Darryl and JoAnn – you have made it fifty years! What a wonderful accomplishment. I have known you for half your marriage, and it really has been a blessing for me to get to know both of you and your children: Tom, Stacey and Patrick. My favorite memory of your family will always be of all of us going to Apple Valley.
Whenever we would go to Apple Valley together, they would let me tag along. One of the things they taught me was to waterski. For me, learning to get up on skis was one of my greatest joys.
I want to reflect on that image of waterskiing as this notion of what it means to love, as we hear in the gospel. I also want to reflect on what it means for a husband and wife to love each other and be faithful to each other for 50 years through good times and bad and in sickness and health.
You really are a sacrament. When we look at you and your faithfulness to each other, we realize that God is faithful to us. No matter what, God does not give up on us in the good times and in the bad or in sickness and in health. God never gives up on us.
There are three things that I learned about waterskiing from them. First, you have to have a boat, and the boat has to have gas. Right? You have to fill the boat up. I also learned that it is really important that you replace the gas cap before you drive off. The boat has to have gas. You have to fill up the tank.
That is what we are doing here at the Eucharist. Jesus gives us a new commandment. He says, “Not only do we love each other as we want ourselves to be loved.” He says, “I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.” As God has loved us that is how married couples are called to love one another.
They are not only called to give as much love as they get back or as much love as they want to receive, they are called to give the love of God that they have received. We ultimately receive that here at the Eucharist. That is why we are gathered here together this Sunday. This is where we fill up our gas tank because without the Eucharist, we cannot survive life. We need the Eucharist to keep us going.
The second thing I learned about waterskiing is that when you are skiing, you need at least two people on the boat. You need the driver and the spotter. We are going to imagine the driver is Darryl, and the spotter is JoAnn. The driver looks ahead. He looks forward. He keeps us on the right path. He is totally oblivious about what is going on behind him.
The spotter, however, constantly has her eyes on the driver and the water skier. She is looking back and forth. She is constantly monitoring that everything is going well. That constant union and that constant communication are so important. The husband needs to be constantly looking toward the wife. The wife needs to be looking towards the husband making sure everything is OK and looking back toward the skier making sure they are okay.
I have to say, for me growing up in the midst of that was a profound experience of love and attention. When you are waterskiing, all attention is on you just for a little moment. I grew up with six kids in my family, so I did not always have that attention.
It was great just to experience that love, but it requires that constant union – the constant attention of the spotter and the driver. The constant attention of the driver and the spotter. There is that constant union and communion that is going on.
So often along our lives that is what it is. It is that constant communion of being together. Every once in a while, you get to enjoy those amazing moments where there is nothing wrong. The lake is perfect, and you are skiing. It is awesome. That is your experience now during this anniversary celebration. You are here together. Your kids are alive. They are in the pews.
Right now, everything is OK. It is good that we have moments like that because, really, that is what this life is all about. Their married love is all about this loving attention of a husband and a wife. Not only is their love enough for the two of them. It is enough for their children. It is even enough for somebody like me, for somebody outside of their family. Married love is ultimately a sacrament of the church.
The love that Darryl and JoAnn have for each other is a sacrament of community that we are all called together to be together in this church. Every time we come together at Sunday Mass, God has his attention on you. He is totally transfixed on you. He completely loves you at this moment. It is so good that we have moments like this, and that is why we do this every Sunday.
The third thing I learned about waterskiing is that you have to hold onto the rope. No matter what, do not let go – even if there are waves coming toward you. Continue to hold onto the rope. That is what married love is.
Sometimes through good times and in bad times you hold on to each other. No matter how rough it gets. No matter how rocky it gets. No matter what is going on in your life, you hold onto each other. My dear brothers and sisters, that is what we are doing today when we come together to celebrate the Eucharist. We come here to hold on to each other.
So, all three of these things are important. First of all, it is important to keep our gas tank full – coming to continue to receive the Eucharist and allowing God to fill us. It is only out of being filled and fulfilled that we then can pay attention to other people.
We can begin to look at other people and begin to realize that they need love, too. We can pour our love into other people. Finally, we have to remember to hold on no matter what is going on in our lives. No matter the difficulties coming towards us, we simply hold on to each other and hold on to God.
So, Darryl and JoAnn, you have done that for fifty years. You have held onto each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Thank you for being a witness not only to your children and me but also to this entire church community.
Your love for each other helps us to see how loved we are by God. That God desires to fill us. That God desires to pay attention to us, and that God is going to get us through anything life throws at us.