Congratulations, Richard and Mary, Dad and Mom, on marking your fiftieth year of sharing in the gift of God's covenant love through the grace of the sacrament of holy matrimony.
I also offer a word of thanks to everyone here who traveled to be with us to mark this wonderful event. Your presence here is a tremendous gift for which I am sure Mom and Dad will take occasion to thank you later today.
Mom and Dad, your lives of witness to Christ's love for His Church has not only brought you happiness and fulfillment, but also brought hope to others and the new life of six children into the world in a beautiful cooperation with the plan of our heavenly Father. We are here to truly celebrate with God as our source of joy.
We celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass and enjoy the proclamation of the holy Scriptures and the Lord's gift of Himself in the Eucharist here at the church of Saint Mary of the Mills, where so many important events in our lives of faith have played themselves out in a "liturgy" that stretches like a thread through and ties together what will be 48 years this July of our membership in this local family of the Faith.
As I have become, by fits and starts, a little older and perhaps even a little wiser, I've come to believe that the less one says the better.
Especially around those who know one well, such as family members. You never know when you might be hoisted on your own petard! The petard, a weapon used to blast through an opponent’s defenses but which can also injure those who stand in its backblast, is a powerful symbol for ill-considered or rash speech.
The collateral damage resulting from imprudent words can self-inflict the speaker! But, as you can see, today I am, shall we say, "on the spot" as I stand here in the ambo, and therefore will not get away with silence or even with prudent reticence. Thus my poor preaching will have to serve.
I am consoled that the instruction of the Church directs me to preach on the holy Word of God.
Thus in God we best understand His marvelous gift of Mary and Richard's share in the life-giving and unifying love of the vocation of holy matrimony for half a century.
In the first reading from Proverbs the woman in the home is praised for the work of her hands, in her vocation as a wife and a mother, but this should never be understood as implying that her labors are an end in themselves. The wife's value is based not on what she does but upon who she is, created like her husband in God's image and likeness and, therefore, always to be treated with the love of profound respect. The work of our hands is an outward sign and token of our innate value as persons, and something that cannot be calculated because it is a sharing in the infinite value of our Creator: "when one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls".
Dad, you did find a worthy wife in Mom, did you not? Or did she, in fact, find you? But however the two of you came together, it was always God's providential love that you permitted to lead and guide you, always the solid foundation upon which you built your "house", the family of six offspring which flowed from your reverence for God's gift of marital love. You understood that in God life and love are never separated.
When God gives, He gives all. And so, for your love of matrimony to be holy and good, to be Godly, it has in every instance to be open to new life.
Your generous gift of yourselves, in your work as a nurse and an electrical engineer, flowed from your more profound understanding of your identity as husband and wife, as mother and father, in obedience to God's will that man and woman in matrimony are the privileged sign of Divine Love for the world. Your vocation of becoming "one flesh", of "offering your bodies as a spiritual sacrifice" in the marital embrace makes Christ our Incarnate God ever present and tangible both for you and for others. This gift you receive through the indwelling Holy Spirit by which you form part of Christ's Body the Church through baptism and the sacrament of unity in matrimony. We happy six, the fruit of your love, can never express enough our gratitude that you heroically said always "yes" to life and "yes" to love, accepting both gifts from God in obedience, "doing the will of our Father in heaven".
Most of you here know that Dad was never permitted much time for "sitting at the city gates" with the elders, the symbol of the husband's blessing in our reading from Proverbs. Mom put too high a value both on the good of his sharing with her in the labor of family life and on his wide-ranging skills as a handy-man to leave him completely out of the action. Just how long did you keep that washer going on life-support, Dad? And I remember well the rust spots in the dishwasher which you regularly covered with epoxy to prolong the life of that household appliance as well.
Some sitting and relaxing Mary and Richard did enjoy together, and with all of us, as we cruised the vessel Seven C's and dingy "Plus One" to places near, like the Chesapeake Bay, and places far, such as an unforgettable cruise connecting the St Lawrence Seaway, the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal of Canada. We celebrated togetherness in a particularly intense way as we all squeezed into our sleeping spots on the boat each night. But the tested bonds upon which we rely today that hold us together so well as a family were born in those and many other opportunities for giving and sharing.
I have commented to Dad about how I think of our family dinners at home whenever I hear or pray Psalm 128 which says: “May your wife be a fruitful vine in the heart of your home and your children olive plants around your table”. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for imparting that gift of unity that expresses the love of family life and Christian witness.
In more recent years life aboard the sailing vessel Irish Blessin
g afforded greater challenges as you navigated the Intracoastal Waterway
as a twosome. What a reversal for we your offspring to find ourselves waving from the dock, bidding farewell as you disappeared into the future seeking new adventures together and finding that, indeed, “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” as we sang in the Psalm today!
Through the years most powerful experience of togetherness we enjoyed took place here, in the pew at Sunday Mass each week around the Lord’s Eucharistic altar. You showed us by your own example of discipleship that we could learn as you did to build our houses on the solid rock of Christ, the only sure source of security and hope. We came faithfully to "listen to these Words of Mine" as Christ commands in the Gospel, so we could find already then, and still today, that the Lord is our hope, our life and our light. When we listen and act on Christ's word our lives are built as a house upon Him, and he is our Rock foundation.
Your covenant in Christ has endured and grown, has been fruitful in God's love for fifty years. Thank you for your faithfulness and for handing on our Faith by word and example as you promised to do when you brought Maureen and me, Patrick and Brian, Conor and Sheila to the baptismal font of Christ's life-giving waters which flow through the Church. And you have grown gracefully and generously into the role of grandparents and the joy of new life continues to shine in your faces as you watch Matthew, Emma, Riley, Kathleen, Kelly, Celia, Andrew, Colleen, Erin, Maura and Maggie grow.
And now, as for that "petard" to which I referred at the beginning of my reflections. I will "hoist" up once again the image of this device which can break through the most solid of barriers to make the point, happily, that our invitation in Christ to share God’s life means that we do not need to force our way through death to reach the eternity we seek. No, God’s life is a gift which is accepted through faith and persevered in through prayer and worship. For that reason I will share with you a prayer, a blessing from the 16th century expressing the desire that your journey together through life in the holy gift of matrimony will find its fulfillment in joy at the gates of the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city of God. As this ancient saying goes: "The prayers of the Saints ascending with you, will Petarr your entrances through heaven's Portcullis".
As we know by Faith, all the blessings of your love as husband and wife, the joys of your parent- and grandparenthood, could not be a true source of happiness did they not open by grace onto the horizon of the life that never ends: that on high with Christ Jesus. In the Faith, Catholic and true, we promise you this day that our prayers, best wishes and undying love will ever accompany you because of our communion in love and prayer with the saints, and all the heavenly host, in Jesus Christ: the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen.
Happy 50th Anniversary, Mom and Dad, and many more: ad multos annos!
-- homily on the occasion of Holy Mass and renewal of vows marking the fiftieth anniversary of Holy Matrimony for Richard and Mary Cusick,
at Saint Mary of the Mills Church
Saturday, 22 May 2010
In photo: Richard, left, and Mary, right, pose with Conor and Peggy, center, on the occasion of their celebration of Holy Matrimony on 2 January 2010.