8th Sunday of 2006
When a couple decides to be married in the church, there are certain steps that many go through to prepare them for marriage. One of them is called “foccus” and it is a personality and compatibility profile to see what they are thinking about certain issues that may arise in their married life. In this profile there are certain statements with which they must agree or disagree. One of these statements is “I could not stay married if my spouse were unfaithful” I know that no couple who is planning a marriage, who is caught up in being in love and all the possibilities of the future wants to contemplate infidelity. I won’t tell you how many of the couples that take the test agree with the statement. I wonder if you can guess. But what is interesting is that the “preferred answer” would be to disagree with the statement. The answer “key” suggests that there might be more problems with a couple that couldn’t imagine that kind of failure than those who would imagine they could work through it.
Infidelity. It’s one of those things that have the power to destroy a relationship. It is so often a “deal-breaker”. Hurt, betrayal, anger etc. there is a whole range of human emotions that are associated with the experience of infidelity. That may be the power of the book of Hosea. Hosea marries Gomer, a woman who is accustomed to infidelity. The marriage of Hosea and Gomer is symbolic of God’s relationship with Israel . Like Hosea, God is always faithful. We hear in today’s scripture how God leads Israel into the desert to espouse her, and speaks to her heart. It is in God’s nature to be faithful.
But what does that mean? God is always faithful. I have an 83 year old aunt who is saying that God hates her because her house has been damaged by a flood. Or someone else who feels that God has abandoned him because his life has changed dramatically due to illness, and change of life circumstances. Or someone else who continually prays for something to happen and it never does. Or someone else who feels that God does not love her because her marriage is disintegrating. How can we say God is faithful to this relationship with us when there are so many circumstances in our lives that do not speak of “faithful love” Speak more of absence and abandonment? What does it mean that God is always faithful? Is God’s fidelity meant to be judged by what happens in our lives, good or bad? Or is it something else. Is it like those marriage vows that say “I promise to be true to you in good times, and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life” Listen to the Gospel today in which Jesus makes the distinction between the celebration when the bridegroom is present and the fasting when the bridegroom is absent. Life’s reality includes joy and sorrow, presence and absence. “I promise to be true to you” What is your experience of God’s fidelity to you, not judged by life’s circumstances but by a sense of awe and wonder that God loves you so much, unconditionally, which means that your “infidelity”, your “chasing after other gods or idols” will ultimately not destroy the fabric of your relationship with God.
As a Jesuit the most powerful experience of God’ s unconditional love and fidelity has come through making the Spiritual Exercises of ST. Ignatius. At the core of these Exercises is the lived experience of God’s fidelity to us in Jesus Christ. Over the course of those exercises, one is invited to know God’s unconditional love, despite one’s infidelity. One comes to know Jesus intimately as the revelation of God’s abiding presence in the world and in our lives. One comes to see the reality of love poured out in the sacrifice of the Cross and the promise of faithful love in the Resurrection. For the past few months, members of our parish have been making those exercises in their ordinary lives and can attest to the power of that prayer. For the past few weeks I have been recreating a presentation on the Exercises called. For the Greater Glory of God. This dance theater piece in which I play Ignatius giving the Exercises is meant to give you an overview of them in a way that hopefully engages your heart and soul. We’ve chosen to present For the Greater Glory of God at the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception in the South End. This performance/prayer will open up the Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier whose 500 th anniversary of birth is this year. Many of you may remember the special place that the Immaculate played in the city of Boston for the Novena of Grace. To make it easier for you to attend we are providing bus transportation from here. Instead of staying home next Saturday evening, watching TV or playing with the computer, would you be wiling to spend some time remembering God’s faithfulness to you, If you want the answer to the question, “What does it mean that God is always faithful? Come and see for yourselves, come and join us “for the Greater Glory of God”