I found this homily difficult to write, because the theme of Catechetical Sunday (marriage) doesn't really fit the readings. Still, it certainly wasn't as bad as this...
The prophet Amos rebukes those who lie and cheat in the marketplace. But, more than their lying and cheating, his real target is their attitude about God. They say, “When will the new moon be over…, that we may sell our grain, and the Sabbath, that we may display the wheat?” For these people, God’s law is important, but less important than their money and their greed. They’re going through the motions of obeying God’s law, but they don’t love God. This is why they are impatient for the Sabbath to end, so they can get back to doing their important business!
This attitude, this kind of sin, is all too familiar. Our society approves and rewards such sinners as being “more tolerant.” They show up at the Temple, but they do not let their faith affect how they act in the “real world.” The way such people behave in the marketplace, is also how they conduct their politics, and their family life -- and even their worship. This is not tolerance, but idolatry: they treat God as only one good among many, and God’s law as only one rule among many.
Too many people still think such an attitude is acceptable and practical, since it’s merely what everyone else is doing. But for God, and for faith, it is not nearly good enough. The prophet Amos cries out with God’s righteous anger against being treated so lightly.
Jesus tells us that we “cannot serve two masters.” God is not one good among many. He is the only good. If we want or need other goods than God, it is only so that these created goods can bring us closer to Him. And God’s law is not one rule among many. It is our only rule. If we follow other laws, it is only because these too have their source in God’s law. We cannot love both God and the world.
Jesus tells us that, if we are not trustworthy in small things, we cannot expect to be trusted with great things. The sacrament of marriage is one of those “great things” for which we hope to be trusted. And because this vocation is so important, the devil works very hard to keep husbands and wives from being trustworthy with the small, daily aspects of married life.
How do those who are called to married life prove trustworthy in little things, each and every day? How do we let our faith affect our family, so as to be worthy of God’s trust with the great thing, our sanctification through married life?
The Church clearly teaches the minimum, the letter of God’s law for marriage. Adultery, fornication, contraception, pornography -- these are all grave moral evils. At a minimum, don’t do them. Let me say that again: chastity is the least we can do for God. The devil tries to convince us that chastity is too hard for us. He whispers that we have a right to be unchaste, at least in our thoughts and desires, if not with our actual bodies. But God says that chastity, even in our thoughts and desires, is not too hard for us to live up to. And He gives us the grace to do so.
But this “least,” Amos has said, is not enough. We must do more than just the minimum.
Our shared spiritual life in the home is a critical part of that “more.” The devil wants your marriage to fail, because its success is part of what gets you to Heaven. Therefore prayer is crucial to a healthy marriage. Husbands and wives strengthen their marriage when they pray together. Parents both teach and testify to their faith when they teach their children to pray. Meals together, without distractions like television or computers, form us humanly and socially; and they become spiritually intimate with family prayer. Even perfectly ordinary and common moments, like getting into or out of your car, can be simple and effective times to pray, and can build in us the habit of praying constantly.
Sharing prayer in these ways is not hard, but it does take commitment. There are always going to be interruptions of our prayer time, and temptations not to pray. Don’t give up. Keep praying. No matter what we may be doing physically, like mowing the grass or folding laundry, we can always recite an Our Father or a Hail Mary mentally.
Another major portion of doing more than the minimum is healing our attitude. Our mutual obedience to each other and to God should be willing, and prompt, and cheerful. A husband’s gratitude to his wife, for example, might be expressed by not complaining about her to his buddies. Likewise, a wife’s humility might mean not nagging her husband.
Our prompt and cheerful mutual obedience also entails a prompt and cheerful readiness to forgive. No matter how good our marriage or family life might be, all of us will sometimes need both to ask for and to offer forgiveness. A healthy attitude and an active prayer life will make both the asking, and the giving, easier.
How we live in the home is how we will live in the world. If our faith permeates every part of our family life, it will also shape our conduct in worship of God, and in the marketplace, and in politics. Only the healthy and active faith nourished in the home will survive the trials of the world and the hatred of the devil.
Finally, today we mark Catechetical Sunday. Every parent is a catechist, and we pray that all parents will have the courage and grace to pass on their living faith to their children. But also, volunteering to be a catechist in the Church requires very deep faith, and can even represent heroic courage. It is a further gift of time, patience, and faith. Every Church catechist makes sacrifices to help other families pass on the flame of our faith. You also show us how to serve God alone, with faith and love. As we mark Catechetical Sunday today, I offer special thanks and prayers to all the members of our parish who live out their faith in this way.