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The Deacon's Bench

‘Tis the season. Wedding season, that is. This Sunday, I’ll be assisting at a wedding mass. Below is my wedding homily.

I wish I could tell you some words of wisdom from the homily given at my own wedding, 22 years ago. But I can’t. I can’t remember a word of it. Chances are, you won’t remember this one, either.

There’s something that happens on your wedding day. Your shoes are usually too tight, and it cuts off the circulation to your brain. Amnesia sets in. You get up in the morning, put on your shoes, and the next thing you remember, you have icing on your chin and someone is videotaping you doing the bunny hop.

But let me share a few thoughts anyway.

This is a moment of great beauty – and great meaning. It goes beyond the flowers, the music, the dress. You may find this hard to believe, but the most precious part of this day is even bigger and more elaborate than the party that will come after.

The best news is: it doesn’t cost anything. It’s probably the only part of today that doesn’t have a fee attached.

So let me tell you why this day matters so much.

It’s because this embraces two sentiments that are central to our humanity, central to our faith.

Love. And hope.

Human beings are the only creatures on earth who feel these things. We’re the only ones who have the capacity to truly love one another, to cherish one another – and to hope with one another. And because of that, those two feelings carry a spark of the Divine. It’s God leaving his signature within us. He’s given us the ability to love…and the capacity to hope. It’s one reason, among many, why what we celebrate today is a sacrament – a sign of God’s grace.

And it’s why this means so much.

Because by marrying one another you are saying more than just ‘I do.’ You are saying ‘I do love.’ And ‘I do hope.’

You are affirming the mystery of that, and saying that you care for one another…and will care for one another…no matter what. You are saying that you believe that your future together will be brighter because this other person is a part of it. You are saying: we are part of a chain, a story stretching back to the beginnings of time, and we want to continue the story. You are saying that you will continue that story by becoming a family to one another, and welcoming children, and letting God continue His creative work in the world.

If that isn’t love, and that isn’t hope, I don’t know what is.

You are expressing with your presence here today something that poets have been trying to put into words for centuries. It’s a small spark – that spark of the Divine that I mentioned – a light that you today promise to nurture. A light that you’ll protect from the wind, and the rain, and the cold. In the gospel you just heard Jesus tell us to be the light of the world. You are promising to do that…with your love, with your hope.

Shortly after he got married, the writer Matthew Lakona, wrote: “I believe marriage is the best chance I have to love my neighbor as myself.”

Whether you realize it or not, you aren’t just going to be husband and wife. You’re going to be neighbors. Very close neighbors. Remember that. Be good neighbors to each other, as well as good spouses.

I’d like to say something to the other neighbors in your life – the friends and relatives who are here today.

Most of us are familiar with the beautiful words of St. Paul we heard a moment ago – his clear and eloquent letter about love. We hear that reading often at weddings. But St. Paul wasn’t talking about marriage. He was writing to the Corinthians about how to live together as a community. And so I’d ask all of us here, this community, to take those words to heart, to make of them a prayer — and then to give them back, as a kind of gift, to this couple.

I’d ask all of us to strive, very simply, to be the very definition of love for this couple.

To be patient with them. To be kind to them. Rejoice with them. Bear with them. Believe with them. Hope with them. Endure with them.

This is what Paul asks of the Corinthians – and, really, it’s what Christ asks of us. If we truly live this way – with this couple and with one another – we will give this bride and groom gifts more valuable than any on their registry. They are gifts that won’t tarnish and won’t wear out. Gifts that this couple is already eager to share with one another. But they are things you can never have too much of.

I’m speaking, of course, of Love. And hope.

It is my prayer that you will always give those gifts pride of place in your home. And it’s also my prayer that those are gifts that will be returned…again and again.

If you do that, the spark will spread. The light will grow. And the story will go on.

Photo: by Don Ptashne, LAPhotoPro

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