Église St. Jovite, Saint-Jovite, Québec---Saturday, October 8, 2016
[Texts: Song of Songs 5:1–14; Psalm 32(33); 1 Corinthians 12, 31–12.12; Matthew 5.1–12a]
We are gathered here today as the family and friends of Caitlin Prendergast and Adam Fontebasso to help them celebrate the joyous event of their marriage.
Much planning has gone into the expression of this love and today’s celebration. People have given presents, arranged flowers, and prepared a reception. There will be photos, music, and food, reflecting the view even today that marriage is one of the great human institutions.
Jesus chose to describe the kingdom of God—God’s life with us—under the image of a wedding feast. They are both covenants, not contracts. Covenants are unbreakable. Covenants are unconditional. And covenants involve sacrifice.
For Catholics, marriage is more than a social event. It is also a sacrament of God’s grace.
We believers are well aware that marriage these days is a risky enterprise. Christians are still hopeful about the future of those bold enough to enter into the life-long commitment of a marriage that is exclusive and fruitful. We can also count on help from God, Jesus Christ, the Church, family, friends, and neighbours.
And so it is that, as persons of faith, Caitlin and Adam have come to this church. They are asking God’s blessing on the lifelong adventure of marriage that they are entering today. They come to ask you to share with them their joys and sorrows. All this will be part of their life together.
Dear Caitlin and Adam, we come, not as fair-weather friends, but as your committed supporters. We pledge to you our enduring willingness to journey with you and to support you in the days ahead.
Caitlin and Adam were raised in the Christian faith. They proclaim this faith and declare it will be the foundation of their marriage. Their faith perspective on life, sexuality, and the source of true happiness differs from that of society.
In the “beatitudes,” Jesus describes happiness. He proclaims that openness to receiving all from God, which he calls poverty of spirit, is precious. So, too, are peacemaking, gentleness, purity of heart, and the wonderful capacity to accompany people in their needs, as Caitlin and Adam will do in the medical profession. This is what truly makes for happiness.
The reading from the Song of Songs is part of a beautiful love poem sung by one smitten by love. She seeks her beloved until she finds “my fair one.” She then proclaims that love will outlast death.
We pray that God will bless Caitlin and Adam in their marriage and in their children. But married life means sacrifice. They must forgive one another as soon as the inevitable quarrels begin. St. Paul reminds us that love is “kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant and rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”
The Catholic Church teaches that it is not the bishop, priest, or deacon who ministers the sacrament of marriage, but the couple themselves. (The priest is the Church’s witness.) In their union with Jesus in the sacrament of marriage, Caitlin and Adam will minister to each other. Each will impart to the other God’s grace to be faithful and true to them every day. Christ is the unseen partner of their union.
My dear friends Caitlin and Adam: You are about to enter into a union that is most sacred and most serious. It is most sacred, because God himself established it. By it, he gave to humans a share in the greatest work of creation, the work of the continuation of the human race. He sanctified human love and enabled man and woman to help each other to live as children of God, by sharing a common life under his fatherly care. Because God himself is its author, marriage is a holy institution, requiring of those who enter into it a complete and unreserved giving of self.
But Christ our Lord added to the holiness of marriage an even deeper meaning and a higher beauty. He referred to the love of marriage to describe his own love for his Church, that is, for the people of God, whom he redeemed by his own blood. And so, he gave to Christians a new vision of what married life ought to be. This ideal is a life of self-sacrificing love, like his own. For this reason, his apostle, St. Paul, clearly states that marriage is now and for all time a great mystery. It is intimately bound up with the supernatural union of Christ and the Church, which union is also to be its pattern.
This union, then, is most serious. It will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate that it will profoundly influence your whole future. That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are mingled in every life. You can expect them in your own. And so not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.
These words are most serious. It is a beautiful tribute to your undoubted faith in each other. Recognizing their full weight, you are still ready to pronounce them. Because these words involve such solemn obligations, you rightfully rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice. You begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual interests for the greater good of the life you will share. Henceforth, you will belong entirely to each other. You will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections.
From now on, whatever sacrifices you may have to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Only love can make sacrifice easy; and perfect love can make it a joy. God’s love is perfect, and so he sacrificed his son to reconcile the fallen with the perfect. “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure conjugal love, loyal and true to the end. May, then, this love with which you join your hands and hearts today never fail, but grow deeper and stronger as the years go on. If true love and the unselfish spirit of perfect sacrifice guide your every action, you can expect the greatest measure of earthly happiness that men and women live out in this vale of tears.
God pledges to you the life-long support of his graces in the Holy Sacrament that you are now going to receive.