, not your demand to God. So let God call, let Him lead, let Him call you at the right time to the right vocation, and He will provide for everything.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.