May 16, 2021
I had the honor of presiding at the wedding of Emily and Trent yesterday. Here is the homily I offered:
I was asked recently if I preach the same homily at every wedding. My answer was “No,” as I try to personalize the homily for each couple as much as I can. However, there are two messages I DO repeat at every wedding because I think they are important to hear. One message is specifically for you, the congregation. The other is a last-minute reminder for the couple. (To the couple: I’ll get to you later)
So, I will begin by addressing the invited guests. You play a critical role in today’s ceremony. Whether you were aware of it or not, you are now acting as witnesses on behalf of the Church.
You may have thought you were just here to kill time until the reception, looking forward to the opportunity to eat and drink at someone else’s expense. While I will be the first to acknowledge that nothing tastes better than free food – you have a greater calling today.
When you entered the church, you became a witness to this marriage and one of many designated supporters of Emily and Trent. What does this role entail?
To begin with, in a few minutes, they 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 as man and wife for the rest of their lives. If they remember their line, they will respond with, “We will.”
Keep in mind that the love to which they are consenting is unique. It is a love focused outward, directed toward another, for the benefit of another. It is a selfless love.
The love we speak of during the Marriage Rite calls the couple to love as God loves. Emily and Trent not only chose one another, but the gospel tells us they were chosen FOR one another by God.
My brief experience with Emily and Trent leads me to believe they understand this type of love. They get it. I am confident their “We will” response will be heartfelt and intentional. It may sound simple when they say it…but it is not.
You are witnesses. Listen to them say, “We will.” Then, from a place of love, hold them accountable moving forward. That’s why you are here.
We have a pretty good idea why Emily and Trent are here. But why are they here? In a church?
When I’m asked to preside at a wedding, I ask the couple to give a written response to some questions. One of the questions I asked Emily and Trent was, Why is it important for you to get married in the church?
Here is a portion of their shared response: It is important for us to get married in the church because our marriage is a faith-based union. We are so happy to have our marriage begin with God and surrounded by our loved ones. We are committing to each other to celebrate the sacrament of marriage with God at the center.
What a beautiful image – “with God at the center.” Their response shows a mature understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage. As I said, they get it.
There was another question I asked them to respond to separately. If they followed my instructions and didn’t share answers, they are hearing one another’s responses for the first time right now. The question was simple, “What is your hope for your marriage?”
Before I share their responses, I want you to listen again to the words we heard moments ago from 1 Corinthians: Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous…it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered…it rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
Keeping these words in mind, now listen to the words of Emily and Trent. When asked, “What is your hope for your marriage?”, here is some of what Trent wrote:
“My hope is to always love and support each other, no matter where our lives take us. There will be ups and downs throughput our marriage. And I fully expect to be there for one another, as well as for the family we create along the way. It all feels natural. Our love has grown so much that I cannot imagine Emily not being in my life.”
And here is some of what Emily wrote in answer to that same question:
“My hope is that we always put our marriage first; it will be my number one priority. I want our marriage to always to be filled with love, understanding, and hope. I want our children to be brought up in faith with the support of loving parents.
Trent loves me endlessly. He is understanding and patient, but always a shoulder to cry on. I love him deeply and am ready to experience life with him.”
The words of our second reading come alive in their responses: “Love is patient; love is kind; it does not seek its own interests; it believes all things. Love never fails.”
Once again, Emily and Trent get it.
Now, a few reminders for the couple. (I walked over to speak with Emily and Trent directly)
In a 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.
Trent – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Emily. 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.
Emily – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Trent. 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. Your marriage will be a lamp on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.
Finally, if you are blessed to have children, you will have the obligation 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.
Can you do that?
If so, let’s get started!