Two good friends of mine married yesterday, and I was blessed to witness it. Here's my homily for them.
“On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”
Now, I am sure that Matt and Casey would certainly appreciate gifts of geese-a-laying, golden rings, calling birds, French hens, turtle doves and even a partridge in a pear tree; however, that is not why we are here on this sixth day of Christmas.
We are here, though, to celebrate a gift, given by true love.
When Casey and Matt first met with me about this wonderful day, I asked them about the engagement. “How did you propose?” I asked Matt. And while he explained the whole sequence of events in vivid detail, Cassandra sat and grinned. Matt told me how he carried the engagement ring around and knew that he had something that did not belong to him – something that had to be given away – and given to a specific person. But that ring is not the gift we celebrate.
The gift is what that ring – and these rings – represent. It’s his heart. It’s her heart. It’s their very selves. And it is a gift that has been given to them by Someone else.
At their baptisms, Casey and Matt received the life of God – the love of God – into their lives. From that moment, God gave Himself to them and He called them. That call to holiness, that vocation, for each of them was unique, but today, we celebrate the fact that this call involved each other – that they were made for each other. And this is the gift we celebrate.
Our first reading today (Tobit 8:4b-8), chosen by Casey and Matt, shows us a good beginning. Sarah and Tobiah are together on their wedding night. And, the first thing they do together is pray – they ask God to be an integral part of their marriage, as He had been an integral part of their lives thus far. When Matt told me of the proposal, and of Cassandra’s joyful acceptance, he said that they decided to find a statue of Mary and to pray together. This is the foundation of any Christian life – even when that life is shared with another. Guys, remember this. Remember that you have one another to rely on and God to strengthen that reliance.
Cassandra said that they wanted today’s celebration to have a definite tone – that of service, which is the heart of any vocation. Our gospel (John 13:1-15) certainly relates that tone. Jesus, who is aware of all that he has been given by the Father –all of his gifts –, shows us what we are to do with those gifts. Out of the love he has for the Father, and out of the love he has for us, he kneels, and he serves.
Casey and Matt, look around you. This church is filled with those who have been gifting you your entire lives. Family, friends, all of us, have taught you the lessons of love, and because of this you can fully love one another. But Jesus gives you the ultimate lesson. To truly love in the Christian sense, we must give ourselves completely – nothing held back –even to the point of giving our lives for others.
And this is the real gift of this day. God has given you the gift of True Love; Jesus has shown how that love is lived out; and now you have the privilege of living that love together – for the rest of your lives.
We celebrate this gift in the context of Mass, where we are given God’s greatest gift: Jesus in the Eucharist. Here, we experience the fullest expression of love poured out for our benefit and for our example. Jesus’ last words to us today in the gospel remind us that his example of service is not just a “show” for us to watch, but an example to be followed, a life to be lived.
This is the life of discipleship; it is the life of vocation; yes, it is the life of marriage. You will not only support one another out of love for each other, but you will be a sign – a sacrament – to us all, reminding us of that greatest Gift – the love of God.
It’s a better deal than those geese-a-laying, I can assure you!