Rochester, N. Y. -- Gilbert Herrick says he never got married because he never met the right woman -- until he turned 98. Now 99, the Word War II veteran and retired postal worker from western New York recently married 86-year-old Virginia Hartman, a widow who raised five children.
Herrick tells the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester that their first encounter was in 2010 in a hall at Monroe Community Hospital, the nursing home where they both live. After that, he started visiting her every day. Herrick says they wanted to share a room, but the facility’s rules don’t allow it unless a couple is married. Hartman asked him if he wanted to tie the knot, he said yes, and they were married on June 6 with Harman’s extended family on hand. (Associated Press, June 24th, 2011).
When you are in love with someone, you want to participate in that person’s life. You want to be close to that person. You want to tie the knot. Tying the knot means you tie your life to the one you love. You want to be with that person for the rest of your life. You want to experience life together. You want to walk together. You want to be together under the same roof. You want to lie next to each other. You want to go to sleep and wake up next to each other. You want to be nice to each other. You care about each other’s feelings. Here is an example of a conversation of a person who is in love before marriage...
He: Yes. At last! It was so hard to wait.
She: Do you want me to leave?
He: No! Don't even think about it.
She: Do you love me?
He: Of course! Over and over!
She: Have you ever cheated on me?
He: No! Why are you even asking?
She: Will you kiss me?
He: Every chance I get.
She: Will you hit me?
He: Are you crazy! I'm not that kind of person!
She: Can I trust you?
She: O! Darling!
It is always a joy to hear couples having conversation like this. It is a pleasant to be around them. But how about we read this conversation in reverse . . . ? (Read it upward). This can be true in many relationships. And it is sad.
It is always a challenge for married couples to stay in love, stay engaged and to continue participating in each other’s life with undivided love. Can we have an undivided love? I think we can. It is difficult but possible. Just remember when you first fall in love. You are madly in love with your fiancé; you feel; you think, and you believe that no one and nothing can separate you from each other. Everything you want and do is for the one you love. I have seen a young man who is in love with his girlfriend. She attends the Mass at 10:00 A.M.; he is also attending the 10 O’clock Mass. She volunteers to teach CCE class; he is there to team up with her. She helps out at the youth retreat; he is there to help out too. She and her family help at the church bazaar; he is there to help setting up and cleaning up till the end. He sits next to her and his hands are around her when they eat a pizza dinner with others. He just wants to be with her and she is happy to have him around. Their minds and their hearts are on each other. They think of each other; they feel for each other, and they do things for each other and with each other.
Most of us have experienced this kind of “madly in love.” Some stays with the experience for life long; others stop somewhere along the way in life. You lose the focus of your love when you allow other things to come between you. You allow your jobs, your friends, your co-workers, your studying, your hobbies, your passion for other things, your drinking, your computer, and your sports or whatever to interfere with your love. You allow yourself to be drawn to these other things in life. Your love becomes divided. You begin to live an unfaithful life. What we can do to stay faithful in our loving relationship is to remember our commitment, our purpose and the meaning of our life. For example, your commitment is to be husband and wife; and my commitment is to be a priest. Your purpose is to form a marriage and raise a family; and my purpose is to give my life to the church; the meaning of your life and my life is to love one another as ourselves and to love God with all our minds, hearts, souls and strength.
As we celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, the Church also prays that we may offer to our Father in heaven a solemn pledge of undivided love (Alternate Opening Prayer). Moses tells his people not to forget but remember God’s love and care for them throughout their 40 years journey in the desert to the Promised Land. God tests them in these forty years, but God’s love and care for them are undeniable. God tests them for their obedience and faithfulness to Him. He wants them to learn to trust Him and depend on Him. But when they are tested, very often they become frustrated, doubtful or forgetful of God. Moses wants the people of Israel to stay focused and remember that God takes them out of slavery; He protects them from the serpents and scorpions; he rescues them from hunger and thirst by giving them manna from heaven and water from the flinty rock.
In the Gospel reading, we are reminded that Jesus is giving himself to us as well. He becomes food and drink for us. There is no other better form of commitment and engaging than giving his body and blood as food and drink for us to consume. Jesus is telling us that this is the only food and drink that can sustain us on our journey from this world to the Promised Land. Jesus is very clear on this, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world . . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
The Scriptural readings today show us that God is constantly engaging in the life of his people; and God also want you and I to engage ourselves in His life and in the life of His Church. Reception of the Holy Communion is participation in the body and blood of Christ and an oneness with fellow-Christians. In the second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that the bread and wine that we bless are body and blood of Christ. Jesus is present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Therefore, when we receive Holy Communion we receive Jesus Christ himself. He is with us and we are with Him. We become one with Christ in a very real, concrete and personal way. There is only one Christ. And there is only one Church. And this Church is fully manifested in the Catholic Church. This oneness has to be actualized in reality. Christ alone is the sustenance of our souls and the sustenance of the life of the Church. This is why the Eucharist is the center of our Catholic worship. Participation in the Eucharist causes us to become one with Christ and with one another. This union of oneness in Christ, however, is not a mechanical or magical transaction so that the mere reception of the elements produces the union. There must be faith on our part when we receive and accept Christ into our lives. And there must be commitment to engage ourselves in God and in the life of the Church.
A few days ago, I visited a family in the parish. She and her husband used to be active in the church as an extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers. Recently he suffers a stroke. She has to stay home to take care of him. They share the home with their son and daughter and a grandson. I noticed that there is no living room. The living room has become her bedroom and chapel as well. She sets up an altar for the Divine Mercy and one for the Devotion to the Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I prayed and anointed her husband and heard her confession. When I was ready to leave, she asked her daughter to write a check for the church. Her daughter wrote a check for $25, but she told her to make it $50. I have been touched by her commitment to continue to engage in the life of the Church. We can engage ourselves in the life of the Church in many different ways. What is your way?