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Friday, December 30, 2016

The enduring strength of love

In the final days of this calendar year, we celebrated a wedding today.  Here are the thoughts I offered to the newly-wed couple, inspired by the word of God that was proclaimed during the celebration of their nuptial gathering.


Wedding homily for James Yantha and Jennifer Mills

James, Jennifer, I have good news for you: all the details you’ve been worrying about have now been taken care of.  Just for a moment, I want you to take a breath, be still, and allow yourselves to realize that this is your wedding day.  Today is a very important day for both of you because in a few moments, you will speak words to each other that will change you forever.  If that thought scares you, please don’t be alarmed.  You’re about to take another step in your life’s journey, and we are thankful that you have chosen to take this step along with your family and friends who are here with you today.  Members of this faith community of Saint Peter the Apostle are also praying for you today: praying that God will bless you with many happy years to spend together in love with each other.

You have chosen to exchange your vows in this church, and therefore this is also an act of faith for you: an act that expresses your belief that God is present in this moment.  In fact, it is God who first loved each of us, and because we have experienced his love for us, we are able to love others.  When a husband and wife ask for the blessing of the Church upon their marriage, they are also committing themselves to being living examples of love.  Each day of your lives will be another opportunity for you to show your family and friends, your colleagues and everyone you meet how much you love one another, how much you love others, how much God’s love fills your hearts with joy.  Saint Paul gives us an easy way to keep tabs on whether or not we are acting and speaking in love.  He says: If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (cf 1 Cor 13:1) – making lots of noise but not a lot of sense.

You have come to the Church because God has brought you together.  From this day onward, every time you look into your husband’s eyes, every time you look into your wife’s face, let your first response be love.  Love changes as we mature in life.  At first, it fills us with giddy laughter, but as it matures, it brings a deeper, richer sense of calm and commitment.  Like the wisdom of the Book of the Song of Songs, love finds a way to be set like a permanent seal upon our hearts and we in turn discover that it is stronger than any trial that we may have to face.

The gospel passage you chose for this celebration places us in the intimacy of a moment that was shared between Jesus and his disciples: people he loved very much.  He was speaking to them about the gift of love, and about how he himself had learned to love because he had experienced the love of the Father (cf Jn 15:9).  Many people in the world around us think that the secret to success is somehow tied to material wealth; according to that line of thinking, there is little if any place at all for love, but Jesus reassures us that love is the key to finding true joy: I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (Jn 15:11).

Welcome the gift of love that is offered to you today.  Look for it every day of your lives.  It will be present wherever you find patience, kindness and truth (1 Cor 13:4-6), and should you ever encounter envy, pride, arrogance, irritability, resentfulness or even rudeness, pray for the great grace to overcome these temptations.  Jesus will always be close, ready to show you the way of love, and through you to show others how to love as well.

Thank you for the example of your love and your commitment to one another.  I promise to pray for you every day, from this day onward, so that day after day, you will grow in love with one another, and so that you will find ways every day to share the great gift of your love with those you meet.
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