Tobit 8. 5-7a; Ps 128; Colossians 3.12-17; John 15. 12-16
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. A New Image
Elizabeth and Kevin, you give us an opportunity to appreciate more God’s word as we join in your celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony. While that’s true at every wedding, you chose scriptures that are not often heard together. Like all choices yours echo who you are. They also shine a light on Christian marriage.
In choosing the selection from the Book of Tobit, you confess that God has brought you together and you implore God to favor you with continued help in your mutual enterprise. God offers you the Sacrament of Matrimony to do that. The grace of this sacrament sets you on your course in life as two individuals striving to make one life together. In addition to the mundane challenges of married life, the Sacrament of Matrimony offers you divine help to save each other’s souls by growing in holiness marked by married fidelity and sharing your faith with others, above all your children.
You will grow to know at once intimately and concretely that the gift of your faith, while deeply personal, is not private. You have already begun to realize that by your faithful and caring ways by which you have begun learning one another.
Your married life, incarnated by your lives and your home, will share in the mystery, unity and fruitful love between our risen Jesus and his church./1/ Together you are an image of the church.
What does it mean to be an image of the church? First, it means, Kevin, you bring Elizabeth closer to Jesus by revealing divine love in your person; and Elizabeth, you bring Kevin closer to Jesus by revealing divine love in your person. To reveal Jesus to each other is down to earth, most practical as well as a great grace, as St. Paul expressed it. Using a clothing-metaphor, St. Paul realized this great grace is one with our humanity.
So adorn yourselves in heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another, if one as a grievance against another. I pray you enjoy many years in which to put on love, your bond of perfecting one another.
To be an image of the church also means that you learn both to receive love from each other and to give love--in all those myriad ways St. Paul named, as well as ways you will discover on your own. How you learn both to give and to receive love from each other will allow you to move with greater Christian poise among people. People may not know how to name what they sense, but they will feel something unique, for you will be revealing Jesus to them even without saying a word.
Third, to be an image of the church means that affection is true communication. In your married relationship, as I mentioned in one of several conversations we enjoyed, everything is a medium of communication. Besides words, silence, time, eating, laughing, crying, challenging, money and sex are ways you will communicate. Your affection for each other is unique and belongs solely to you both. In the future, your children will school you in showing affection and communicating in ways that will gratify you and challenge you to be more loving than you have yet to imagine.
The Sacrament of Matrimony doesn’t only offer you the opportunity to become an image of the church, an image of Jesus’ compassion. The Sacrament of Matrimony graces you to be a “domestic church,”/2/ to incarnate Jesus by your life and love for the sake of our world. Jesus’ compassion is your vocation of married maturity, which flows from your baptismal maturity. To continue to grow more mature requires keeping near Jesus.
The Sacrament of Matrimony graces you to do that. Staying connected with the church graces you to do that. Living the Christian life, beginning with each other in those practical ways St. Paul listed, graces you to grow more mature in and with Jesus.
Kevin and Elizabeth, the Sacrament of Matrimony deepens your relationship with Jesus, who calls his faithful followers friends. Christian friendship is more than closeness, it is a mutual sharing in the mission of his gospel and revealing Jesus more clearly by your lives. You married love uniquely reveals Jesus in a world that so needs apostles of his presence.
I’m proud of you both and delighted in your future. I’m grateful to you for being honest with one another. I congratulate you personally and on behalf of the church, who rejoices that you have agreed to save each other day by day and to reveal Jesus by your married life and love to us, who know you, as well as to people who do not.
1. Rite of Marriage, 11.
2. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Church (Lumen gentium), 11.
Wiki image by Wolfgang Sauber of symbols of marriage is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license. Wiki-image of a 7th-century gold wedding ring is in the public domain.