They say that God has a sense of humour. It would seem to be so given that here today, as we celebrate long years of marriage, the figure which God gives us to interpret your journey, the deeper meaning of your life and its shape, is the figure of Job. We possibly could have expected someone else but God gives us Job.
As you might remember Job was the man who went from great prosperity onto the ashheap. He was a man who knew trials, sorrows and suffering to the point where he railed against God; a god who seemed to be unjust, unreasonable, unfair and tyrannical. Yet through it all he comes, at the very end of the book of Job, to say “I know that you are all powerful and that I, with all my railings, am the one who has obscured your designs with my empty headed words.” To put it another way, “I saw nothing, I knew and understood nothing but now I see your designs, I know and I understand.
Now through 50 or 60 years, you married couples unquestionably have known times of trial. How could there be 50 or 60 years of marriage without trials? Yet these trials have not broken you. You have known sorrows, you have known suffering and all of that we bring to this moment in the Cathedral, leaving nothing behind. Doubtless too, there have been moments when you have been tempted to rail against God; to speak what Job calls “empty-headed” words to a God who may or may not be there. You’ve had your doubts, so too did Job. Yet through it all you have come to know and to understand that what you see here today, and proclaim to the world by your marriage, is that beyond all the trials, the sorrows and the sufferings, the shadows of the years, there has been overflowing blessing. You see beyond all his railing and his trials we are told Job came into fortune; a greater blessing than he knew before.
Now you might not have 6000 camels and 1000 she-donkeys, and three beautiful daughters, the youngest of whom is called Mascara, but what we see and what we say to the world is that your journey, like Job’s, ends up being a story of overflowing blessing. Forget the camels, the she-donkeys and Mascara. Focus on the blessings as we do this morning. These are blessings not just to you and your family but to the whole world. That’s what you are and it’s what you’ve been through all the blood, sweat and tears. What a gift! What a blessing you have been to your families, to the church and to the world.
You have been given power, says Jesus, to trample underfoot serpents, scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy. There is no question that in the journey of married love you must deal with the serpents and the scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy, who always lurks. And yet, says Jesus, nothing shall ever hurt you. “None of that has ever destroyed you,” says the Lord. In other words, your names are written in heaven, and here today, with the ink of God, we write your names in heaven once again in the book of life, which is the book of love.
All of this great mystery, says Jesus, is something hidden from the learned and the clever. To do what you have done, and you don’t have to line up among the smart, sagacious and the clever to do it; is still something special. You have to love like the little child; like the little ones and also like St Francis of Assisi. He wasn’t lining up among the learned and the clever but he was an explosion; an eruption of God’s love. He wasn’t married, nor was St Therese of Lisieux, whose feast we also celebrated recently. Again, she was not counted as one of the learned and the clever, but one of the little ones; mere children who become an eruption of God’s love. They weren’t married, Therese and Francis but that’s not the point for every human being has the vocation to love. For you it has been in marriage. For others it is not. Yet that’s not the point. Our name is written in heaven only if we live the vocation to love; to be like God, the God who is love.
This celebration this morning is held on the eve of the beginning of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. This will be the first of two sessions of this Synod, and this is very unusual but so too is the theme. The theme of the Synod, with its two sessions, this year and next, is marriage and the family. This is a recognition that marriage and the family are at the heart of what it means to be human and what it means to be a human society that is truly flourishing. Here this morning then, as we gather up the years, not as the learned and the clever, but as those who know love which is the design of God, let all of us pray in the power of faith and with the love of the years. Let us pray that this Synod of Bishops will not just be more words to the wind, “empty-headed” words that obscure God’s design but that this Synod will be a powerful word spoken by God in the world; a powerful word which will not obscure the design of love but will show it forth in all its magnificence. Amen
Most Rev Mark Coleridge
Archbishop of Brisbane
October 4, 2014