Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wedding word, 24 Sep 16

Christopher Soriano-Kelsey Rizer Wedding (24 Sep 2016)
Prv 3. 3-6, 9-10, 27, 33-34; Ps 100; 2Co 9. 6-10; Mt 7.21, 24-29
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Greater Challenge
I join all of you as guests of Chris and Kelsey. I’m Paul Panaretos, a Jesuit from the Midwest. Kelsey’s Dad and I met in graduate school. I met Gale when she and Kurt began their married life and returned East. There Kurt and I earned our degrees just behind our friend Bill Flammann. Then Kurt and Gale drove a southerly route back here and stopped and saw me in Washington, D.C., where I had worked summers. We kept in touch, and our hearts remain close despite the miles that separate us.

[Opening Prayer and Liturgy of the Word…]

Your wedding, Kelsey, is a happy reunion for me with your Mom, Megan and Eric, Bill Flamman and Christine. Thank you for thinking of Bill and me as you and Chris began planning for today. You honor us.

Chris, you mentioned during our first chat last year you felt growing to learn Kurt from Kelsey and her family. Your words stayed with me. Fascinating, isn’t it, how we learn someone through others?

The word learning is apt. I think we associate learning more with study and acquiring skills than we do with experiencing other people. Yet, it is equally true to say we learn others. It may be more true: when we are with others—as coworker, neighbor, friend, relative, beloved—we experience them. Each experience of another lets us learn a person a bit better.

Learning one another begins in each one’s family. Learning each other is vital to vowed relationships like yours. My parents’ and my sister’s marriage vows and those of others close to me confirm this continual learning I am trying to describe. So do my vows and the how they relate me to my brother Jesuits. No matter how well we learn others, people remain mysteries. Our Christian sense of that word reminds us that each is an image of God, whom we can never fully know—the reason that learning people as well as God is lifelong.

From the start scripture repeatedly described the relationship of God with humans in the language of marriage and its intimate knowing and learning. Humans discerned divine qualities God desires humans share. They enliven interpersonal relationships and deepen vowed relationships as we learn another.

Faithful love and constancy are two divine qualities in which humans participate, the Book of Proverbs reminded us. On God’s side they describe that our Creator loves us into being at each moment and never waivers in loving us. On your side you commit yourselves to love one another in ways on which each of you can depend. Your vows you will exchange express that you will love each other truly, in everything and every day. With true love you will honor God as you honor one another. The phrase refuse no kindness is more than politeness. By continuing to learn each other your repertoire of kindnesses toward each other will grow large. Married life will allow you to show kindnesses to others, too, which you have already begun. Kindness offered from generous hearts actively thanks…God and blesses God’s name.

Marriage is a life of offering. Choosing St. Paul’s words about cheerful offering, Kelsey and Chris let us know they intuit they are becoming a new creation1 to offer love and to receive love. To offer love and to receive love: I believe receiving love is more difficult. A big reason is this: when I love, I choose and I act. Receiving love is different: I take no initiative; and I’m always surprised. Only if I take another for granted am I not in awe that the person has loved me: safeguarded my dignity; accepted my limited and weak self; and still chose to show me kindness.

Chris and Kelsey, today you seal your desire to unite your love. Vowed life—your marriage and my Jesuit life—includes receiving love as well. Not to take each other for granted exercises you to receive love more gracefully. Receiving love helps us grow. Receiving love is how children grow with integrity and how they deepen it. Your family will grow because of love received by each of you as much as by love you offer each other and your children.

We Christians are convinced God graces us to receive love and to give it. To help us do both and more God offers God’s life—grace. Cheerfully receiving love as well as offering love are bedrock-ways you cooperate with God’s grace to draw you closer and to unite you. Your Christian union is a mystery because you will never lose your individual selves. You will be enriched, especially by the love you receive and the love you offer. You have a sure foundation.

God in Jesus by Holy Spirit is your foundation. God’s dream for each person and for married couples is that individuals and couples let our triune God be their rock, their foundation, their source of life. Jesus reminded us we join God’s dream by how we choose and act, not by words alone. Key choices are to offer love and to receive it from each other. Jesus revealed and modelled God’s compassionate love. Standing within God’s compassion as Jesus revealed it and offers it in his word and sacraments will let you weather life’s challenges and revel in its opportunities and joys—and do both together.

Two brief, closing bits of advice to encourage you: your authority; and live your marriage daily. First, exercise your Christian authority. The gospel recalled Jesus taught with unmatched authority that actions are more important than words. Jesus lives today. He gives his authority to Christians today. Your generosity—generously offering love and generous in the ways you receive each other’s love as well as the love and kindnesses from others—your generosity is your Christian authority. By it your married life grows one step at a time. Pope Francis calls them “steps of shared growth.”2 Shared means mutual, and mutual is both receiving and offering. Do all to help each other grow: especially generously receive each other’s love; you will grow to be better lovers, quick to show Christian charity to all you meet.

Second, live your marriage one day at a time. Other things need long range planning as you know. Weddings require planning not marriage. Your vowed life—anyone’s vowed life—is not planned, it is lived. Living it daily with receiving, giving and forgiving hearts—the very way Jesus lived—will reward you with courageous hope to look forward to every tomorrow.

Congratulations! Chris & Kelsey! God bless your future!

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  1. 2 Corinthians 5.17.
  2. His Address to Engaged Couples Preparing for Marriage, 14Feb14.
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Wiki-images: by Alia├ža of wedding bands CC BY-SA 4.0; by Ramon FVelasquez of wedding candle CC BY-SA 3.0

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