I celebrated my first wedding today, and preached the following homily. The name of the Bride and Groom have been changed.
1 Cor 12:31-13:8; Ps 102; Jn 15:9-12
Love the Foundation
It is a central truth of the Christian faith that love is the foundation of all there is. St John tells us that God is love, and we learn that it is out of love that God made the world. In making the world, he crowned his work by creating human beings, male and female, and in making man and woman for each other he showed that it is in love and through love that happiness and new life may be found.
The Redeemer restores the Original Plan
We all realise that this great truth about love is easily forgotten. Sin, selfishness and human weakness blind us to this fact, and it is for this reason that we need a Redeemer. This Redeemer, Christ Jesus, was sent to remind us of this great truth and to enable us to live according to the Law of Love. And in considering this mission of Jesus we see that it is no coincidence that the first public miracle he performed at the wedding feast of Cana. We see too that he caused quite a stir when he spoke of the importance of the permanence marriage and the fact that marriage finds its true meaning in the light of God’s original plan of love. Nor is it a coincidence that St Paul compares the love of Christ for the Church with the love of man and wife. The message is clear – marriage tells us something about God’s love, and God’s love is the foundation and the ideal for marriage.
Marriage and Growth in Christ
Marriage is the way in which most Christians are called to live out their vocation – growing in love and growing to be more like Christ is what you Maria, and you Michael are called to. Through your marriage you will follow Christ and grow in his love by loving each other and the family that God might send you. Therefore, this is a joyful day for us gathered here and for the Church as a whole.
Jesus speaks to us of love in the gospel you have chosen for this ceremony. When speaking about the love the disciples should have for each other he makes it quite clear that such love brings joy. So too it is with marriage. Maria and Michael, the joy you find in each other’s love has brought you to this church to be joined in holy matrimony. You do so with the legitimate and praiseworthy intention that marriage will bring you an increase in this joy. Never forget this connection between love and joy; never forget to keep this joyful day frequently in your mind and never forget the fact that happiness in marriage, true happiness in marriage, comes from the continual decision of husband and wife to keep loving each other joyfully.
The joy of marriage does not mean that life will always be easy. Love is not just a vague uplifting emotion that is experienced apart from the challenges and struggles and crises of human life. With Christ as our example, we note that love always carries with it some sacrifice. When St Paul speaks to us of love we recognize in his words a challenge – we must be “patient and kind”; we need to put aside boastfulness, conceitedness, selfishness and resentment. And we know from experience that this is not always easy, but we also know that any temporary happiness or satisfaction we might get from being boastful, conceited, selfish or resentful is short-lived compared to the true happiness of those who learn to excuse, to trust and to hope. And so, if marriage involves making sacrifices for each other, be reassured that this is not simply a burden, but rather the foundation of the happiness that comes from love; this is the only sort of happiness which endures.
Finally, we approach the big moment. Maria, you are entrusting yourself to Michael; Michael, you are entrusting yourself to Maria. You are making a life-long commitment of fidelity to each other, forming a bond that cannot be dissolved. This is both something solemn and joyful, and if you are feeling a little nervous I certainly wouldn’t blame you. Just bear in mind that the bond of marriage is not a bond that imprisons, but rather binds you two together in such a way that makes you both stronger, more free, and opens up new opportunities and a new adventure in your lives. Michael, from this day forth you will live your life knowing that Maria is your support. Maria, Michael will now be your strength. The joy you find in each other will help you face life and to live it to the full; the joy you find in each other will be a foretaste of the everlasting joy of heaven.
In a few brief moments, when you exchange vows, a new family will come into being. The Church rejoices in this, shares in your happiness, and promises you, through this holy sacrament, Christ’s blessing, not just today but every day you live hereafter as husband and wife.