By Jason and Julie Lillis
For the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
On a Sunday where the Gospel reading is so fundamental to Catholic identity, it’s hard not to think about the number of marriages in our community that are religiously “mixed.” At St. Francis, almost 55% of couples preparing for marriage are made up of a Catholic and a non-Catholic. As a Catholic/Lutheran couple, we—Jason and Julie Lillis—are one of many such couples who are involved in worship and ministry at a Catholic community.
Jesus’ question in today’s Gospel, “Who do you say that I am?” strikes a chord with us because it reminds us of how our denominational identities inform who we are and what our marriage looks like. Even if the simple versions of our answers sound just like Peter’s—“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”—the different meanings, histories, and associations we each attach to those words bring multiplicity into seemingly identical answers. In our experience, having such diversity within our unity is a positive thing: our perspectives are enriched through shared worship and conversation, each of us is challenged by the other, and our dialogue transforms our attitudes toward other traditions. A related question that has become especially important for us to think through and talk about is, “Why is it important for Jason/Julie to still be Catholic/Lutheran?” Some things would be easier if we both belonged to only one tradition instead of being committed to two. But by continuing to reflect on this question, we continue to learn about what we need from and what we can offer to the church through worship, community, and our particular calls and gifts. Our union is strengthened by being fully called to our own traditions and being honorary members of each other’s.
One of our ministries that provide space for couples to have conversations about their relationship is the Six Great Dates program, which starts in September. For interfaith couples, and for all couples, part of this opportunity could be to respond to Jesus’ question, perhaps rephrased: “Who do you that have become one flesh say that I am?” We’d also like to hear from you about the ways St. Francis can best help Catholic/non-Catholic couples prepare for, celebrate, and enrich their marriages. You can contact Jason (and Julie through him) at 847-8205, x244.