To God We Plight Our Troth
In today’s gospel Jesus says that he goes to prepare a place for us and will then return to take us to be with him forever. It sounds like the end of the world…and it is. But, the language also tells us something about our relationship with God right now. In the time of Jesus, when a couple became engaged it was known as betrothal. The formal period of betrothal began when the husband paid the father of the bride the “bride-price.” The couple was then known as husband and wife. However, they were not yet married. The period of betrothal would last around a year.
During the year of betrothal, the husband had to ensure proper employment such that he could support a family and he had to go and build a home for this new family. Literally, he had to go and prepare a place for his wife and children. After a year, the marriage was sealed when the husband came to the home of the bride and took her in solemn procession into his new home. During this period of betrothal, the couple did not engage in marital relations. Rather, the time of betrothal was meant to prove that the couple could live chastely and were not mere slaves of their passions.
It is in this context that Jesus says in the gospel that he goes to prepare a place for us and will return to bring us to himself. Jesus is saying that he is our bridegroom who has betrothed himself to his bride the Church. This means that in this life we should be waiting expectantly for the coming of Jesus the bridegroom. It also means that during this time of preparation we are called to faithfulness. How are we doing?
We can certainly see that with regard to marriage we could be doing a lot better. Moving in together is no longer seen as the sign of marriage. In fact, couples live together today with almost no commitment at all. It wasn’t too long ago that if a boy tried to take some young lady to live with him outside of marriage that the father of the girl would have been there with a shotgun. Where are the fathers today to protect their daughters? Where are the fathers to show their sons how to be real men and care for women?
St. Philip the apostle begs Jesus today, “Show us the father.” Indeed, we are in dire need of strong fathers who will protect their families from evil. We also must see in Philip’s request the great desire we should all have to be in heaven. During this time of betrothal we pray that we can have the expectant joy of a bride preparing for her husband. We pray that we will be faithful.