By Megan Marley
KANSAS CITY — “Christian marriage is this call to heroic love, to follow Jesus himself—the married couple is called daily to choose to lay down their life in love for the other, to make the good and the happiness of your spouse more important than what might be your own wants and desires,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas in his Sunday homily on February 12. “Christian married couples, when they live their vocation well, provide the best and clearest reflection of God’s love in the world today.”
Archbishop Naumann and Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph once again concelebrated an annual Mass for the World Day of Marriage, this year on the KCMO side at St. Thomas More Church. Bishop Johnston was principal celebrant, while Archbishop Naumann gave the homily.
Before starting his homily, Archbishop Naumann prefaced it with an anecdote.
“I was joking with our deacon today saying, that maybe he should preach since he’s the married one in our presence. He replied that I may have to give his wife equal time if he did that,” Naumann joked. The Archbishop said that many think celibacy prevents priests from having insight into married life, but it isn’t true.
“Priests choose not to marry not because we don’t appreciate the goodness of marriage, parenthood and family life. We relinquish this possibility for, humanly speaking, what is most precious and most dear precisely because it is that,” he said.
“The priest’s life is to, in a sense, by its very nature remind us of the centrality of God in our lives and how all of us need to found our life in the Lord. So permit me as one who admires marriage and family life to share with you why I think marriage is so important.”
He then went through the points made in Sunday’s gospel reading of the Sermon on the Mount, giving practical application in married life.
“Jesus tells his disciples not only are they not to kill someone else, but to not let themselves grow angry with another to the point that they’re going to speak about them in a disrespectful or disparaging way,” Naumann said.
“This means never to address your spouse disrespectfully, never to speak about her to others in such a way that puts them in a negative light. In your wedding vows, you promise to love each other and honor each other, and to hold each other up in the great dignity we’ve been given by God,” he explained.
Naumann said Jesus follows this instruction with a lesson of mercy: if one comes to the temple and realize that they’ve treated someone unjustly, they must leave the temple and reconcile with their brother or sister.
“The intimacy of marriage demands this courage to ask for forgiveness, but also the compassion to give forgiveness to each other,” said Naumann.
Jesus also speaks on committing adultery in one’s heart by lusting after someone who is not your spouse. Naumann said that for married couples this also includes allowing any relationship to take priority over the primary friendship you have with each other. He also mentioned how spouses could still sin by lusting after each other, referencing Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
“In marriage a couple can misuse each other, even though they have this right to physical intimacy; they still have to do it in a way that is not using another for pleasure, but showing and manifesting the completeness of your love,” he said.
Naumann also said that Sunday’s gospel clearly states the Church’s teaching on divorce: that to divorce one’s spouse and marry another is to commit adultery.
“This teaching obviously cannot change, and the debate within the Church is really not about changing this fundamental teaching of Our Lord, but how we live that out,” he said.
He concluded with an overview of the Archdiocese’s Joyful Marriage Project, an archdiocesan-wide plan for strengthening marriages and families through prayer and action, and programs associated with both dioceses’ Family Life offices. After Archbishop’s homily, Bishop Johnston gave a blessing to the married couples present.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Johnston thanked Archbishop, pastor of St. Thomas More parish Fr. Justin Hoye, the Knights of Columbus, and both dioceses’ Family Life offices for coordinating the Mass and following reception. He also specially thanked families for all they do in daily life to build up the Kingdom of God.
“The Lord gives us opportunities with our imperfections, to forgive one another, to be patient, to serve one another, to be thankful together; in essence, to welcome one another—and there’s such a beautiful setting for that in the family life,” Johnston said.
“The older I get, the more I realize the health of the Church depends upon the health of our families. So know of our deep gratitude for your witness and gift of your love that radiates out and affects everyone in the Church.”
At the reception held after Mass, two married couples representing Worldwide Marriage Encounter and the School of Love gave testimonies.
Luis and Kristina Salazar gave their experience of how Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekends have strengthened their marriage of nearly ten years. They stated that in marriage, both spouses are called to challenge each other to greater holiness, particularly through daily prayer. Learning to pray with one another and discuss faith matters were awkward at first, but has greatly helped their relationship with each other, their children and with their community.
Mike and Kristi Dennihan, founders of the School of Love apostolate, also gave their witness of how God has worked in their lives and marriage, from before they even met each other. Prayer to know and do God’s will was and remains a key part of the story of their marriage.