Wedding Homily for Brody and Josephine
Genesis 2:18-24, Psalm 34, Romans 8:31-35, 37-39, Matthew 5:1-11
So here we are, summoned at the proverbial moment’s notice. Just this past May, Brody finally had the courage to propose. Wow, great, replied Josephine, and then insisted on a summer wedding, with barely 3 months to prepare! Great joy, mixed with grumble, grumble could be heard in a few corners. How to get ready in such short time?! But a loving army rallied and here we are. Joy has won! Your love, Josephine and Brody, is finally ready to be shared and celebrated with the world.
The beauty and attraction of idealism comes through at most weddings, including this one. Even in the face of high divorce rates, women and men keep making the radical choice of a lifetime commitment in matrimony. Some call it foolish; others call it holy. I’m guessing that most couples like you, Brody and Josephine, have big portions of both foolishness and holiness.
But why does the Church call marriage a sacrament? A sacrament is an action or thing which makes the invisible God visible and tangible through human and material things. In other words, a sacrament is a doorway into God. God’s first sacrament is creation itself; many of us easily experience a divine presence in nature. Later today we will continue this celebration at our farm near Cochin.
If you haven’t been there before, rest assured that you that you will easily sense God’s hand in the beauty of that place.
God’s fullest human sacrament is Jesus Christ. Jesus shows us what it means to be fully human. But how does this pertain to marriage? In two ways. First, as physical, bodily creatures we cannot see God directly with human eyes. God is pure Spirit. But God desired to make his own mystery visible so … God branded the divine image and likeness right into our bodies by creating us male and female, as we heard so eloquently in the first reading from Genesis. God is etched into our DNA, so to speak. This makes the human body a sacrament, a doorway into God. Every human body, every woman and man present here today
is a reflection of God’s loving nature and purpose.
While Jesus’ words from Matthew’s Gospel, the Beatitudes, are well-known and well-loved by so many (I will come back to them later), it is our second reading that contains some important keys to a good marriage. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? asks Paul in his Letter to the Romans, and to us. Well, maybe a rhetorical question, because nothing can separate us from God in Christ Jesus. However, while your marital love will feel indestructible today, Brody and Josephine, many things will try to separate you from one another. Despite today’s joy over our two people in love, human love, including marital love, is fragile and vulnerable, exposed to forces of division and strife, jealousy and resentment.
Josephine and Brody, your decision to formalize your marriage covenant before God and in the presence of God’s holy people is important. This public commitment will serve as an anchor to ground you in stormy times and in times of alienation and pain. You are today committing to live your love as a Gospel witness in the world through the three C’s modeled by Jesus: commitment, communication, and compassion.
The vows and promises you make today transform your relationship into a sacrament. God who created all things, who sent Jesus to reveal the fullness of human flourishing and the depth of God’s love, now transforms your marital love into a visible sign of God’s love for us all. Your commitment today touches hearts because it speaks of God’s eternal love for us. Making love and giving life are divine activities, and your marital union will now reflect that holy work.
And this is where Jesus comes in. For making love and giving life was what Jesus was about, in ways far deeper and greater than only marriage. Jesus came so that we could see God in action. His life, his teaching and witness, his unjust and cruel death, and his resurrection are living testimony to the power of self-giving and sacrificial love. If you want to know me, God says, look at my Son Jesus who is the manifestation of my mercy, grace and love.
Love is God’s commodity of choice. It’s all we live for and it’s all we die for. It’s all we get to take with us in death – love given and received. And at the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus revealed the extent to which God’s love has been poured out for us. “This is my body,” he said, “broken for you, my blood poured out for you.” No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for friends. The sacrament of marriage invites you into this holy gift of self, laying down your life for one another out of love and for the salvation of the whole world.
St. Paul asks another rhetorical question: Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? (…) … You are exchanging vows and promises today. But vows are not magic, and they’re only a beginning. Your vows will need revisiting many, many times throughout your life together, because they will be tested through hardship, peril and distress. The vows will indeed provide an anchor in times of doubt, and they will challenge you greatly in times of conflict. Finally, these vows will lead you deeper into the image and likeness God has placed in each one of you.
A few years ago I met A.J. and Patsy Felix, two aboriginal elders from a northern First Nation. And if you hang around with these two long enough, you will hear about their marriage. A.J. and Patsy are a great example of how marriage can deepen through the fires of distress, hardship and conflict. One day A.J. couldn’t stand himself anymore as an alcoholic and abusive person. So A.J. told Patsy to sit down because he was going to tell her who the man she married really was. A.J. told Patsy everything, holding nothing back. Patsy’s reaction was to get physically sick, and she threw up. Patsy did not talk to him for a week. A.J. gave her the space she needed by going for long walks. After a week, Patsy told A.J. to sit down because she was going to tell him who the woman he married really was. Patsy proceeded to tell him everything, holding nothing back. Now it was A.J.’s turn to get angry and not talk to her for a week. After several weeks of coming to terms with the pain in one another’s lives and hearts, A.J. and Patsy decided to build a sweat lodge together. They shared a sweat to let go of all that had harmed their spirits and that was harming their marital union. In their own cultural way, A.J. and Patsy were healed and reconciled. They have been reaping a deeper love, respect and affection for each other ever since. They now live in the intimacy of their love and in the knowledge that nothing needs to separate us from one another or from God. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can now see right into the heart of God. What we see there is mercy and compassion, humility and unconditional love, forgiveness and total non-violence.
Marriage therefore consists of several types of “RINGS:”
– The Engagement Ring
– The Wedding Ring
– The Suffer-Ring
– The Endue-Ring
Brody and Josephine, like A.J. and Patsy,you too will learn to grow into and give concrete expression to your wedding vows in the day-to-day living – sometimes the hard way. As you live into your wedding vows the Church offers you the Eucharist as the holy food of self-giving love on the journey of your life together. After you make the divine promises of marriage to one another and in the presence of all of us here, you will bring up the bread and the wine as an expression of this gift of Christ. The Eucharist is the sacrament of God’s own self-giving in the person of Jesus. Take and eat this holy food often, not only physically but also spiritually. Eat and drink at the Eucharist and, in the words of St. Augustine, become what you eat: unconditional love and mercy for one another and for the world. Take and eat, take and drink, so that your marriage can grow into that same “Eucharistic” self-giving love in order to make God visible in our broken world and to bring healing and wholeness into that same world.
Then you will learn to embody the blessings of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the pure of heart, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the peacemakers … And so echoing St. Paul, we can then say that in all these things we are more than conquerors through the One who loved us. For we are convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN
- Heartfelt thanks to the local RC bishop who gave permission for me, an Anglican priest, to share this homily in my God-daughter’s Roman Catholic wedding Mass.
- The story of A.J. and Patsy is used with permission.
- Photo Credit for Bridal Party image: Chelsea Cameron of Lovestruck Photography
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