October 4, 2021
I had the honor of presiding at the wedding of Sarah and Thomas last Friday evening. The following if the homily I delivered:
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 Sarah and Thomas. 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 the other, for the benefit of the other. It is a selfless love. The love we speak of during the Marriage Rite calls the couple to love as God loves.
My experience with Sarah and Thomas 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.
Sarah and Thomas chose the readings you heard just a few minutes ago. The scripture passage they chose for the second readings was from St. Paul’s First Letter to Corinthians.
It is a beautiful reading that defines what sacramental love is:
- Love is patient.
- Love is kind.
- It believes all things.
- Hopes all things.
- Love never fails.
The reading also defines what sacramental love is not:
- It is not jealous – this is good because jealousy may enter our hearts.
- It is not quick-tempered – this is good because tempers may surface.
- It does not brood over injury – this is good because sometimes hurtful things come out of our mouths.
- It endures all things – this is good because there may be things that will need to be endured.
Sacramental love – marital love – is not all puppies and rainbows. Couples that understand that and embrace it will endure and will experience the joy of a love that never fails.
Prior to the wedding day, I asked Sarah and Thomas to respond to a few questions in writing. One of those questions is, “How do you know your fiancé is the one for you?”
When responding to that question, most couples only address the positive aspects of their love and write about how awesome and carefree their marriage will be. Sarah and Thomas did some of that, too, but they also acknowledged the challenges that are highlighted in 1 Corinthians.
Their nearly identical responses to the question show maturity and insight. Sarah wrote: Thomas is the first one I turn to when life gets tough as he supports me and loves me through it.
Thomas wrote: Sarah is the only one that I want to share life with when times get tough or challenging.
It’s easy to love someone when things are going well. However, when things are not going quite so well, who do you want by your side? Sarah said Thomas is the first one she’ll turn to during those times. Thomas said Sarah is the only person he wants by his side during those times.
This is certainly a promising prelude to their vows, when they will promise to love one another for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.
On an unrelated note, Sarah and Thomas also chose the gospel story of the wedding feast at Cana. The last couple that chose that gospel story for their wedding actually ran out of alcohol at their reception – and Mary wasn’t there to do anything about it. Just giving you a heads up…
It appears as though Sarah and Thomas 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 Sarah and Thomas 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.
Thomas – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Sarah. 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.
Sarah – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Thomas. 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!