May 18, 2023
I had the honor of being the officiant for the wedding of Jorden and Zack last Saturday. Here is the homily I delivered prior to the Marriage Rite:
I was once asked if I preach the same homily at every wedding. My answer was “No,” —– as I try to personalize the homily for each couple as much as I can. However, there are two messages I DO repeat at every wedding because I think they are important to hear.
One message is specifically for you, the congregation. The other is a last-minute reminder for the couple.
So, I will begin by addressing the invited guests. You play a critical role in today’s ceremony. Whether you were aware of it or not, you are now acting as witnesses on behalf of the Church. You may have thought you were just here to kill time until the reception, looking forward to the opportunity to eat and drink at someone else’s expense. While I will be the first to acknowledge that nothing tastes better than free food, you have a greater calling today.
When you entered the church, you became a witness to this marriage and are one of many designated supporters of Jorden and Zack. So, what does this role entail?
To begin with, in a few minutes, they will be stating their intentions in front of all of you. Listen carefully to what they say and hold them to it. I will ask them if they will love and honor one another as man and wife for the rest of their lives. If they remember their line, they will respond with, “We will.”
Keep in mind that the love to which they are consenting is unique. It is a love focused outward, directed toward the other, for the benefit of the other. It is a selfless love. The love we speak of in the Marriage Rite calls the couple to love as Jesus loves.
Today’s gospel speaks to this. In John’s gospel we heard Jesus tell his disciples, “Love one another as I love you.”
In a sacramental marriage, the couple is no longer two, but one. They will sacrifice the life they knew in favor of the one they’ve chosen. My experience with Jorden and Zack leads me to believe they understand this type of love. I am confident their “We will” response will be heartfelt and intentional.
It may sound simple when they say it, but it is not. You are witnesses. Listen to them say, “We will.” Then, from a place of love, hold them accountable moving forward. That’s why you are here.
Jorden and Zack chose the readings we heard moments ago. I already mentioned the gospel reading. The scripture passage they chose for the second readings was from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.
It is a beautiful reading that defines what sacramental love is: It is patient; it is kind; it believes, hopes, and endures all things.
It also speaks to what sacramental love is NOT: It is not jealous; it is not pompous; it is not inflated, or rude, or self-serving.
As I mentioned earlier, it is a love focused outward, directed toward the other, for the benefit of the other. It is to love as Jesus loves. Jorden and Zack have prepared for this day, keeping that definition in mind. They have lived their lives in anticipation of such a love.
Several weeks ago, I asked Jorden and Zack to respond to a few questions in writing. Their responses were insightful and perceptive and filled with love and understanding. Some of the questions were to be answered as a couple, and others as individuals.
One of the questions they answered as a couple was, “Why is it important for you to get married in the church?”
They responded: The church views this as a blessing to a lifelong partnership where we promise to be faithful to each other for the rest of our lives. We want to live out these values in our marriage and continue to spread the good word of Christ through our marriage.
How beautiful is that?
One of the questions I asked them to respond to as individuals was, “Why is your future spouse ‘the one’ for you?”
This is Zack’s response: Jorden is “the one” for me because she pushes me to be the best I can be and I can see myself living the rest of my life with her. I also cannot see myself living life without her, now that she is in my life.
And here is a portion of Jorden’s response: Zack loves unconditionally. He is eager to better himself in any way possible for those around him. He is quick to ask how he can help in any situation. He is kind, loving, gentle, and funny. He is a great son, brother, friend, co-worker and basketball coach. I cannot wait to be married and to have the privilege of calling him my husband.
These are great responses, and capture the essence of a love outside of oneself – not only directed toward one another, but to the outside world as well.
It appears as though Jorden and Zack truly understand one another and what it is they are about to do as they stand before all of you and the eyes of the Church.
However, I do want to offer them a few reminders. (I walked over to speak with Jorden and Zack directly)
In a sacramental marriage, each of you has the responsibility to help the other get to heaven. Your marriage is an epiphany – it reveals Christ. With marriage comes the obligation to reveal Christ.
Zack – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Jorden. You are obligated to reveal Christ to her by the way you love her – the way you talk to her, treat her, and interact with the world around you.
Jorden – each morning you wake up, you will need to make the decision to love Zack. You are obligated to reveal Christ to him by the way you love him – the way you talk to him, treat him, and interact with the world around you.
Secondly, your marriage must reveal Christ to others. Others will see Christ in how you love one another and in how you, as a couple, interact with them. Your marriage will be a lamp on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.
Finally, if you are blessed to have children, you will have the obligation to reveal Christ to them daily. Through your love and support, they will come to know God.
What I have just shared with you is serious business. A wedding is not a quick “I do” and some dancing; it is the beginning of a marriage. And with that marriage comes the challenging responsibilities I’ve described.
Can you do that? (They agreed that they could)