03 November 2007

MacRae/Austin Wedding

Nuptial Mass: MacRae & Austin
Song of Songs 2.8-16, 8.6-7; Apoc 19.1, 5-9; John 2.1-11
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Ann
Catholic Church, Coppell, TX

We are just before that moment when the bride and groom knot their love together in a sacramental vow—a tremendous instant of joy, long-anticipated and hope for, a moment of bright glory for Michael and Melissa, and for us all. What better moment then to preach about death? The singer of the Song of Songs sings to her beloved: “Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is strong as Death, jealousy relentless as Sheol.” Love is as strong as death. A primitive fact, a most basic conclusion, death is beyond common; it is necessary. We must die. Death’s strength lies in its inevitability, its relentless coming to us, coming at us, and always finding us to win against all of our hesitations and anxieties and fevered denials. Death wins. For a little while, anyway. Love’s strength is as primitive, as basic and common and just as inevitable. Love comes to us, at us, and always wins against all of our doubts and fears and foolish dissents. Love overwhelms our sensitive passions, consumes the mind’s virtues, converts the emotions, and lays permanent claim to any soul strong enough to stand up in its lightening “flash of fire.” How much stronger, how much more powerful and dangerous and unrelenting then is that same love found twice and tied together for a lifetime?

“Love no flood can quench, no torrents drown.” As strong as death, love endures.

If you are here this afternoon for a fairy-tale wedding or a good sentimental cry or to get your romantic memory stoked until the next nuptial Mass comes along, I truly hope you are deeply disappointed. Nothing we do here this afternoon is fairy-tale, or sentimental, or romantic. Nothing we do here is about catalogs or invitations, caterers or florists, family or friends, not even the choir or the priest! What we do here this afternoon is about Christ and his Church. We are here to witness, to see with our own eyes, Michael and Melissa’s determination to be for us a sacrament of Christ’s love for his bride, the people he has won for the Father. We are here to say “amen” again and again in support of their ministry to one another as husband and wife, and to us as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are here to stand with them as they begin their lives together as apostles and priests, prophets and kings. We are here because we are happy to be invited to this wedding feast, the feast of this union and the feast of the Lamb who redeems us all.

At Cana, Mary reports to Jesus that the good wine of the wedding feast has run dry, “They have no wine,” she says. Jesus, being the good son, says, “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not yet come.” Now, you can just see the look on Mary’s face. That look mother’s get when a son gets a sassy mouth. No doubt she pinched her lips just a bit, took a deep breath, and said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus proceeds to change six stone jars of water into high quality wine and thoroughly impresses the steward of the house. He says to the bridegroom, “…you have saved the best wine till now.” You have to wonder why this scene from John’s gospel is suited for a Nuptial Mass. Other than its setting at a wedding feast, what makes this episode pertinent to a wedding? John notes: “This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee.” To mark his entry into a public ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing, our Lord chooses a wedding feast, the party after the formal liturgy to stake his claim on divine sonship. What does he do? Yes, he changes water to wine. Yes, he shows everyone his power. But what do any of these have to do with a wedding? Jesus announces his public ministry, staking a claim on his divine sonship by changing that which we need simply to live into that which we need for living well. He transforms the law of stone into the law of love; he transforms the temple sacrifices into the one sacrifice of the cross. The nuptial celebration is transformed into a sign of his coming into his Sonship and serves as the inauguration of his wedded life with the church! This is what makes what Michael and Melissa do here today a sacrament, a sign that points to and makes present the salvific love of Christ for his Church.

In love, Christ says to his Church as Michael says to Melissa, “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come…show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.” And Melissa, in love, says to Michael as the Church says to Christ: “My beloved is mine and I am his. Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is strong as Death…the flash of it is a flash of fire, a flame of the Lord himself!”

Though Michael and Melissa are obviously the first beneficiaries of this sacrament, their benefit is a boon for the rest of us as well. We do nothing alone in the Church, we do everything with everyone else. Besides being well-dressed and pretty, our task this afternoon is to say “amen,” it is so. Yes, it is so. And by saying “amen” we bind ourselves in service to this marriage. The newly baptized have a sponsor. The newly confirmed do as well. Priests and bishops rely heavily on the support of those who witness their ordinations. And we offer our company to the dead as we send them on their way. Michael and Melissa do not need us to make perfunctory liturgical noises. They do not need us to drink up their wine and eat their food. They need for us to see them as married, bound together in one flesh; they need us to support them as one flesh and offer ourselves in service to their ministry as husband and wife among us. Therefore, say “amen” and mean it!

Michael and Melissa, remember: Deus caritas est. God is love. Nothing overwhelms that Majesty. Nothing overtakes that Glory. There is nothing created that commands the power of re-creating love, nothing created that quenches the fire of His Holy Spirit. There is no one in this chapel this afternoon who will tell you that marriage is easy, that marriage is trouble-free and simple. No one here is going to guarantee you that you won’t go to bed angry or get up some morning disappointed or that money will be plentiful and that the children always be bright and happy. No one here is that foolish. But we are foolish enough to tell you that when you put Christ’s love first and then love one another through his love for you, you will endure. Mussed up, maybe. A bruise here and there. A few wounded feelings perhaps. But you will endure. And you will endure because you will cling to one another in the storms, even when you yourselves are the tempests. One storm does not a weather pattern make.

Let this verse from the Song of Songs remind you of what you have, what you have given today: “Love no flood can quench, love no torrents can drown.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:24 AM

    Excellent job. This was quite profound.

    --Ruth Anne