I had the honor of officiating at Jackie and Nick’s wedding yesterday at St. John’s Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis. The following is the homily I delivered (Readings included Tobit 8:4-8, Colossians 3:12-17, and John 15:9-12):
I would like to thank Jackie and Nick for the readings they chose for their wedding. While the majority of my comments will be focused on the second reading and the Gospel, I found the choice of the first reading very interesting.
On the surface, we have a newly married couple, Tobiah and Sarah, praying together. Tobiah prays that they might grow old together. The simple, beautiful prayer of newlyweds. For those of you are not familiar with the Book of Tobit, you might be interested to know the context of this simple prayer: Sarah’s first seven husbands all died shortly after marrying her.
Tobiah’s simple prayer of growing old together takes on a whole new sense of urgency, doesn’t it?
I understand Jackie chose this reading. Very subtle warning, Jackie. Well played.
My wife and I had the pleasure of serving as Jackie and Nick’s marriage prep couple. I love officiating at the wedding of a couple we’ve prepared. It adds a personal side to the wedding that I enjoy. I get a glimpse of them as a couple as we spend time with them and discuss the results of the “marriage test” they are required to take.
The test responses are confidential, so I really shouldn’t share anything with you. But looking around and not seeing anyone here from the testing company, I’ll go ahead and share one or two of their answers.
The test revealed some interesting things to watch for: For instance, on the test, Nick said they will start their family within six months of the wedding and Jackie said two years. To the statement: “We expect to divide household chores,” Jackie marked it as ‘strongly agree’ while Nick was undecided.
Nick, you may want to re-read that first reading and remember Sarah’s first seven husbands.
As far as the test goes, Jackie and Nick actually had the highest compatibility score of any couple we’ve ever worked with, and we have been at this for over 25 years. As a matter of fact, the test had a notation that cautioned that the couple might be “overly idealistic about the realities of marriage” because of the number of positive identical responses. But we had already spent considerable time with Jackie and Nick by the time we got the test results, and we knew their compatibility was genuine.
Their choice of a second reading speaks to this genuineness:St. Paul wrote: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones…kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…And over all these put on love.”
You only need to spend a few minutes with Jackie and Nick to know that they have already “put on” these virtues, both as individuals and as a couple. They are prepared to live out St. Paul’s message because it is who they are.
But the challenge for most couples is not in “putting on” these virtues of kindness, humility, and patience; it is keeping them on. The challenge is in keeping their focus on these virtues when times are tough. They need help. That’s why we’re here, in this Church.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus has simple marital advice:“Remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete…love one another as I love you.”
I asked Jackie and Nick why it was important to them to be married in the Church. This was their response: “Today is more than just an ‘event.’ It is a day that not only signifies our commitment to one another, but also our commitment to God, the Church, and our faith journey together.”
They get it.
It reminds me of a poster I have seen that says: Message from God: “Thank you for inviting me to the wedding. Now invite me to the marriage.”
Jackie and Nick are here in this church because they understand that they can’t do this alone. They need God to be a part of their marriage.
To the parents…Frank and Cathy…Mark and Debbie: They will still need you as role models and guides. You have done the hard work to get them here. You are the cornerstones of the foundation upon which they will build their life together.
Jackie and Nick wrote: “We are both very fortunate to have grown up in homes that were built upon a solid foundation of love, stability, commitment, and respect. Our parents have accomplished what we desire in our marriage and they inspire us as we stand at the altar. We strive for a marriage like they have – we both want it, we both believe in it, and we both promise to give 100% to it each and every day.”
It is great to see that Jackie and Nick understand that a marriage is not “50-50” as many people say. It is 100-100. Both parties must be all in.
To the invited guests: They also need you. This is not just a day of free food and drink and dancing for you. As an invited guest, you have an obligation to Jackie and Nick.
There will be challenges along the way for them. They will experience difficulties as they learn to understand one another more fully, to communicate, and to think and act as one.
Finances, parenting, home-buying, careers…decisions made as a team. As much as they love each other, the melding of two into one can be tough. And you — their family and friends — have a critical role.
Jackie and Nick made out their guest list carefully. They could have invited anyone. You were chosen to be here because they believe you will provide them with the ongoing support they will need. Your support does not end today; it starts today.
By inviting you, they have issued you a challenge: From a place of love, hold them accountable. In a few minutes, they will exchange vows. Listen carefully to what they say and hold them to it.
That’s why you were invited. That’s why you are here. Since we all know why we’re here, let’s do this!