This reading concludes a long opening section in Paul’s letter to the Christian community living in Rome. He preaches that the Gospel announces salvation for all peoples whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Then he offers reflections on our justification to God. Thus, the questions in this passage sound a bit like a back-and-forth argument. It is Christ whose death and resurrection has justified us and now intercedes on our behalf before God (vs. 89). A love that Christ demonstrates by dying for all of us is a bond of love that cannot be broken by anything – earthly, supernatural, or otherwise (vs. 88-89).
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The Church offers a sacramental marriage, something different and in addition to a civil marriage. It is a love that unites and a love that is unbreakable. Husbands and wives who share this strength of love can be as confident as St. Christ’s love was victorious, and any love that imitates his will share in the same gift. When St.
Paul speaks of a living sacrifice, the people would initially think this is an impossible contradiction. Sacrifices entailed the blood of an animal offered in the temple. This was done to express the moral life, to make up for one’s faults, and to please God. St. Paul, however, is preaching after Jesus’ blood was shed on the cross.
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That sacrifice of his own life was the fulfillment of all sacrifices. The Apostle suggests that those who follow Christ are to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. This is the paradox of faith–that sacrificing, most especially the sacrifice of the cross, gives life and shuns death. In other words, St. Paul is saying that something completely new is taking place because of Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection.
The lives of the Christian believers are to look different, and they are to embrace a new way of living in the world because of the beliefs they hold. Husbands and wives must compromise. A successful compromise entails sacrifice from both. The marriage vows state that each is willing to lovingly sacrifice for the other, whatever the cost. The second portion of this reading outlines a series of outward and visible actions that one can do to reflect sacrificial love that benefits others while also pleasing God.
This list of high ideals will inspire many couples, yet it is intended to be a sign for all believers. Couples who choose the shorter option of this reading will miss some wonderful passages: “weep with those who weep, ” “have the same regard for one another, ” “do not repay anyone evil for evil, ” “on your part, live at peace with all. ” These images express the hopes for many couples, and should be the ideals for all. Proclaiming them will add to the joy of the celebration.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans 65: 6b-8a, 5-7, 68This reading emphasizes St.