By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
LENEXA, Kan. — A reporter working in Afghanistan noted how during the rule of the Taliban, women walked several paces behind their husbands.
When the same reporter returned after the fall of the Taliban, women were still walking several paces behind.
He asked one of the wives why.
“Land mines,” she said.
Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. told a few hundred wives as well as their husbands gathered at Holy Trinity Parish to celebrate World Marriage Day that they did not need to choose which one of them would walk ahead through the land mines of life.
“As we strive to promote and live out family life, we walk through terrain that is filled with land mines,” he said.
“The one who goes before us is Jesus himself,” Bishop Johnston said. “He goes before us to the enemy of our human nature — Satan. This conflict will take him to the cross. He asks us to follow, to take up our crosses as the passage from death to life.”
Bishop Johnston concelebrated the special Mass on Feb. 11 with Kansas City, Kan., Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and priests from both dioceses in an annual joint celebration of marriage and family.
He reminded the couples who came from both sides of the state line on a Thursday evening of the paradox of the love Christ showed to the world on the cross.
“I cannot realize the fullness of myself until I give myself away,” he said.
“This is the way of marriage,” he said. “It is in this Christ that a man and woman chooses what their marriage means.”
It is a choice, he said, that God gives every person, Bishop Johnston said.
“The truth, and sometimes the scary truth, is that we are the authors of who we become. God allows us to choose,” he said.
“But we are not the sole author. When we give our lives to Jesus, he becomes the co-author of who we become,” he said.
“To choose God means to obey him. To choose God and his truth is to choose life and, ultimately, happiness,” Bishop Johnston said. “To choose otherwise is to choose death.”
It isn’t easy, Bishop Johnston said. But God is always there.
“Give us this day our daily bread. Give us this day our daily love,” he said.
“There are indeed land mines before marriage and family, but the Lord precedes us,” Bishop Johnston said.
Jesus is there because the witness of a man and woman to Christian marriage and family live is fundamentally important.
“The church needs this. The world needs this,” Bishop Johnston said.