April 1, 2019
I had the honor of presiding at the wedding of Bree and Ryan on Saturday. I offered the following homily at the wedding:
When I began officiating at weddings, I made a commitment that I would never let the invited guests off the hook. Each of you plays a critical role.
I know you are excited to get to the reception and eat and drink at someone else’s expense, but there is more to your presence than filling the pews of the church. You are here today because you love and care about Bree and Ryan, and you want to support them.
It’s easy to support them on a “warm and fuzzy” day like today, but they will face challenges along the way. They will experience difficulties as they learn to understand one another more fully, to communicate, and to think and act as one.
Finances, parenting, home-buying, careers — there are decisions that will need to be made as a team. As much as they love each other, the blending of two into one can be difficult.
You were chosen to be here because they believe you will provide them with the ongoing support they will need. Your support does not end today; it starts today.
By inviting you, they have issued you a challenge: In a few minutes, Bree and Ryan will be stating their intentions in front of all of you. Listen carefully to what they say and hold them to it.
I will ask them if they will love and honor one another for the rest of their lives. If they remember their line, they will respond, “We will.”
The statement of intent at a wedding often gets lost. We think – well, they’re getting married, so of course they will agree to love each other; but we hear the word love so often that we tend to take it for granted.
I want you to pay special attention when they say, “We will,” because the love to which they are consenting is different. The love we speak of during the marriage rite calls the couple to love as God loves. It is a love focused outward, directed toward others for the benefit of others. It is a selfless love.
Bree and Ryan chose a gospel reading that speaks to this type of love. In Matthew’s Gospel, we heard a scholar of the law ask Jesus which commandments in the law were the greatest. Jesus told him the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart…and the second is to love others as yourself…
The Sacrament of Marriage honors both great commandments by asking the couple to love selflessly and welcome God as a full partner in the marriage.
When my wife and I lead marriage preparation retreats, there is a sign we hang up on the wall. It is a message from God and it reads: The wedding was great! Now, invite me to the marriage.”
When Bree and Ryan invite God into their marriage, and I’m certain they will, they can confidently take on whatever comes their way…for as we heard in the Letter to the Hebrews, God “…will never forsake you or abandon you.”
The statement of intent that calls for Bree and Ryan to love and honor one another for the rest of their lives may sound simple…but it is not. Their response of “We will” may sound simple…but it is not.
You are witnesses. Listen to them say, “We will.” Then, from a place of love, hold them accountable. That’s why you are here.
So why am I here?…during my spring break?
I’m here because I’m all in on this couple – I believe in them. Carol and I had the honor of serving as Bree and Ryan’s marriage prep sponsor couple. We found them to be a grounded, faith-filled couple that was taking both the preparation and the notion of a sacramental marriage seriously.
When I’m asked to preside at a wedding, I often ask the couple to give a written response to three questions. For Questions 1 and 2, I ask them to respond to as a couple. For Question 3, I ask them to respond as individuals, without letting the other see his or her response.
Question 1 asked how they knew their marriage was going to be a success. They responded, “Because of you guys!” So, they are not only a grounded and faith-filled couple, they are obviously very insightful and highly intelligent. And…they are now my favorite couple ever.
Question 2 asked why they wanted to be married in the church. Their response spoke to the previously-mentioned idea of “inviting God to the marriage.” They wrote: “We don’t think our relationship would work without Christ in the center.”
Question 3 asked, “What is your hope for your marriage?” While they used different words, each gave virtually the same answer: Their hope is to help the other grow in faith and to show the other how grateful they are to have them in their life. That is what selfless love is all about…and that’s why I’m all in on these two.
So…we know why you’re here…and why I’m here…let’s take a minute to see if they understand why they are here.
In this sacramental marriage, each of you has the responsibility to help the other get to heaven. Your marriage is an epiphany – it reveals Christ. With marriage comes the obligation to reveal Christ.
Ryan – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Bree. You are obligated to reveal Christ to her by the way you love her – the way you talk to her, treat her, and interact with the world around you.
Bree – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Ryan. You are obligated to reveal Christ to him by the way you love him – the way you talk to him, treat him, and interact with the world around you.
Secondly, your marriage must reveal Christ to others. Others will see Christ in how you love one another and in how you, as a couple, interact with them. You put your lamp on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.
Finally, if you are blessed to have children, you will be obligated to reveal Christ to them daily. Through your love and support, they will come to know God.
What I have just shared with you is serious business. A wedding is not a quick “I do” and some dancing; it is the beginning of a marriage. And with that marriage comes the challenging responsibilities I’ve described.
If you are up for the challenge, let’s begin…