Doris and Louis Muench of Cumberland were the longest-married couple present at the annual Wedding Jubilee Mass for married couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries. The couple, pictured with Bishop James P. Powers with their congratulatory certificate, were married in September 1953. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

“How important you are to our diocesan church,” Bishop James P. Powers said to more than 100 couples celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2023. The men and women were gathered for the annual Wedding Jubilee Mass and luncheon, a diocesan event that took place Saturday, July 29, at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior.

After beginning his homily with a word of thanks for those who made the anniversary Mass possible, he continued, “How important the witness as husband and wife and family is for home, community and parish (and) for the world-at-large.”

As he reviewed the combined years of marriage celebrated – both virtually and in person – by the 104 recognized couples, Bishop Powers announced it was 4,914 years. There was laughter when he added that he was sure it was “all wedded bliss.”

He continued saying that the celebration’s focus was two of the oldest and most important institutions in the world – marriage and family.

“We celebrate the reality of your love as husband and wife,” Bishop Powers affirmed, not the legal marriage, license or contract. “Today we celebrate a supernatural reality. We celebrate a covenant. The eternal promise the two of you made to each other, however many years ago that was, making a promise not only to the other, but to God as well.”

“We celebrate that promise of faith you made to each other. And we celebrate that promise of faith that God made to you, as well. His promise to be with you and to give you the strength in those hard times; and to be faithful in his keeping up his end of the covenant.

Preaching then on the Mass’ Gospel passage from John, the wedding feast at Cana, the bishop called attention to the “beautiful and dramatic prologue” the evangelist presents, so different than the other Gospels. Recalling the opening lines of the creation story, the wedding feast takes place on the seventh day, the day that in Genesis God rested.

“I don’t think it was by accident that Jesus performs his first miracle — the changing of water into wine at a wedding … on the seventh day.” When Jesus makes wine, Bishop Powers commented, he doesn’t make a little bit, not just enough, but he made it in abundance; six stone jars, each holding 20-30 gallons, used for ceremonial purposes.

“Jesus, when he comes announcing the new Messianic Age, the arrival of the Messiah, our salvation, our God’s love and mercy and grace is so abundant … overflowing 120-160 gallons of wine. Our God’s love for us is total and free. All we have to do is to receive it, to ask for it, and be open to it.”

“Further emphasizing the importance of marriage … time and again, Jesus uses the analogy of marriage to try to explain his relationship to the Father and with the kingdom of heaven.”

Even though the historic Jesus was not present at your wedding, as he was for the couple in the story, Bishop Powers acknowledged how each of the couples had invited Jesus to their weddings, into their marriages.

“God was present on your wedding day, just as he has been present every single day since,” he said.

“On the day that you were married, as you held each other’s hands, God wrapped his hands around your hands. And as you spoke those wedding vows, God promised you the grace, the strength you need to be true to those vows, to be true to one another. And to become that sacramental sign that you are for all the world to see: that love of our God for his church, for each and every one of us.

“A love that is permanent and life giving; and again, all you had to do was to have faith enough to be open to that grace and to cooperate with God and his plan.”

Jesus didn’t promise it would always be easy, but he did promise to always be there, he recognized and affirmed, offering the grace needed to face whatever came their way. That promise is lived out in forgiveness of each other over the years, selflessness in putting the needs of the other first, and in the daily renewal of vows, “so that your love could be like that love of God.”

Then referring to the second reading from first Corinthians, chapter 12, Bishop Powers described that love as St. Paul wrote: patient and kind, never rude or self-serving or quick-tempered. A love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.

Once again referring to the reality of ups and downs in a marriage, the bishop encouraged, “You’ve held on to each other throughout it all. You’ve allowed the grace of our God to work in and through you. You’ve refused to take the easy way out and you refused to quit.

“And so today we rejoice, we celebrate the witness that you are to us and to all who you come in contact with… My dear friends, how much more than ever before is the church, our nation and our whole world in need of that witness that you give to the ways of God. The witness to what God intended from the beginning of time. That example of marriage and love, the beautiful witness of truly being a family and the profound gift that you are.

“Dear couples, as you continue your journey as husband and wife, know that it’s probably not going to be always easy after today either. Continue to work at your marriage. Continue to be that example to younger couples who are struggling. Show them how worthwhile it is to endure those struggles, to forgive, to put the other first. And continue to walk with the Lord, allowing him to shower you with that grace, his strength that you need to continue to be that witness of God’s love in our world…

“Thank you for letting the Lord be a part of your love. Thank you for coming today to celebrate the gift that your are, the treasure you are to the church and all the world … May the Lord God continue to watch over, guide, guard, bless and protect each and every one.”