20 August 2010
A Wedding Homily
We are here today to witness and pray for Ferd and Cha who are about to receive the sacrament of matrimony. I do not wish to dispense advice, only to articulate the things already present but which we don't always see.
1. The little things are the big things.
Matrimony is the sacrament of love. And love is made up of the little things. It’s not just about holding hands, it’s the way you hold hands together. It’s not just about having daily conversations, it’s the way you inject kindness and concern when you talk with each other. It’s not just about being naturally thoughtful, it’s the way you create memories and cherish them. It’s not just about being understanding, it’s about being ready to forgive when one is weak or has fallen. It’s not just about helping each other, it’s about making sacrifices so one may help fulfill the other’s dreams.
Col 3,13-14 tells us some of these little things: “Bear with one another and forgive one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”
The big words, love and marriage, are not grand abstract concepts. Rather they are composites, made up of little acts of kindness and sacrifices, mercy and forgiveness.
2. Love is faithfulness. Faithfulness is love.
Matrimony is the sacrament of Christian commitment. The greatest expression of love is faithfulness to the end. Jesus’ supreme act of sacrifice was conditioned by His faithfulness to the will of the Father.
In the novel turned movie, 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', the author Louis de Berniere has this to say:
“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides, and when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness. It is not excitement. It is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being 'in love' which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground and when all the pretty blossom has fallen from their branches they find that they are one tree and not two.”
Tobit 8 contains the beautiful prayer of Tobiah and Sarah on their wedding night. In the prayer, they ask the Lord to bless and grant mercy on their union. Their trust in God is guided by their knowledge of His faithfulness, and they are invoking His very faithfulness so they may “live together to a happy old age”.
3. You are married to each other, and for the rest of us.
Matrimony is a sacrament of service. Among other things, this means that God has given Christian couples three missions: you have a mission to each other as husband and wife, to your future children as father and mother, and to the rest of us as a married couple in our community.
Every decision and action that affirms your love and faithfulness to each other strengthens not just your bond of marriage, but also those of married couples around you, as well as the ordination promises made by us, your priest friends. The rationale behind this is more than just sociological but theological. A couple’s love for each other is a reminder to the rest of the world of God’s love. A couple’s faithfulness to one another reminds the world of God’s faithfulness. That is why in Mt 19,9 and Mk 10,11-12 Jesus explicitly forbids divorce.
When failed marriages and broken families have become the norm, inevitably people will also lose their trust in the faithful love of God. Your mission is not just to create a family of faith and love, but to join in building a culture of faith and love.
In the wedding at Cana scene in Jn 2, Jesus performed his very first miracle, the first of his public signs, which prompted His disciples to believe. As Jesus used that wedding as an occasion to lead people to faith in Him, so both of you are being asked to work with Jesus in bringing more people closer to Him by your life as a couple.
I would like to end with a reminder from St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place for those who love us”.
Our prayer for both of you is this: that you will truly find and found a home with each other. May God bless your union with much loving-kindness and faithfulness that when unmarried couples see you, they will aspire to the sacrament of matrimony; when married couples see you, they will rediscover the passion they have for each other; when the rest of the world see you, they will be reminded of the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love.