Tobit 8. 4b-8; Ps 128; Philippians 4. 4-9; Matthew 7. 21, 24-29
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Foundation and Compassion
While no mechanics of grace exists, all the baptized share in God’s life--to what the word “grace” points us. God’s life is God’s gift to us; like all gifts we don’t control receiving them. Also like gifts, God’s life in us is real and affects us for our good. You know this from your experience of falling in love. Love has no blueprint. You knew love was shaping you because it allowed you to see yourselves in each other; plus, your love helped you see aspects of each other with a clarity neither of you enjoyed before.
This clarity expresses itself in many ways. All the ways share in a hallmark of married life, equality. A 3rd-Century Christian described this equal expression in a letter to his wife. Speaking of spouses, he wrote:
Together they pray, ...together perform their fasts; mutually teaching, mutually exhorting, mutually sustaining. Equally both [are] in the Church of God; equally at the banquet of God; equally in straits, in persecutions, in refreshments. Neither hides from the other; neither shuns the other; neither [troubles] the other. The sick is visited, the indigent relieved, with freedom. [They give] alms [freely and]…without scruple./2/Since that early Christian wrote his wife, the church grew to appreciate equality as a hallmark of Christian marriage. I have come to define Christian marriage as two individuals making one life together. Each of you will remain individuals, and you will make one life. Your differences will strengthen your one life, not just your similarities.
The scriptures you chose for your wedding help us see how. The reading from the Book of Tobit is a starting point. It is not only about people in the past; it is autobiographical. Both of you pray. While you have already prayed for one another and with one another, from this day your prayer will be one voice from two selves. If you allow Tobias and Sarah to guide you, as you pray you will rehearse creation as they did: Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors! reminding each other that together yours is a noble purpose.
Your purpose is to continue learning what is true and to keep on doing the truth in love. To keep your purpose alive and fresh, to keep learning each other as you have been, allow me to suggest this: in the weeks, months and years to come, Matt and Joni, give your relationship the same priority you have given it since beginning to date seriously and to prepare to marry. That’s no canned line: my parents did that during their 60 years together, long before I realized they did so.
If you give to each other in years to come the priority—that is, the honor, the respect, the tender love as well as to admire each other as you do today—not only will you Rejoice! We will rejoice with you. Making one life that way also will make your joy and your kindness for one another known to all and felt by all who meet you.
Giving each other and your life together at each future moment the priority you have given each other in the earliest phases of your relationship is your foundation: not only the foundation of your relationship; it is the foundation of your life together, who is none other than Jesus for us Catholics.
Jesus, of course, does not want to be idolized and remain distant. The empty cry of Lord! Lord! in the gospel Matt and Joni chose alludes to idolizing Jesus and keeping him distant. Some of you may know that the gospel we heard impressed Matt from grade 1 or 2 and stayed with him. Joni welcomed his choice of it for their wedding. In the familiar parable of Jesus about building on sand or on rock, sand, rock, houses and even building are minor characters. They support Jesus’ point that doing God’s desires is each one’s vocation.
With what greater authority will both of you do and fulfill your vocation than as spouses? With what greater authority than as spouses will you give witness to us and the world that God works in all human lives for good? With what greater authority will you model compassion than by the joyful compassion by which you carry each other and care for each other as spouses? Your mutual compassion for one another will fashion you from today as a domestic church./3/ It will help you save each other’s souls and welcome children lovingly from God/4/; it will also allow Jesus to work through you for the sake of the world.
Joni & Matt, I want to affirm what you have allowed me to see: your desire to live a Catholic marriage. I also want to remind you that at each step of making one life together, Jesus accompanies you, drawing you and your love for each other into the mutual love, which his Father and Jesus and their Spirit enjoy—our destiny. You’ll never lack for Jesus’ companionship blessing your love with the love of the Trinity.
Matt and Joni, I’m very proud of you and, I wish you every good thing. I congratulate you on behalf of the church. Please remember that in pledging yourselves to each other you allow Jesus to work through you for your Christian destiny—the salvation of each other as well as our world. As you forge one life together Jesus begets something new: a new harmony to feel Jesus creating you and your mutual love for each other; and to help us and others feel Jesus recreating the world not from afar but with us and for us all.
1. Rite of Marriage, Ch.1: 23.
2. Tertullian, To My Wife, 2,8:4, in AnteNiceneFathers, IV:48.
3. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 11, of The Second Vatican Council.
4. Rite of Marriage, Ch.1: 24.
Wiki-image by Jeff Belmonte of wedding rings is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. Wiki-image of life of Jesus window is in the public domain.