It's Wednesday. We all know it as the middle of the week. But in this particular week, I find myself in between an ordination and a wedding. Last Saturday, I was sitting at the cathedral in Cincinnati, witnessing the ordination of three new priests. On this coming Saturday, I will be sitting at a parish outside of the nation's capital, witnessing the marriage of two friends and fellow graduate school alumni.
'Tis the season for ordinations and weddings, yet having these two events within one week of each other highlights their complementarity. We often think of priesthood and religious life as the only path to holiness, and marriage as the path for those who aren't selfless enough to give their entire being to God. But both priesthood/religious life and marriage are paths to holiness. Both are invitations to give of oneself -- totally and forever -- to God. Both are concrete manifestations of our universal vocation to love.
And how often do we sit in the pew at a wedding or at an ordination and ponder the incredible gift of witnessing these irrevocable vows to reflect God's love to the world? We are present in a moment that is the height of receiving one's life as a gift from God and responding with the gift of oneself. And if it's true that "man cannot find himself except in a sincere gift of self" (Gaudium et Spes #24), then we are witnessing a moment of profound self-realization before God and others.
So as we survey the landscape of the middle of the week, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to contemplate the gift of those whose lives -- either by their vows of obedience and celibacy (and poverty, if in the religious life) or by their vows of "till death do us part" -- are reflecting God's total and forever love for us. Thank God for the gift of priesthood, religious life and marriage, and the ways in which they complement one another in revealing the incredible love God has for us as our origin and destiny.