13 May 2017

Homily - 13 May 2017 - Wedding of Lewis and Brooke Martin

The Wedding of Brooke Zerrusen and Lewis Martin

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have come together this afternoon, in this church dedicated to the honor of God and of Saint Francis of Assisi, to witness the exchange of consent of Lewis and Brooke, and to celebrate with them as they “establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life.” By its very nature, this union “is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children.” They will begin this partnership in the presence of the Church because marriage has “been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (canon 1055).

On behalf of the couple, I greet you, their family and friends, with affection and I welcome you in the name of Christ. I thank you for the love, support, and encouragement you show them by your presence with us today and I am confident they will be able to count on you in the days, weeks, and years ahead for this same encouragement, support, and love. Now, my friends, before we witness the exchange of their promises to live in committed love until death, come what may, I ask you to allow me to speak directly to the couple; you, of course, are invited to listen in.

Lewis and Brooke, some years ago, when you were washed in the regenerating waters of Baptism, those waters that receive their power from the wounds of the Savior, you were clothed in Christ, as the Apostle Saint Paul teaches (cf. Galatians 3:27). This is why you were given a white garment, the Baptismal garment, and were instructed to see in it “the outward sign of your Christian dignity.” Moreover, you were told to “bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”[1] It was also on that day that you were “once and for all incorporated into the covenant of Christ with the Church,” becoming members of his Body.[2] This covenant between Christ and the Church is repeatedly described as that of a marriage, particularly by Saint Paul, who calls it as “a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32). Who, then, are the parties in this heavenly marriage?

Saint John the Baptist spoke of himself as the “best man” when he said, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). The bridegroom is none other than the Lord Jesus, who referred to himself when he asked, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them” (Luke 5:34)? The Bride of Christ is none other than the Church, composed as it is of every member of the Baptized, for when Saint John the Evangelist saw his vision of the Revelation, an angel said to him, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9). He was shown “a holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride for her husband,” a city with “twelve courses of stone as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:2, 14).

MS Francais 403, f. 35v
We might say the betrothal of the Lamb of God, the Divine Bridegroom, to the Church, both the Body and the Bride of Christ, occurred when Jesus offered himself on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins and rose victorious over the grave. The marriage celebration between the Lamb and his Bride will take place on the Last Day, when it will be said, “For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment,” which is both the Baptismal garment and the wedding garment (Revelation 19:7-8; Matthew 22:12). At each celebration of the Holy Mass, we share in the foretaste of that great nuptial banquet.

By virtue of your Baptisms, your marriage to each other “is assumed into Christ’s charity and is enriched by the power of his Sacrifice” so that your married love will be a sacrament, not only for yourselves, but for all the world. Because the things of heaven are always to be the model of the things of earth, from this day forward, the love which you have for each other must always be a reflection of Jesus’ love for his own Bride, the Church.[3] This daily requires self-denial and, for this very reason, marriage is not easy, but it is beautiful.

Edith and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
The great J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, reflected on the reality of marriage in a letter he wrote to his son Michael in 1941. Then, after twenty-five of his fifty-five years of marriage to his beloved wife Edith, the elder Tolkien wrote these words:

Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification… No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that – even those brought up ‘in the Church’.[4]

Tolkien here speaks of a danger for the husband, but lest some think marriage brings no danger for the bride, we might note the temptation of the wife to be always right. Marriage requires of both the deliberate and conscious exercise of the will, that is, self-denial. I do not want the two of you to be unaware of this.

If you are to live the mystery of the Lord’s love for each other and for the world, if you are to “signify and participate in the mystery of unity and fruitful love between Christ and the Church,” you must follow the admonition of Saint Paul, which you chose for us to hear today.[5] You must daily “put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). You must always remember that you “have clothed yourselves in Christ,” in him who is Love; therefore, you must imitate him in all things (Galatians 3:27; cf. I John 4:8).

From the example that he has given us of selfless love, we know that “true love is shown by deeds,” that love is shown in the details.[6] Jesus showed his love for us upon the Cross and you, too, must take up the Cross each day of your married life. You must always consider one another’s holiness as more important than your own wants. You, Lewis, must ask each morning, “How can I help Brooke grow in holiness today?” Likewise, you, Brooke, must ask each morning, “How can I help Lewis grow in holiness today?” If you live your married life in this way, you will indeed, “over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14).

We know that “love is the bond of perfection in the sense that it completes and unifies the virtues, and more importantly it perfects, or matures, the community itself.”[7] If you love each other with the love of Jesus, with a love that is selfless and pure and always seeks the good of the other, you will indeed mature and be perfected together; you will become a source of light, of goodness, and of love in a world filled with so much darkness, emptiness, and hatred. The world needs you to be witnesses to the love of Jesus; let his love be always seen in your love for each other.

If you hold fast to the sacred duty you received in holy Baptism to love both God and neighbor, if you remain in the love of Jesus, you will live, as the fairy tales say, happily ever after and your joy will be complete as you help each other become saints (cf. John 15:10, 11). You, Lewis, will begin to love Brooke as Christ loved the Church and, you, Brooke, will be “like the sun rising in the Lord’s heavens” (cf. Ephesians 5:25; Sirach 26:15). By encouraging each other to imitate the love of Jesus each day of your lives, may you stand before him when he comes at last, “giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Amen.

[1] Rite of Baptism for Children, 99.
[2] Ordering of Celebrating Matrimony, 7.
[3] Ibid.
[4] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, 6-8 March 1941. In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Humphrey Carpenter, ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 51.
[5] Ibid., 8.
[6] Saint Bonaventure, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 15.10. Robert J. Karris, trans. Works of St. Bonaventure, Vol. XI: Commentary on the Gospel of John (Saint Bonaventure, New York: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2007), 762.
[7] Dennis Hamm, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2013), 220.

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