18 November 2006

A Wedding Homily

Sacrament of Matrimony: Marci Strauss & Joseph Lee
Genesis 2.18-24; Ps 145.8-9; 1 Cor 12.31-13.8; John 2.1-11
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

Love is patient. Love is kind. And it is not jealous or rude or pompous. Love is gentle and giving. And it is messy. Sometimes horribly messy. Love is often difficult and strange. Almost always it is impractical, risky, and hazardous to one’s health. Love makes us generous, forgiving, and blind. It makes us stupid, a little nuts, and it makes almost perfectly human. We love because God made us in His image and likeness. And God is Love. For this reason—Deus caritas est—Love never fails.

If love is messy and dangerous and often makes one stupid, why bother with it at all? We have no choice. We can no more fail to love than we can fail to breathe and live. We might fail to love this person or that one, but if we live and move and have our being in God, we love. Passionately. Distantly. Eagerly. Reluctantly. Or even grudgingly. But we love. And in loving we become more and more like God Who is Love. This perfection, this growing more fully into the image and likeness of God is our salvation; it is how God says to us: “You are healed; you are saved; you are loved. Now, become love for one another!” Hazardous, wasteful, and downright dumb, yes; but loving one another is worth the price of insuring against a long life of short passions and a too early grave so late in living.

Without love we are dead in the heart—just waiting to be buried. Paul writes to the Corinthians: Present your spiritual gifts for inspection! Speak in tongues, prophesy, explain the mysteries and teach all knowledge, trust and move mountains, sell everything and walk the world stripped naked in poverty. Do it all! But if you do not love…you are noise, discordant racket. You are nothing. Thankfully, we have been given a more excellent way: love bears every burden, trusts every promise, hopes for every gift, and endures and endures and endures. Love rejoices in the truth and never fails…even when, no, especially when we fail to love one another.

So there he is in Cana. Mingling. Chatting. Sipping a decent wine. His disciples are there too. Mixing and drinking. Having a good time at this wedding. Then disaster strikes! The wine is almost gone. Mary finds Jesus in a circle of friends telling stories about playing hide and seek in the temple and scaring his parents to death. Mary pulls Jesus away from his fun and says to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus replies, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” You can almost see Mary getting That Mom Face—relaxed but stubborn, sure of getting her way but patient about it. Then Jesus says something completely unexpected: “My hour has not yet come.” Mary knows what this means. It is not yet time for him to reveal himself as the Messiah. So, like any good mother dealing with a stubborn son, Mary ignores him completely and tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Jesus changes the stone jars of water into stone jars of wine and the wedding party goes on! Why now? I mean, why did Jesus choose a wedding to reveal his divine Sonship? Why did he pick a marriage rite to say publicly, “I am the promised messiah; I am the Anointed One”? By performing this miracle, the gospel says, Jesus “revealed his glory” and that “his disciples began to believe in him.” Simply put: Jesus picked this time and place and event to reveal his divine mandate to preach a good news to the children of Israel because it is at a wedding that we celebrate the coming together of two people in one flesh. Jesus announces that he is here to heal the breach between his Father and his Father’s nation. They would be “one flesh” in him—human and divine, a healed injury, a forgotten anger, and a revelation of God’s love. That’s what a marriage is: the completion, the perfection of a man and a woman in one flesh so that God’s love may be revealed to the world and in the world, more fully proclaimed and better understood.

We are not here this afternoon to participate in a wedding. This is not a wedding feast. The liturgical books say that we are participating in the “Rite of Marriage within the Mass.” The lectionary says that this liturgy is the “Conferral of the Sacrament of Matrimony.” Sacrament. We are here to witness Joseph and Marci confect a sacrament. They are enacting God’s grace, our Father’s invitation to live with Him now and forever. When they say “I do” they become one flesh, one body and their lives together become one witness to God’s love for us, His children, His church. And this is why the Church teaches the indissolubility of marriage: Love never fails, God never fails. What God has brought together, let no one destroy.

As witnesses to this sacrament, this public sign of God’s grace, we are all charged with saying “Amen.” Do not say “amen” lightly. It requires a commitment. It is not enough for us to show up, take our places, and sip the good wine afterwards. By being here and by our “amen” we are committing ourselves to what at first might seem like an easy task—supporting Joseph and Marci in a long, happy marriage. The sacrament is not done when the wedding is over. We have been preparing them for a marriage not a wedding; for a sacrament not a ceremony. The sacrament of marriage is not a magical ritual that wipes away all faults, all warts; gets rid of every complaint, every hardness of heart and all anxiety. The sacrament confers the grace necessary for Joseph and Marci to live as one flesh in the world as a sign of God’s love for the world. But it does not confer moral perfection, angelic virtue, or heroic endurance. That’s our job—those here who say “amen”—that’s our job: to be a perfecting influence, a virtuous refuge, an encouragement to endurance through the jagged days. With all of our own faults, our own problems, we are called by this sacrament to stand with these two today and celebrate their love for one another. And we are called to stand with them when they need us in less celebratory times.

Joseph and Marci: listen for the “amens” today. Hear them all. There are people here who love you and who are standing with you today, tomorrow, and on into whenever. You are a sensible pair. Well-prepared to meet the rough spots. You both laugh easily. You both give generously and take gratefully. You are practical and creative. Meticulous and free. You are smart, passionate, and your love for one another is plain to see.

I will end with this exhortation: be patient with one another and kind; do not be jealous or arrogant, puffed up or mean-spirited; take care of one another when things are good and not so good; seek the other’s happiness and will the best; bear together, trust together, hope together, and endure, endure, endure.

Remember: Love never fails.

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