Wedding bells rang in St. Peter’s Basilica this morning as Pope Francis presided over a Mass that included a wedding ceremony for 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome. The celebration comes only three weeks before the start of the Synod on the Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of the Evangelization.
Reflecting on the first reading, which recalled the journey of the People of Israel in the desert, the Pope said that their perilous journey is a reminder of the journey of the Church through “the desert of the contemporary world” and like them, composed of families.
“This makes us think of families, our families, walking along the paths of life with all their day to day experiences,” he said.
“It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the ‘bricks’ for building up society.”
However, like the People of Israel, the Pope said that there are moments of impatience and are tempted to turn back in moments of crisis. The same occurs at times in marriage and family life. “The hardship of the journey,” he said, “causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavor of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament.”
The first reading recalled the poisonous serpents that inflicted the people of Israel, which causes them to repent and ask God for forgiveness. The remedy offered by God is to place a serpent upon a staff. All those who looked were healed.
The Pope noted that God did not destroy the serpents, but rather, offered an antidote that was more potent than “the Tempter’s poison.”
“The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who ‘have become impatient on the way’ and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness and abandonment,” he said. The healing grace of the Cross, he continued, renews married couples and families while setting them on the right path.
Addressing the couples directly, the Pope called on them to place the love of Christ at the center of their marital life, allowing for a “reciprocity of differences”
“This is what marriage is all about,” he said. “Man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man.”
The Holy Father also stressed the importance of reconciling when there are arguments or disagreements. “The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human,” he said.
Before concluding his homily and continuing with the Rite of Marriage, Pope Francis reminded the couples that marriage is a symbol of real life, stressing that “it is not ‘fiction’”.
“It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church,” he said, “a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross.”