Bonds of Love
When I was about ten years old my parents gathered my brothers and I to tell us we were adopting a baby girl from China. Until that moment, I had thought of a sibling as someone else to whom your parents gave birth. I had heard of adoption before that conversation, but it had always seemed like a distant concept, something that some other families out there somewhere did. In the following months we prepared to welcome my sister into our family, and I learned how powerful of an experience adoption can be. I learned that love could form a bond just as powerful as blood. From the moment we first saw the tiny picture of that little girl on the other side of the world, to the moment we gathered with our family and friends in the airport to welcome her home, my new sister stole our hearts and was permanently cemented into our family.
This weekend love forged another unbreakable bond as my little sister got married. She again formed a lifelong bond not through blood but through the choice to love. In his homily at the wedding, the priest pointed out that what was essential to the sacrament of marriage was the words spoken by the bride and groom to each other. Baptism requires water, Confirmation requires oil, Eucharist requires bread and wine, but Marriage requires only the promises made by a man and woman to each other. The Scriptures begin with God speaking, and as he speaks the universe comes into being. We, who are made in God's image, also have the power to speak new realities into existence. Bride and groom looked each other in the eyes and said, "I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life". A new family was created in that moment. A new domestic church came into existence. A woman became a wife and a man became a husband. A girl became my sister so many years ago because we chose to love her, a man became my brother in that moment because she chose to love him.
Many family relationships are images for our relationship with God, but these two are on my heart this weekend. The Bible tells us "He destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will" (Ephesians 1:5). While the image of God as Father is familiar to us, we may not often stop to think about how God became our Father. We are his children not by blood, but through adoption. He loves us and cares for us and provides for us not because he is obligated to, but because he chooses to. The Bible also tells us "For as a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you" (Isaiah 62:5). God wants to marry us, again not out of any sense of obligation but because he chooses to love us. As husbands and wives love each other and give themselves to each other, our God loves us and gives himself to us freely, faithfully, and fruitfully.
The familial bonds within our domestic churches are images of God's bond with us. This weekend, the bonds of adoption and of marriage are especially close to my heart. They are both unbreakable, lifelong bonds formed by our choice to love. They remind us that God loves us not out of obligation but because he chooses to and that his love seals us as permanent members of his family.