‘You give your lives to each other’

Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Mass

(See the photos in the slideshow at the top of the page.)

Dozens of married couples from across the diocese -- including two couples celebrating 71 years of marriage, another celebrating 73 years of marriage (but who were unable to attend), and a groom on his 99th birthday, were honored Oct. 21 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
At a dinner reception following a special Mass in which dozens of couples renewed their marriage vows, Bishop John B. Brungardt presented each couple with a certificate honoring their years of commitment.
Although they were unable to attend, Gilbert and Barbara Knipp of Scott City were honored for 73 years of marriage.
In a 2011 interview, the SKR asked Gilbert the secret to a happy marriage in a time when there are so many divorces. Gilbert responded, “I’d ask them why they got married in the first place. Then I’d say, ‘Stay with it, boy!’” “Be very polite to each other,” Barbara added. “That’s one thing we’ve always done.”
Celebrating 71 years of marriage were Bruno and Marceline Hoffman of Dodge City, and Alden and Melva M. Dewell of Fowler. The Anniversary Mass celebration fell on the day of Bruno’s 99th birthday. A year ago he, too, was asked to offer his secret to a happy marriage. He replied simply, “Don’t forget to say ‘I love you.’”
Following is the text of Bishop Brungardt’s homily in its entirety. To view many more photos in color, go to dcdiocese.org/register. Photos are free to download.

“I Give My Life for You.”
Isaiah 53:10-11; Ps 33
“Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.”
Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45

Welcome to all, especially to the anniversary couples, and to all married couples.  I give you my blessings and prayers, as you continue to give your lives to each other in married love.
“Give your lives to each other.”  Is this just a common expression of dedication, like “I would give my right arm for season tickets to my favorite football team”?  Is this just a platitude expected of us, like “Yeah, yeah, my life is hers.”  Is this just a nice answer if the bishop asks you?: “Bishop, he is my life!”
“Give your lives to each other.”  There is something much deeper here.  Let’s look at Sacred Scripture, as the Word of God illuminates our understanding of married love this Year of Faith.

‘He gives His life’
In chapter 53 of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet describes today the Suffering Servant, who will “give his life” for us.  Yes, this was a prophetic description of Jesus, who gave His life for our sins, for us.  Jesus’ death on the cross frees us from sins, and his glorious resurrection brings us to eternal life.  Christ’s sacrifice of unconditional love is what we celebrate at this Holy Mass.  Jesus’ giving His life for us is why we enthusiastically practice our Catholic faith in this Year of Faith.
What does this mean to married couples?  During a wedding homily, I always pause a moment, turn off my microphone, and speak quietly to the couple.  I ask the groom:  “Will you give your life for her?”  I ask the bride: “Will you give your life for him?”  It is a powerful moment, and a real moment.  The couple will soon give their life to each other as they share their vows, “until death do we part.”  You anniversary couples gave and give your lives to each other, and we celebrate that truth today in the presence of our Loving Lord.

‘… sympathize with our weaknesses … tested in every way’
This married love, this giving of our lives to each other is, at times, tested.  This unconditional love is, at times, a struggle due to our weaknesses.  The Book of Hebrews today points out that Jesus was tested on this earth, “tested in every way,” that Jesus understands our suffering and is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.”  “We place our trust in” Jesus during our times of weakness, testing, and suffering (Psalm).
An example from my parent’s marriage:  My mom and dad had 12 children, six surviving to adulthood (two of those adopted), two miscarried babies and four children who died in infancy, of whom Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”  One of these little ones, Joey, my younger brother, was very ill as a newborn.  He probably spent as much time in the hospital as at home in his short six months, and he suffered greatly.  Dad prayed to the Lord that Joey’s suffering would be placed on him, on Dad himself.  Dad was later hospitalized, and had surgery, and while recovering, Joey died.  Mom and Dad united in married love during this time of suffering and pain.  Their married love, their giving their lives to each other and to us children, was strengthened by their Catholic faith in Jesus Christ.

‘… not to be served, but to serve…’
This married love, this giving ourselves to each other, is a call to serve.  Jesus demonstrated many times by his actions, like the washing of the feet, and his words, like the Gospel of Mark today, that he came not “to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  This service takes time, takes commitment, takes sacrifice – sounds like a marriage, doesn’t it?  The service that Jesus teaches us is unconditional and giving, as we give and not count the cost.
Another example from my parent’s marriage:  I told last year at this celebration of Dad and Mom moving us to the farm on my tenth birthday.  A new example of our farm experience:  Dad continued to work in town.  But later, we tried full-time farming, focusing on raising hogs (we had 500 pigs at one time!).  As you farmers can relate, one year our income dropped significantly.  Dad and Mom gathered us children together one December, and told us that there would not be many presents for Christmas that year.  It was a time of mystery for me, a time of change.  But I watched Mom and Dad serve us, unconditionally, sacrificially, and lovingly.  They gave their lives to each other and to us in a time of change.  We had a wonderful Christmas celebration, full of family love, and full of our Catholic faith in our Infant Savior.  Material gifts did not matter much, did not seem very important any more.

Congratulations to you on this anniversary of your marriage.  May our Compassionate Lord bless you with many more years together.  May He open your hearts to a deeper love, this love that draws you to say, “I give my life for you,” this love that lasts in the times of suffering and weakness, this love that serves.  Jesus will help you. He loves you more than you can ask or imagine!