Saturday, June 09, 2012

Wedding Homily, Richard and Karen Woodham–“Salt and Light”

Again, “Welcome!” to Gary and Karen, and all of their friends and family to St. James for this wedding Mass. Of course, this will be a day you will always remember. As this is my first wedding as a recently ordained priest, this day means a lot to me too. I am honored to be able to celebrate the sacraments of Matrimony and the Eucharist with you today.

When I gave Karen the options that she and Gary could choose from for the readings, I think they were a little overwhelmed! There are 35 readings to choose from and some of those have both short and long versions! So Karen picked a few in each category and said, “Here, you decide!” I was happy to help and I think the readings we settled on for today present a theme that is rich in meaning for today and for continued reflection in the months and years ahead. After all of the prayer, work, and conversations we have had, I think we prepared well for this wedding, but the point is to be prepared even more for the marriage. I like that Gary and Karen wanted to have just a simple daily Mass, so that then the focus really can be not on just one day – as important as it is – but on their lifetime of days together with Christ. I encourage you to allow the readings we have heard to be the light that guides you forward.

The theme I have discerned in these readings is The Christian Witness of a Holy Marriage. The Sacrament of Marriage is not for just you two alone. It is a public reality, signified by the witnesses who stand beside you and your friends and family gathered around you. By exchanging your consent before a priest and two witnesses, according to the mind of Christ and the Church, the two of you will become married. But you will also become the “salt of the earth”, and the “light of the world” as St. Matthew’s Gospel reminds us. Granted, this is the calling of all Christians, but it is yours today in a special and unique way. By your marriage, you will be given the noble mission of showing the world, by your faithfulness, fruitfulness, perseverance, and love, the kind of love that Christ has for all of us.

Being the “salt of the earth” is a great challenge indeed, because salt can be used for both good or ill. Salt is used well when it is sprinkled on food to add or bring out its flavor. But, salt is used for ill if it is sprinkled on the ground, because there it prevents growth. If you allow the grace of the sacrament of Marriage to flow freely through your lives – by helping each other to remain innocent and holy before God – then the example of your married life can be like salt sprinkled on food. It will give flavor to the institution of marriage, one that so often sours in our society today. But if you give into temptation and yield to the attacks on marriage that are all around us, then your marriage will be like salt sprinkled on the ground. Christ within you, and this community around you, hope to always be there to help you not let that happen.

Our readings have shown us what a grace-filled marriage looks like. The first reading from Sirach focused on the beauty that a “good wife” contributes to her marriage and household. She is a blessing who “brings joy to her husband,” giving him peace and abundance. She herself is a “generous gift,” making his heart content, “a smile is always on his face.” She “delights her husband,” the reading said and “puts flesh on his bones” – she feeds him! She is modest and chaste, holy, decent and temperate. All of these traits build and build, ascending to the highest one of all – she is virtuous, and like the rising sun, a virtuous wife is the radiance of her home.

Karen, that’s a lot to live up too! But you are already on your way. And Jesus Christ, who gives himself to you and Gary in the Eucharist you will receive, will always be at the center of your marriage, if you both accept him there, ready to help and renew you in all of those virtues and more. This is just as our Responsorial Psalm said, “The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.” Now what about Gary? What does he have to live up to!? I think the second reading and Gospel balance out the reading from Sirach nicely.

Gary, for his part, is called to protect his marriage from being “conformed to this age,” as St. Paul put it. He and his wife will be of one mind, and he is being called to make sure that that “mind” is transformed and renewed in God so that together they may “discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” If his love is sincere, if he hates what is evil and holds on to what is good, then he will add many flavors of affection, honor, zeal, service, hope, perseverance, and hospitality to his marriage – again with the help and example of Christ who himself is the Groom to his Bride, the Church.

This is how Gary and Karen can be the “salt of the earth,” when they help the world to know, by their very living-out of the vocation of marriage, the true Christian flavor of marriage. This is how their marriage can be the “light of the world,” when it shines on the friends, family, and community around them – showing them what true love, joy, and peace can really be, even in the midst of difficulties. With the help that God gives them in this sacrament and the Eucharist, they can show the world that marriage indeed can be lifelong, total, faithful, and fruitful, no matter what they have been through or will go through – not because their marriage will be perfect, but precisely because they will be like the sun. Although the sun at times will set on their marriage, with faith and hope, it will always rise again. This is the faith and hope that God renews in you now, Gary and Karen, as you enter into the Holy Sacrament of Marriage.

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