Committing to Love

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My Philippine daughter in law, Jessica, will be arriving in the United States for the first time later this week. Like Ruth, in the Old Testament, she has chosen to give up her homeland, her family, the comfort zone of her own culture, to follow her heart and her husband to this new land. It’s a decision tens of thousands of foreign nationals make each year – to follow their hearts, their loved ones, to a new country and a new way of life. It’s a level of commitment that those of us who have promised “to love and cherish, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” seldom encounter.

“…to love and to cherish…”

In this well-known passage, Paul is using the analogy of the marriage commitment to describe the love between Christ and the church, the people of God. There isn’t room in this commitment for lukewarm feelings. Cherish is the word he uses to describe the relationship. As newlyweds love and cherish one another, so must we hold Christ in our hearts. We must honor and cherish him, recommitting ourselves to love each day. And those days when we feel the least lovable, the least loving, it is all the more important for us to attend to Christ and his message of love.

“…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…”

It isn’t a cafeteria commitment we are called to make. We don’t get to say – “I’ll agree to this part but not that part.” Marriage is about trust and fidelity, not about making our own rules and doing things the way we want. A healthy marriage demands we put the interests of our beloved before our own self-centered wants. Today’s Gospel message of commitment calls us to accept God’s will even when it is hard for us to understand or agree with. It’s a call to trust wholly and completely in our beloved Lord. He is the one who offers eternal life.

“..until death do us part.”

Forever, not until someone else more interesting comes along. In our first reading today, this is the kind of commitment that Joshua is calling on the people to make. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” There is no halfway measure about this, no turning back. The people must make a choice that they must live with for the rest of their lives. When we were baptized, the decision was made to be part of that household who follows the Lord. As adults, we confirmed that choice. Those sacramental vows are just as binding as the wedding vows. We accepted the call to love and cherish, the call to serve the Lord. Sometimes we feel like strangers in a strange land. Sometimes we think the demands are more than we can manage. But God remains there at our side, like a beloved spouse, ready to help us through the hard parts. We are His holy people, now and forever.

Thank you, Jessica, for reminding me of this loving commitment.

Linda Crowley