Fr Kurt with his mum and sisters. Photo: Fr. Kurt Zion Pala
A few years ago, I officiated the wedding of my sister Karen, a talented nurse, to her forever Dodo, a mechanical engineer. In all the eight years they were together before the wedding, I only met the groom on their wedding day! I told him that I would listen to his confession before the wedding. The day was filled with love from both families. Marriage in the Philippines does not just bring two individuals but two families are brought together.
I saw my beautiful sister step out of the car in her long white gown. She is beautiful, and I saw my father smiling over us at that moment. With our mother, I walked my sister down the aisle.
At a time when relationships and commitments are taken for granted, when people seem to measure relationships like we tend to value things – it was emotional to see my sister's and Dodo's desire to witness to the world that love and commitment still matter. In Pope Francis' "Amoris Laetitia" on the "Joy of Love," he said, "The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church. As the Synod Fathers noted, for all the many signs of crisis in the institution of marriage, the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people, and this is an inspiration to the Church." That joy was evident at my sister's wedding!
Pope Francis said in the same letter, "I think, for example, of the speed with which people move from one affective relationship to another. They believe, along the lines of social networks, that love can be connected or disconnected at a whim of the consumer, and the relationship quickly 'blocked' … We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment: everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop. Then, goodbye."
In the Joy of Love, Pope Francis said, "Few human joys are as deep and thrilling as those experienced by two people who love one another and have achieved something as the result of a great, shared effort." He also wrote, "Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope."
My parents also made that commitment to each other, and they danced together until my father's death. Faithfully, as married couples and singles, we are called to be faithful just as Jesus has been faithful to God the Father.
Love is more than a romantic relationship; love is more than a feeling but a commitment to each other. Finally, today they are making this commitment before God and before us. I am sure that dad is watching us.
That is why marriage is never meant to be a happy ending. It is only the beginning of a life-long journey of discovering, accepting and growing into the persons you are meant to be and not what you want the other person to be but what God meant you to be. In this journey, expect not only the joys but also the pains of marriage. The language of love is sacrifice. – a language perfected by Jesus Christ upon the cross.
Henri Nouwen, a priest and writer, mentioned that "Marriage is not a lifelong attraction of two individuals to each other, but a call for two people to witness together to God's love… [The] intimacy of marriage itself is an intimacy that is based on the common participation in a love greater than the love two people can offer each other. The real mystery of marriage is not that husband and wife love each other so much that they can find God in each other's lives, but that God loves them so much that they can discover each other more and more as living reminders of God's divine presence. They are brought together, indeed, as two prayerful hands extended toward God and forming in this way a home for God in this world."
Henri Nouwen also reminds us that "The same is true for friendship. Deep and mature friendship does not mean that we keep looking each other in the eyes and are constantly impressed or enraptured by each other's beauty, talents, and gifts, but it means that together we look at Him who calls us to His service."
That day, I did not lose a sister to a stranger. Instead, a stranger turned into a brother. I thank him for accepting her and her family as his family.
Columban Fr. Kurt Zion Pala lives and works in Myanmar.
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