Michael Fletcher-Gina Gerson wedding (18 Sep 2010)
Rt 1. 16-17; Ps 34; Col 3. 12-17; Mt 17. 14-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Gina and Michael, your choice of scriptures invites us to focus on fidelity. Ruth, who was not Jewish, had married into a Jewish family. Only her sister-in-law and mother-in-law, Naomi, were left, and Naomi was returning to her own land after many years away. She gave her daughters-in-law freedom to follow their lives not hers. Ruth pledged Naomi her loyalty and support: wherever you go...wherever you live...whatever God you worship...wherever you die, Ruth would follow and follow freely. Ruth’s pledge of fidelity was not only deep, it caused her freedom to change from one key into another: her attachment to Naomi and to her people and God modulated her personal freedom into a new key.
This modulating of personal freedom into a new key describes many relationships: yours in marriage; mine when I moved into the life of the Society of Jesus; others when they move from childhood and adolescence into adulthood; as well as one’s relationship with God, who creates and redeems us each moment. Modulation of personal freedom into a new key entails effort, as Naomi understood.
Naomi knew that the change Ruth would face—entering a new land with its God of Abraham, its religion and customs as well as its different vistas—would be steep. Naomi wanted Ruth to be herself. To be oneself is one more aspect of fidelity: authenticity.
Our Christian tradition shapes how to understand authenticity. We desire and we strive to become the individuals Jesus has created and redeemed. To be myself is no self-centered attempt. To be myself is no heroic effort. To be myself is moving with my Creator and Redeemer. Christian authenticity involves individuals and our Creator.
To be oneself is marked by longing. The Colossians longed for a new humanity; St. Paul responded to them using the phrases of old self and new self. He reminded them that what they sought God was creating and forming within the community of the church, in their communion with Jesus. Like them we may be surprised that to become more the persons Jesus has created and redeemed is not the results of spectacular feats but of putting on our Messiah and allowing his attitude to flow through us: clothe yourselves with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience….Bear with one another and,... forgive each other.
The church recognizes that Catholic marriage and family are a noble school to practice Christian attitudes. So noble that it calls spouses and their family a “domestic church.”1 Mike and Gina, your married love allows you, indeed frees you, to clothe yourselves with our Messiah, to give your loyalty and support to each other and to grow more as the individuals Messiah Jesus creates and redeems each moment.
Forcing love and its manifestations humans show one another—heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, meekness…patience. …Bear[ing] with one another and...forgiv[ing]—is noticed by lovers. Forcing love is a cue that I’m trying to be heroic, and being heroic often leads to judging another instead of leading self and the other to new humanity in Jesus. St. Paul used the image of clothing.
One doesn’t force on clothing. The word St. Paul used, which we translate as to clothe, literally meant to sink into. When something truly fits, we appreciate we are in it. The fashion-model photo of sinking into clothing captures what such appreciation causes: we luxuriate in what fits us well. So, Mike and Gina, sink into the Sacrament of Matrimony you put on one another today. Allow the mutual love and honor you pledge before us to enlarge your freedom: grow more free to be flesh and blood symbols of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church and to help each other to attain to holiness.2
Gina and Mike, I am thrilled for you both, and I congratulate you on behalf of the church. May God bless your future through your faithful love give you new courage to love and, especially, to receive each other’s love.
- Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 11, of The Second Vatican Council.