A Reminder of your parents’ wedding
N and N, all of us gathered here today, your families, relations and friends are delighted to be able to share the happiness of this day with you. All married couples here today have an added reason for joy today, because N and N, the occasion of your wedding today sparks off memories of their own weddings and reminds them of the commitment they’ve made to each other and that their marriage is a sacrament blessed by God, and so N and N your wedding here today is a reminder to them to cherish and foster their own marriages, to seek God’s blessing on their own marriages once again today.
Two most wonderful events will take place here today; God will come to us giving himself to us in the readings from Scripture and in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and secondly N. and N. will make a sacred vow to give themselves to each other for the rest of their lives. There are two self-givings in love, God’s giving of himself to us in love and N. and N. giving themselves to each other in love.
We live in a world which is so superficial, that very often only looks at appearances and judges only by appearances. Perhaps that helps explain why this country (Ireland) has more personal debt than any other country in the OECD. When it comes to a wedding we put a lot of effort into appearances. And indeed that is right. It is great to see you dressed like a prince and princess. But now let’s go beyond the appearances to what is really happening here today. During this Mass as during every Mass we meet Jesus, in the Word of God which is proclaimed, and in the Eucharist. Bread and wine will become the Body and Blood of Jesus for us. The words of the consecration, “This is my Body which will be given up for you” remind us of where we really are during Mass. We are at Calvary, the one sacrifice, the same sacrifice of Jesus 2000 years ago but extended through time until right now. Yes when we come to Mass we are - to use the language of some movies - in a time machine, or in a time warp, and we are present on Calvary and Jesus gives his body for us. “This is my Body which will be given up for you.” “This is the cup of my blood. It will be shed for you and for all…” It is through the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary that we receive all grace. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary that your marriage will become a sacrament today. Merely going through the motions or saying words or dressing as you are would not make your marriage today a sacrament, only the sacrifice of Jesus extended through time to us here today does that. When I hear someone complaining about Mass being boring or complaining about the length of Mass I say to myself, “If only they understood the mystery that Mass is they would be caught up to heaven during Mass and not be bored or complain.” I wanted to make sure that we looked beyond appearances today and do not judge only by appearances but remember Jesus who makes it all happen today.
You are about to exchange wedding vows here at the sanctuary and receive the sacrament of marriage. That is a promise of grace from Jesus. But you also have to foster and nourish the grace that is given to you today. You cannot just leave it all to Jesus. I also took vows at the sanctuary, the vows of celibacy and obedience when I received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Religious take a third vow which we diocesan priests do not; they also take a vow of poverty which means they have no personal possessions although all their needs are taken care of. I have to nourish and foster that grace first given to me in the Sacrament of Holy Orders or otherwise it would lie dormant and not have an effect in my life. I say to you Anne Marie and Jim to make Jesus part of every day. That is in effect what you are promising here today by getting married in the Catholic Church. There are times in the lives of all of us when we will need that grace from Jesus to help get us by. You have chosen beautiful readings for your wedding Mass today. But there are many passages in the Bible where we read of married couples and those readings are not listed as possible choices for wedding Masses because no one choose them; they show the humanity of the couple too much. I think of Tobit and his wife in the Old Testament. There was a goat in their kitchen and they had a row about the goat (Tob 2:12-14). Of course it is not the type of reading that you would choose for a wedding Mass. Young couples like to choose readings about love and rightly so. But couples married for many years whose love has blossomed through many a struggle might not have a problem with some of the other passages in the Bible. Of course Anne Marie and Jim we do not expect a goat to come into your kitchen but a dog might come into your kitchen! And on those occasions when a dog or something else comes into your kitchen you will need the grace of Jesus in your marriage. So foster and nourish the grace that will be given to you today in this sacrament just as I have to foster and nourish the grace given to me in the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
When you really make Jesus a part of every day you become beautiful because you see yourself and others in a different way. There are three ways of looking at yourself: the way you look at yourself, the way others look at you, and the way God looks at you. When you make Jesus part of every day then you look at yourself less and less as you or others do and more and more in the way God looks at you, and that will make you very happy. One of the ways we learn about how God looks at us is in the Theology of the Body developed by Pope John Paul II. Some couples study Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body before getting married. When we know who we are in the eyes of God then life has a completely different meaning. You are probably aware of the high divorce rate in the US. But I bet you are probably not aware that only 2% of those who practice Natural Family Planning in the US divorce. That is worth pondering. Those couples who really make an effort to follow the teaching of Christ and the Church have a beauty that is priceless because it is the beauty of Jesus first given to them in the Sacrament of Marriage which they nourished and fostered.
The Wedding Clothes and Paul’s Advice on Clothing (Col 3:12-17)
It must have taken you a long time to get ready this morning, N. It must have taken you some time too, N. You are dressed beautifully, just like in those fairytales we learned in school where the next line after the wedding was always, ‘and they lived happily ever after’. N and N, we want you to live happily ever after. But those nice clothes you are wearing today don’t bring lasting happiness so tomorrow morning when you get up you won’t wear those clothes. You will dress more casually. And we hope you will be just as happy tomorrow as today. So if the clothes that you wear don’t make for happiness, what does? In the second reading that you chose, Paul gives a recipe for happiness. What advice for happiness does Paul give? After all that I said you would think that he wouldn’t mention clothes, but in fact he does. Paul says it all depends on the clothes you wear. However I will leave him off the hook because he does not mean outward clothes, but inward clothes. Paul says these are the clothes you are to put on, "be clothed in heartfelt compassion, in generosity and humility, gentleness and patience". Then he gives advice on bearing with one another and forgiving each other, and finally he says the last piece of clothing to put on is love. So we could say that Paul’s advice for dressing is like this: When you get up in the morning and look in your wardrobe and wonder what to wear, you should begin like this. For underwear put on compassion. As a shirt or blouse put on generosity. For a skirt or trousers put on humility, for a pullover put on gentleness. For socks put on patience. When you’re wondering about which pair of shoes to wear, put on the shoes of forgiveness. Lastly when you’re putting on your coat, put on love. In the fairy tales, they lived happily ever after. N and N, we want you to live happily ever after. The clothes you’re wearing now won’t be of much help for that but Paul has good advice on what clothes to wear if you want to live happily ever after. When you get up tomorrow morning, what clothes will you put on? Paul says to put on compassion, generosity, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love.
A Christmas Wedding
Getting married in the presence of the crèche/crib reminds us that the greatest marriage of all time, as the Bible describes, is the marriage between God and humans. In Jesus, God and humankind are married. In the book of Revelation we read, "The marriage of the Lamb has come, and the bride has made herself ready", the Lamb is referring to Jesus, the bride is referring to the church. Heaven is wedded to earth in Jesus. In our first reading we heard of the the man and the woman becoming one. God and humankind became one in Jesus, the greatest marriage of all time. "The marriage of the Lamb has come, and the bride has made herself ready"
N and N, I don’t need to tell you that today marks a complete new beginning in the lives of both of you. Your wedding lasts only today, but your marriage is for the rest of your lives. Today you both go back to school again, the school of marriage. Today you begin to learn again, to learn to love each other in a deeper way. You are joining yourselves to each other today to become one, without, of course, losing your individuality. Becoming one doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that you will learn and become better at as you share your married life together. Becoming one means loving each other, sharing your lives with each other, taking each other into consideration always. Becoming one means getting rid of all selfishness out of your lives because there is no room for selfishness in marriage. If selfishness is not rooted out or creeps in later on, its sure to cause problems. If God blesses your marriage with children, then you will also take your children into consideration in all that you do. Marriage is a school of love.
We discover something amazing when we consider God’s love for us. Not only does God love us but God has to teach us how to love him. There is a sense in which it takes a long time to learn the true meaning of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Just look at the disciples in the Gospels. How long it took them to learn. There is a sense in which it takes a long time to learn the true meaning of the first commandment, to have no strange gods in our life. Something similar could possibly be said about the love of two people united in the sacrament of marriage. Sometimes it may be necessary to learn to love in a new way in marriage. The one whom you love in marriage may sometimes have to teach you how to love properly. Love matures in marriage. Love grows in marriage. This will happen in a very special way if, as we pray, God will bless you with children as you are open to God’s gift of new life. Maturing in love and being taught to love by the one whom you love is surely what the second reading from St. Paul to the Romans intends, that you chose for this wedding Mass:
[We] ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves; let each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up. (Rom 15:1-2)
N and N, you are both human and you bring with you to your marriage normal human weaknesses. You will probably discover weaknesses in the other which you do not now know. This will be an opportunity to love the other, heal the other, forgive the other. There will be times when like at the wedding at Cana it will seem as if the wine really has run out, times when you will forgive each other and make a fresh start. As St. Paul said in the reading which you chose: "Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins" (Col 3:13). Marriage is also a school of forgiveness.
In our second reading today we heard Paul advising the Romans not to give up when difficulties come but to keep praying (Rom 12:12). This is very good advice for people of all times, and obviously for N and N entering marriage. The Lord will be with you but yet difficulties will come. It is part of our human condition, or sometimes things happen to us that we have no control over. In his letter to the Colossians Paul gives advice which is also worth pondering, “Be tolerant of one another and ready to forgive if either of you has a complaint about the other. The Lord forgives you so you must do the same.” (Col 3:13) There are many times in every marriage when opportunities to put this advice into practice arise. We could think of St. Peter putting love and forgiveness into practice here in Rome, and St. Paul and many others when they were martyred here in 67 AD when the emperor Nero wishing to rebuild parts of the city had it burned and blamed on the Christians. If you are standing in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, and look through the archway on the left where the Swiss Guards are, inside there just to the left is where St. Peter was crucified upside down. He was buried in the nearest cemetery, on top of Vatican hill, so near in fact that it was under what is now St. Peter’s. His tomb was always believed to be under the main altar of St. Peter’s and excavations in the last century found his tomb and because he was so precious a martyr his bones in his tomb had been covered in gold by Christians of a later age. St. Paul martyred during the same persecution is believed to be buried beneath the main altar of the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls. So as you get married here in Rome there are many reminders all around you of what it is to love and forgive like Christ. Indeed that is what Jesus himself said in the Gospel passage you chose for today, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you…This is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you.”
To receive every sacrament fruitfully one needs faith, faith in Jesus Christ. Even if we did everything at the altar here today beautifully or indeed perfectly but you had no faith, the sacramental grace would not have an effect in your life. Today, N and N, it is your faith in Jesus Christ which which will open your souls to the power of this sacrament, faith in the fact that Jesus unites and binds himself to you today.
What is a sacrament? We usually describe a sacrament as an outward sign of an inner reality. The inner reality in every sacrament is that God comes to us in the sacrament and blesses us and so to help us there is a symbol of God coming to us in every sacrament. In the sacrament of baptism the symbols are obvious; washing with water symbolizing God washing away original sin, clothing with a white garment symbolizing the purity of the child. In the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, Holy Orders and the sacrament of the sick there is anointing with oil symbolizing receiving the help of God for future life. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist the outward signs of bread and wine symbolize the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist who nourishes us.
In the sacrament of marriage the outward sign is you giving yourselves to each other when you both take each other’s hands as you exchange your vows. This giving of yourselves to each other is a sign of the reality of God’s love for us and Christ’s love for the Church. Your love reflects and mirrors God’s love for us. I think this is what William Butler Years was referring to when he wrote,
have two lovers kissed but they
Believed there was some other near at hand
And almost wept because they could not find it.”
Your marriage as a sacrament is a celebration of the love of God for us. We don’t believe strongly enough that God loves us and wants to be intimate with each of us. It is not just that we say our prayers to please God or because we find praying helps us. It is much more, God really wants to be intimate with each of us and your marriage is a symbol of this desire of God to be intimate with each of us.
In this sacrament N. will
will bring the love of God to N., and N.
will bring the love of God to N. It is no wonder they both say, “What God has made is indeed very good.” Receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony is not just for today, the Sacrament of
Marriage is ongoing. In a sacrament we receive grace that is not just for now
but which lasts for life. Every time we receive a sacrament, it is a meeting
with God, symbolized by some sign, which brings us grace for the rest of our
life. How much grace? That
is partly up to you; that is why I said the sacrament is received today but will
have an ongoing effect on your lives. That is why the Church teaches that
your marriage as a sacrament is indissoluble, until death do you part, and so it is up
to you to live the sacrament of your marriage in that way. Your marriage begins here today before the
altar of God and from today on it will be up to you to complete it in the sense
of making it as good a sign as possible of the desire of God to be intimate with
each of us. Love and joy and peace and harmony will be the signs that your
marriage is sacramental. Because we are all different to each other you
will naturally from time to time have to listen to what the other is really
saying, your will have to hear the other and know the other. In
those times when you accept and forgive each other, the grace of God will be at
work, the grace you receive in the sacrament of marriage.
Your marriage is also a sacrament because you are undertaking today not just to make your house a home, but to make it a home of Christian family life, to make it a Catholic home. As St. Paul said in the second reading which you chose: "Let the message of Christ in all its richness, find a home with you" (Col 3:16). You are undertaking today to bring up the children God may send you with a strong faith in Jesus.
Because your marriage is a sacrament, it has lasting value; your promise to each other is until death, to be faithful to each other always. The Old Testament compares marriage to the covenant that existed between God and his people. The New Testament compares marriage to the relationship that exists between Christ and the Church. Your fidelity to each other symbolizes and reflects the faithfulness of God to us his people, the faithfulness of Christ to his church. God is always faithful to us his people, Christ is always faithful to his church and today your promise to be always faithful to each other until death symbolizes and reflects the love of God for his people and the love of Christ for his church. In effect, what the Bible says on marriage is ‘if you want to see what God’s plan for his people is you can see it in the fidelity of marriage’.
The Gospel you chose for your wedding is Jesus talking about love (John 15:12-16). He commands to love as he has loved. How did Jesus love? He loved until it cost him. He loved all the way to the cross and death. That is love. If he had stopped loving before Calvary then it would not have been love at all. It would have been only for what he could get out of it. But love, in the sense that Jesus means, is loving even when it means undergoing suffering for the sake of the other. That is real love, loving for the good of the other. That is precisely how Jesus explains his love in the next line of the Gospel you chose. Jesus said,
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
Again and again we gave God all sorts of reasons to turn his back on us but he kept on loving us because he made a covenant with us, not a contract. You can use all sorts of legal means to wiggle your way out of a contract but a covenant is irrevocable. That is precisely the love of God we see for us in his covenant with us. As I said, there are many ideas of marriage in the world today but your marriage here today is a sacrament you receive in the Lord; you will be joined to each other in the Lord. Therefore it is a covenant, not a contract. In fact we should really say there are three of you joined today, Rachel, James and God, because the source of life for a sacramental marriage is God. Turn to Christ to sustain your love for each other because Christ blesses your marriage today. Although there are many ideas about marriage in the secular world today we could say that your sacramental marriage today, with all that it entails, purifies the secular view of marriage today and teaches the secular view of marriage what God intends.
N and N, your marriage is something very human, fulfilling the desire in the hearts of all of us to share our lives with another, but your marriage is also a sacrament of God. N and N, may God bless you both and keep you faithful to each other and to Him all the days of you lives.
Today N. and N. you meet in the Sacrament of Marriage. It is not just a meeting in marriage but a meeting in the Sacrament of Marriage. I make the distinction because there are many ideas of marriage in the world today but your marriage here today is a sacrament you receive in the Lord; you will be joined to each other in the Lord. The first reading you chose for your wedding today (Gen 1:26-28, 31a) tells us that marriage is God’s idea. God created man in his image, male and female he created them, asking them to multiply and fill the earth. There is so much love in God - God is full of love - that this love expands and is shared and reflected in the love of husband and wife in marriage. So the love of husband and wife for each other reflects the love of God.
Getting married in Rome is getting married close to so many precious reminders of our Catholic faith. No matter where one gets married in the Catholic Church, it is a sacrament. A sacrament is one of the ways that the couple meets Christ. We meet Christ in Baptism, Conformation, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, a couple meet Christ in the Sacrament of Marriage and a priest meets Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. A sacramental marriage means you, N and N, have the blessing of Christ, the promise of Christ to be with you, and the assurance that you are joining yourselves to each other today in a way that is holy and pleasing to God.
How do we know this? We could begin with the first reading you chose today from the first book of the Bible, Genesis. There we see that it is God himself who made our nature in such a way that one man and one woman join themselves to each other in marriage. The joyous exclamation of the man in that first reading when he found his beloved, “This at last is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh…” (Gen 2:23) has sometimes been said to be the first love poetry in the Bible. What else do we know of God’s teaching on marriage? Jesus attended the wedding at Cana and his very presence there was obviously a blessing (John 2:1-11). One day when Jesus was asked by Pharisees about divorce, Jesus said that although the Jews had introduced it, it was never in God’s plan, and it was because they were unteachable that they had introduced it (Matt 19:8). In other words, Jesus taught them that marriage is indissoluble, until death. Finally in the Letter to the Ephesians we read that the love of husband and wife for each other is a reflection of the very love of God himself. When you want to know something about the love of God, look at the love of husband and wife; that is what the letter to the Ephesians tells us (Eph 5:29-32). In the sacred life-long vows you will soon exchange here on God’s sanctuary we will see a reflection of this eternal unchanging love of God. So in many different parts of the Bible God has given us many pointers to sacramental marriage.
This reminds us that the Truth is not something that is decided by a vote or majority opinion. Instead the one source of Truth is God. There is a reminder of that very near us here. Inside St. Peter’s Basilica, in the sanctuary at the very end of the Basilica you will see a large bronze chair-shaped structure high up on the wall facing you. This reliquary contains the chair or cathedra on which it is believed St. Peter sat while preaching. St Peter’s cathedra just meters away from here, reminds us that God is the source of Truth, and the teaching of the Church comes not from itself but from God.
N and N today you give your word to each other to take each other "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health" all the days of your lives. This word you are giving to each other is not just any word, but a solemn promise, a vow before God. This is a huge step to take into the unknown. The reason you take this step with confidence after much careful consideration is because it is not just any word you are giving each other, but, as I said a solemn vow before God, in other words it is a covenant between the two of yourselves and God. That is why we describe marriage in the Catholic Church as a sacrament.
The second reading which you chose for your wedding contains Paul’s description of Christian loving. Love is always patient and kind. It is never jealous, etc. A couple does not begin marriage with this perfect love. The couple grows in loving and grows by loving. Love is hard work. Sometimes love will mean you will have to suffer, if not the love is a disguised form of selfishness. But just as the Church is strengthened through suffering, your relationship will grow in the valleys. There is more growth in the valleys than on the mountain-tops.
We hear the word love used so often today and it has so many different meanings depending on its context. But when Jesus said to love God and love our neighbor (Matt 22:35-40), in the language of the Scriptures, he spoke about a very special kind of love, a godly love, unselfish and self-sacrificing love. True love is not just a feeling or emotion that changes. True love is a commitment, a sacrifice of oneself for the other. Therefore what a beautiful and godly thing Christian marriage is, a promise of lifelong fidelity and self-sacrifice. The self-sacrifice mentioned in the reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans that you chose is self-sacrifice to God but I think we could say it also applies to marriage,
“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1)
During your marriage, Mary and Chris, you will indeed be constantly offering yourselves to God and to each other in so many ways, that we can indeed say you will be offering your bodies to God and each other as a living sacrifice. One of the ways in which we sacrifice is to live as true followers of Christ especially when this is counter-cultural. So Paul went on to write,
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)
This idea of self-sacrifice in marriage is expressed very clearly in another New Testament text, in the Letter to the Ephesians:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her” (Eph 5:25)
How did Christ love the Church? The text gives the answer, he handed himself over for her. He loved the Church so much that he gave his life for her, to the very last drop of his blood on Calvary. So husbands are to love their wives by sacrificing themselves for their wives to the very end just as Christ gave his life for the Church.
On TV we see people getting married in all sorts of places, jumping out of airplanes or getting married in Las Vegas with Elvis himself as the chief celebrant. But you have decided to get married here in this church because you understand your marriage as a sacrament. You understand your marriage as something not just between the two of you, but between the two of you and God. That is why we say that the sacrament of marriage is a covenant; it is covenant between the two of you and God. That calls to mind the words of St. John Chrysostom, that famous theologian from the early Church,
“Let those who take wives now do as they did at Cana in Galilee. Let them have Christ in their midst.”
I like very much the Scripture readings you chose for your wedding today. They express beautifully this divine dimension of your marriage today. The Psalm expresses very beautifully the divine element of your marriage and indeed of anyone who lives as a child of God,
The Lord looks on those who revere him,
On those who hope in his love…
Our soul is waiting for the Lord
The Lord is our help and our shield
In him do our hearts find joy,
We trust in his holy name. (Ps 33)
Indeed the only way to find true happiness in this life is to live as a child of God. As the Psalm said,
In him do our hearts find joy,
We trust in his holy name.
From all that I have said we can see that the Sacrament of Marriage is to help make you holy. The sacraments are ways in which we meet Christ and become more holy. That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“This grace proper to the sacrament of matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they ‘help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church §1641)
Notice that it says the grace of the sacrament is to perfect your love and strengthen your indissoluble unity and you are to help each other to become holy. Marriage is holy. Mary you are to help Chris become holy and Chris you are to help Mary become holy.
Marriage Instituted by God (Gen 1 & 2)
Marriage is too big a commitment to leave it only in your own human hands. That is why in the first reading which you chose you heard that it was God who instituted marriage in Eden. Jesus raised it to the level of a sacrament. The Holy Spirit will give the graces you need to encourage each other, to share feelings, emotions and passions, hopes and fears, resentments and disappointments, ups and downs.
The Scripture readings which you have chosen for this Mass greatly help us to understand the sacred vow you make to each other here today. Your marriage today is really to make you holy. Damion and Alicia, you have been brought together and your marriage to each other is the way God has planned to make you holy. In the first reading from Genesis the man was lonely and unfulfilled even though he was able to talk to God in the Garden of Eden. He only experienced fulfillment when God created woman and united him with the woman. We can hear the man’s great joy when he said,
This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken. (Gen 2:23)
The man and the woman give themselves to each other and at the same time receive the gift of the other. Their giving to each other also becomes their receiving of each other. The man is enriched by receiving her and she is enriched through him. They both enrich each other. In the same way, you also Damion and Alicia, are enriched as you give and receive each other. God said, “It is not good for Damion to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” Alicia and Damion you became children of God when you were baptized and the grace of that sacrament was strengthened in you when you received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Today in the Sacrament of Marriage you receive more grace, and you receive this grace in a particular way, through each other, as did the man and the woman in the garden. Yes, through each other! Your marriage is the way God calls you to become holy just as God calls me to become holy by answering the call to the priesthood.
How do you become holy in this marriage? We see the answer to this question in the other Scripture readings you have chosen for this Wedding Mass. In the second reading, we heard Paul’s famous description of love:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)
Damion and Alicia, every time you love each in this self-sacrificial way wanting what is best for the other rather than what you get out of it, not holding grudges but forgiving and healing each other, you love with the love of God and receive the love God. Yes, through this perfect type of love for each other you give and receive the love of God. That is why I say your marriage is the way to holiness for you just as God calls me to become holy by answering the call to the priesthood.
In the Beatitudes which you have chosen as the Gospel for this Wedding Mass (Matt 5:1-12) we see more of the answer to how you become holy in your marriage. These beatitudes give us many different descriptions of what it is to be blessed. Damion and Alicia every time you live the blessedness of the beatitudes the holiness of God touches you.
You are blessed when you are poor in spirit, i.e. when you rely on the grace of God and put God first in your marriage at all times.
You are blessed when you mourn i.e. when you mourn for your sins and ask forgiveness of each other, when you are not so proud that you refuse to admit your need of forgiveness but turn humbly to God and each other asking for mercy.
You are blessed when you are meek, when you are gentle instead of being domineering. As Paul said in his description of love, love is not quick-tempered.
You are blessed when you are merciful. True love, to use Paul’s description, “does not brood over injury…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
You are blessed when you are clean of heart i.e. when you live your life in a way that reflects your faith. So you are blessed when for the rest of your life you live your marriage according to the sacrament you are receiving today, being open to the gift of life, living your marriage vow for the rest of your lives.
You are blessed if you are misunderstood (or persecuted) for being a follow of Jesus, e.g. when you live your marriage not just as fulfilling a desire of nature but as a marriage lived under God and the way to holiness, when you make Sunday Mass the center of your week and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently even if your buddies do not.
Damion and Alicia every time you live the blessedness of the beatitudes the holiness of God touches you. Your marriage is the way to holiness for you just as God calls me to become holy by answering the call to the priesthood.
N and N we are all delighted to share your joy on your wedding day We ask God to bless you on this day and keep you in united in love of each other and love of God for the rest of your lives. All the couples here will be reminded of their own happy wedding days and can once again today ask God to bless them.
If you have a sense of humor you would like to hear some of the things the Bible says about love. In Gen 29:20 we read that Jacob worked for seven years for Laban to earn Laban’s daughter, Rachel, in marriage, and they seemed to him like a few days because he loved her so much! He worked seven years for her father so that he could marry her. I am tempted to say he had it bad! The Song of Songs in the Old Testament is love poetry between King Solomon and his girlfriend while courting before marriage. What sort of things do such a couple say to each other? I am sure that you N, and N. say nice things to compliment each other and you tell each other you’re looking well, and looking exquisitely well today. How did Solomon compliment his girlfriend? We know that she had long curly hair and this is how he told her it was beautiful, he said, “your hair is like a flock of goats surging down Mount Gilead.” (4:1) He also thought she had the most beautiful white teeth and this is how he complimented her, “Your teeth are like a flock of sheep to be shorn, when they come up from the washing.” (4:2) How times and the way we say things have changed! She was sometimes more delicate in how she described him, “His conversation is sweetness itself, he is altogether lovable.” (5:16) At one place in the Song of Songs she sends a message to him telling him that she is sick with love! (5:8) She was obviously a woman with good self-knowledge, that seems to me to be a pretty good description of herself, sick with love, because in 1 Kings 11 we read that King Solomon had 700 royal wives! Its no wonder people say ‘Love is blind.’
That is one view of love and marriage in the Old Testament. That view of marriage is merely at the level of satisfying our desires. We get another view of marriage in the excerpt from the Book of Tobit (8:4-8) which you chose as your first reading. Tobias' and Sarah’s wedding has taken place they are alone that evening and pray to God to bless their marriage. They acknowledge that their marriage is not only fulfilling desires but comes from God, is instituted by God. That is why in their prayer, which you heard in our first reading, they said,
It was you who created Adam,
you who created Eve his wife
to be his help and support;
It was you who said,
“It is not good that man should be alone…”
Because they know that marriage comes from God they can confidently pray to God, asking his help for their marriage. This is how they prayed, a simple prayer but beautiful,
Be kind enough to have pity on her
and on me
And bring us to old age together
As I said it was a simple prayer, but a beautiful prayer, it showed their faith in God. When you read the whole of the book of the Tobit you will see that their prayer was answered. So that is a second view of marriage that we get in the Old Testament.
When we read the New Testament we get a third view of marriage in the letter to the Ephesians. In the letter we read that the love of husband and wife for each other is a reflection of God’s love for us. When we want to know how much Jesus loves the Church, look no further than the love of husband and wife for each other. The love of husband and wife is a mirror of the love of God for us, the love of God for us that we see in his New Covenant with us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. That is what Paul the letter to the Ephesians says. That view of marriage is captured in the second Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer which you have chosen. You will hear me pray during that Preface later,
“In the union of husband and wife
you give a sign of Christ’s loving gift of grace,
so that the Sacrament we celebrate
might draw us back more deeply
into the wondrous design of your love.”
So there you have three views on marriage in the Bible, as I see them; satisfying our desires, then a more spiritual view of marriage in the prayer of Tobias and Sarah seeing marriage as instituted by God, and finally the lofty heights of in the letter to the Ephesians seeing the love of husband and wife as a mirror of God’s love for us.
So N and N, we pray for you today that your marriage may also soar to the heights of Paul’s understanding of marriage, that your love for each other may be so unselfish that it will be for each other an experience of the love of God. To achieve that, do as Jesus said in our Gospel, build your house on rock, build your marriage on the rock of Jesus. Then when the storms come, as they come to everyone, the house will not fall because it is founded on the rock of Jesus. So pray to Jesus every day. Pray, not just for one minute, not just for five minutes, but for a substantial amount of time. Found your marriage on the rock of Jesus. I will finish with the words of Tobias, “May God take pity on you and bring you to old age together.”
As you give yourself to the Lord and to each other, the Lord will bless you and Chris, the first reading in particular mentions some blessings for you. As I read the first reading from the Book of Sirach I could not but help thinking to myself that you Chris must be a God-fearing person because the reading says,
“A good wife is a generous gift bestowed upon him who fears the Lord.” (Sirach /Ecclesiasticus 26:3)
Indeed I must confess that my mind wandered a bit further and I imagined you living a very long time because the passage also says,
“Happy the husband of a good wife, twice-lengthened are his days.” (Sirach /Ecclesiasticus 26:1)
The legend says that God made the Claddah ring and threw
it into Galway bay and it washed up on Connemara. There are three items on
the ring that symbolize your marriage: a heart that speaks of love, folded hands
telling of prayer and a crown that stands for fidelity.
Later you will present a bouquet of flowers to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. We remember that it was she who interceded with Jesus at Cana when the wine ran out during a wedding. When that couple was in need Mary prevailed upon Jesus to help them. This is the role of Mary, to intercede for us before Jesus. May Mary who interceded during the wedding at Cana in Galilee intercede before Jesus for you Mary and Chris that your marriage may always have the wine of joy and holiness.
Some people say it is a mother who turns a house into a home. Because a mother is so special, it is no wonder that we have a deep devotion to Our Lady, our mother in heaven. Today, N and N, I suggest you to pray to Our Lady asking her to intercede before God for you and your marriage. We know she interceded successfully at Cana. Again here in Rome there are many reminders of the motherly love of Our Lady for us. In the large left chapel in the Basilica of St. Mary Majors is a very old icon of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus. It is called by the Romans Salus Populi Romani, Salvation of the Roman People. This refers to a tradition of Our Lady saving the city. A plague was ravaging Rome in the late 500’s and Pope Gregory I carried the image through the city asking Our Lady to intercede on behalf of the city. When the procession with the icon ended, an invisible heavenly choir was heard singing to Our Lady and the plague stopped.
There is another very famous shrine to Our Lady, Madonna del Divine Amore, Our Lady of Divine Love, not far outside the city of Rome, again famous because of Our Lady saving the city of Rome, this time during the last century. During the Second World War the German troops had taken over the city of Rome, and in May 1944 the allied troops were outside the city ready to fight to take it back. At the Pope’s initiative, the city held a novena to Our Lady before the image of the shrine of Madonna del Divino Amore, temporarily kept in one of the churches in the city, beginning 28th May 1944. The novena ended on the evening of 4th June. That night the German troops left the city and it was spared destruction and fighting. As during the wedding at Cana, Our Lady intervened again to save the city. These are just two of many examples around this city of Our Lady’s powerful intercession. Today, N and N, I suggest you to pray to Our Lady asking her to intercede before God for you and your marriage because we know she is a very powerful mother.
Related Homilies: The Holy Family and Encouragement for the Family from Pope John Paul II
Preserving virginity before marriage
stories: old love
stories about family
excerpts of Enjoying the Bible: Creation of man and woman