Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Homily for the Holy Matrimony of Marc Miller and Lauren Craig - August 6, 2016
John 15:9-12; 1 Corinthians 13:4-13; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Marc, Lauren – today you two will follow in the steps of billions before you and establish a new community, a new household, a new partnership, a new family. Since sometime shortly after the Sixth Day of Creation, man and woman have been joined in marriage and the two have become one flesh. So, this day, you, Marc, will cease to be merely Marc, and you, Lauren, will cease to be merely Lauren. Truly, you are no longer two, but you are one.
But, what does this mean? That is a good question! It is commonly believed today that each of us is independent. Indeed, independence is a founding principle of our nation and the American Dream we each pursue. However, independence is neither natural to us as God’s children, nor as holy, sacred, and virtuous as we might be tempted to believe. Truth be told, we are never independent, but we are always dependent upon each other. Not a one of us came into this world independent. Quite the opposite! We each came into this world completely dependent upon our mothers who nourished and protected us in the womb and who continued to do the same after we were born. Each of us was born, quite by necessity, into a community, a family, each of us having, at the very least, a mother and a father and grandparents, and quite likely siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. John Donne was quite correct when he wrote that no man is an island. Likewise, beyond our immediate families, we were each born into communities, villages, towns, cities, states, a nation, etc. Our dependence upon others, from the beginning of our lives to their ends, is absolutely obvious. And, yet, we cause ourselves and others so much heartache and suffering by striving for and insisting upon our independence.
After each day of creation, the LORD looked upon what He had made and He declared it good. However, after the creation of the man, for the first time, God looked at what He made and He declared that something was not good. “It is not good that the man should be alone.” And, that’s the beginning of the greatest love story ever told – the only love story there is, from which all others are drawn. That is the story that you, Marc and Lauren, enter into this day. “So the LORD caused a deep sleep to fall upon the Man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the Man He made into a woman and brought her to the Man. Then the Man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
The two shall become one flesh. What does this mean? That’s another great question! Well, I know of no equation of mathematics where one plus one equals one. In terms of relationships, however, marriage in particular, the only way that one plus one can equal one is through mutual sacrifice. And, that is precisely how marriage is described in the Holy Scriptures. St. Paul teaches in His Epistle to the Ephesians: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” Likewise, St. Paul teaches in the same Epistle: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might by holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”
Now, I know that word submit makes everyone’s neck hairs bristle, and rightly so given the way that term has been twisted and distorted from its true meaning in Scripture to justify all manner of misogyny and discrimination and abuse. However, that is not what the Lord and St. Paul have in mind in using that word. What the word submit means in this context is “Taking one’s proper role in God’s order and laying aside one’s selfish interests.” And, that goes for the husband as well as for the wife and for us all. As I shared with you during our counseling in preparation for your marriage, St. Paul says elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Marriage is selfless. Those who enter into marriage insisting upon maintaining their independence not only miss the meaning and purpose of marriage, but they are setting themselves up for great difficulty if not out-right disaster.
Marriage is about love. I’m certain that we all agree about that. In fact, some of you are probably thinking, “Finally, he’s going to talk about love!” Ah! But, what is love? That’s yet another great question! In know, everyone thinks that they know what love is. After all, Hallmark and Hollywood and Tiger Beat and Vogue and Oprah Winfrey and Ellen have all told us what love is, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. Love is sacrifice. I’ll bet you haven’t thought about love that way before. But, let me share with you just a few words about love from the Holy Scriptures. St. John the Evangelist has written that “God is love.” Well, there you go! A simple definition of God: God is love. However, we still don’t know what love is, so we can’t know who God is. Ah, but Jesus tells us a bit more. Jesus says, “Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.” Let me paraphrase that for you: No greater love is possible than that a person would sacrifice their own life for the sake of another. That is love; love is sacrifice. So, God is love; and love is sacrifice; therefore God is sacrifice. But, there’s more! Jesus also commands you that you love one another as He has loved you – that you sacrifice yourself for others and for another. Love is sacrifice. And, as I said a moment ago, and you all agree – marriage is about love. Marriage is about sacrifice.
Marc, this day you commit yourself before God and these witnesses to sacrifice yourself for the sake of Lauren and for the sake of your marriage to Lauren. She and her welfare, both physical and spiritual, will, from this day forward, be more important to you than your own life and wants and desires. And, Lauren, this day you commit yourself before God and these witnesses to sacrifice yourself for the sake of Marc and for the sake of your marriage to Marc. He and his welfare, both physical and spiritual, will, from this day forward, be more important to you than your own life and wants and desires.
The passages you selected from the Holy Scriptures were good choices! From 1 Corinthians: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; […] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Do you see how all of the qualities that are said to be love are selfless and sacrificial? It means being forgiving, slow to speak in anger, long in listening, and always putting the best construction on the words and deeds of the other. As you think of and treat your husband, your wife, so do you think of and treat your own body, for you are one flesh. However, this is no easy task, for our flesh tempts us to lash out in anger, to point out our spouse’s failings and mistakes, to be impatient when we believe we know a better way, to harbor resentment and not forgive, etc. Therefore, you will need a source of strength and patience and forgiveness and mercy and compassion to draw upon and to fill you that you may love.
And that is where the passage you selected from Ecclesiastes comes to bear: “Two are better than one […]. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. […] A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Just as the LORD brought our First Parents together and established the covenant of marriage in which two become one flesh, so is Jesus Christ the third strand in the cord of your marriage that will make you strong and unbreakable. If you abide in His love, then you will have ample love for one another to bear and to endure all things. Do not neglect the Third Partner in your marriage. It is Jesus’ love for you that has brought you together. It is with His love that you love each other. And, it is with His sacrificial love you that you will be able to sacrifice yourself in love for each other. You have asked Him to bless your marriage and your one-flesh union, and He will most certainly will.
Keep this image in mind: When God created Eve, He did not take her from Adam’s feet – that he might rule over her and subdue her. Nor did He take her from Adam’s head – that she might be lord over him. But God took her from Adam’s side – his rib – that she might be an equal partner with him, ever at his side, close to his heart.
Marc, Lauren, always remember that your marriage, blessed by God, is a reflection of God’s own Divine Family – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As you sacrifice yourselves for one another, two becoming one flesh; and as, if God should so bless you, you are fruitful and bear children – remember the third partner in your marriage – your Lord Jesus Christ. It was God who brought Adam and Eve together because He desired for them to know the love and fulfillment of His own Divine Family. He is the love that binds you and makes you one flesh; and He has promised to be with you always. Call upon Him daily for your needs. Thank Him daily for your blessings. Make Him Lord of your hearts and your marriage – and He will bless you and your marriage. You will be fruitful. And your one flesh union will be very good.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.