September 25, 2021
I had the honor of presiding at the wedding of Caroline and Griffin at St. John’s Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis yesterday. The following is the homily I delivered at the ceremony:
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.
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 are one of many designated supporters of Caroline and Griffin.
So – 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.
Caroline and Griffin not only chose one another, but the gospel they chose for their wedding tells us God wishes that their “joy be complete” in their love for one another. My brief experience with Caroline and Griffin leads me to believe they understand this type of love. 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 Caroline and Griffin 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 Caroline and Griffin was, Why is it important for you to get married in the church?
Here is a portion of their shared response: “It is important to get married in the church because it is a manifestation of our Christian values. It’s important to both of us that the marriage be recognized before God.”
I love their use of the word manifestation. It shows a maturity in their relationship. They are saying that together in this church, their words and actions before God embody the values that will guide their lives.
There was another question I asked them to respond to separately without seeing one another’s response. If they didn’t cheat, they are hearing one another’s responses for the first time right now. The question was simple, “Why is your partner ‘the one’ for you?”
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 Caroline and Griffin.
When asked, “Why is your partner ‘the one’ for you?”, here is some of what Griffin wrote: Caroline is first and foremost my best friend. She accepts me for who I am and is always supportive. Besides sharing the same values and goals in life, Caroline is the most caring and empathetic individual I have ever met. When I’m with her, I feel a sense of calm, inner peace, and genuine happiness. A feeling that we can overcome any obstacle that comes our way.
And here is some of what Caroline wrote in answer to that same question: Griffin is the ‘one’ for me because he is extremely committed and shares the same long-term values that I do. He truly accepts me for the person I am. I admire Griffin’s moral compass. He is dedicated to the people he loves and will do whatever it takes to protect or help them. I don’t feel like I have to walk behind or in front of Griffin, but rather that I can walk alongside him as true equals.
The words of our second reading come alive in their responses: “Love is kind; it does not seek its own interests; it believes all things. Love never fails.”
It appears as though Caroline and Griffin truly understand one another and what it is they are about to do as they stand before all of you and the eyes of the Church. However, I do want to offer them a few reminders.
(I walked over to speak with Caroline and Griffin 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.
Griffin – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Caroline. 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.
Caroline – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Griffin. 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? (They agreed that they could)
Ok, then let’s get started!