How blessed we were this past week to receive a wave of warmth in southeast Michigan! Though the temperature dipped back down again, the sunny weather and blue skies were a sign of good things to come which brought great joy to many of us who have longed for it. There is also “love in the air.” The warm air we experienced is also a sign that the wedding season is almost upon us, and it is a sign of the love that many couples will experience as they prepare to get married in the coming weeks and months. The marriage between husband and wife is a deeper spiritual reality that points to the marriage between the Bridegroom, Jesus and his Bride, the Catholic Church. There is even a reference to this nuptial mystery and language to this weekend’s Mass in the second reading in which the beloved disciple, St. John, states from the Book of Revelation that “I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” which is to take place at the end of time (Rev. 21:2).
While I love Jesus, who is our Lord and our God, the second person of the Most Holy Trinity, I also love his Bride, the Catholic Church? Why? For multiple reasons…I love the Tradition of the Catholic Church that comes from Jesus that has been given to his apostles and includes their teachings in the Apostles Creed. I love reading about the saints: from the witness that St. Damien gave to the lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, to the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, to the celebration of virgins like St. Clare, the founder of the Poor Clare nuns, to the great missionaries like the co-founder of the Jesuits, St. Francis Xavier, plus many more memorials and feast days upon which the saints are celebrated over the course of the year. I also love the bride’s mother, Mary, the Mother of God. I love the rich history of the Catholic Church: from the Catacombs to the Crusades, to the persecution of the Church during the French Revolution, all the way to Pope Pius XII’s heroic efforts to offer refuge to Jews during World War II from Nazi aggression. I love the writings of the Early Church Fathers like St. Jerome who is famously known for the quote, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” I love the pope and bishops along with the laity, which together form the Catholic Church. Similarly, I love Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist, which together form the Mass. One of the main reasons I love Jesus’ bride is because it’s true. Ultimately, the bride I love isn’t a mere building though buildings can be beautiful and are important. Take St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, for example (in the photo seen above). The true Bride of Christ, whom I love, isn’t a building, but the reality of people. It’s worth noting that we are also called not only to love the Bride, but all people outside of confines of the Catholic Church not yet in full communion, whether it be non-Catholics or non-Christians, and even those who try to harm us. Doesn’t Jesus say, “love your enemies” (Mt. 5:44, Lk. 6:27, 35)? But the Church is a group of people whom we are called to love which can be difficult at times too. Why do YOU love her? Is it her prayers, her music, her sacraments, her education, her love for the poor, her global outreach, or something else? Why do you love Jesus’ Bride, the Catholic Church? This weekend’s Gospel is about love. May we heed Jesus’ command from John 13 in which he says, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34-35). May we continue to love Jesus. By loving him, loving ourselves, and loving one another, we love her, Jesus’ Bride, the Catholic Church.
– Fr. Jeff