Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A wedding sermon.




Since Proposition 8 is intended to take away the right of same sex couples to marriage, it is important to consider exactly what marriage involves. I've decided to post a typical wedding homily which contains the matrimonial instruction required by the Church.

Francis and Lee, you've come here this afternoon in the company of your family, your relatives and friends to say what are arguably the most solemn and important words which you will ever speak. They are among the most solemn because, in a few moments, you will make vows to God. When such vows are made in true freedom and with full knowledge and consent, they touch our very souls and affect our eternal destiny. You are also about to exchange a series of promises with each other which will place your two lives on a parallel trajectory throughout the remainder of your lives.

Now, all of these people who know you, some of them from the time you were small children, could scratch their heads in wonder and ask: Why would anyone do that?!? Why would anyone make such vows to God or, make such life changing promises to another person?!? The answer that comes immediately to mind is, of course, love. The reason why someone would be so willing to make such a life commitment is love. But, what exactly is love? You find that word in the lyrics of almost every song, in great works of literature and popular novels. It is found in every culture, language and in every age of history. But, exactly what is love?

In our society, the most common understanding of love, is that it is a very deep and powerful feeling. The difficulty of this understanding of love, is that no one chooses their feelings. No one wakes up in the morning and decides: Today I'll be sad. Feelings are like the tide, that enters and recedes without any one's permission. And so, to predicate one's whole life based on a "feeling" would be crazy. Who is to say I'll feel that way in four months or five years?

It is true, there are very powerful feelings deeply intertwined with love; however, love is far more than merely a "feeling". Love is a choice. A choice made in freedom. To place another human being and his/her needs on par with your own and perhaps, even above your own. A beautiful example of this can be found in the persons of your parents who are here with you today. There were many times, during your infancy, when one of them got up out of a warm bed in the middle of the night to take care of your needs. There were countless times, when the alarm clock sounded and they got up out of bed and went to work so, that you'd have a plate at the table, a roof over your head and clothes on your back. That's love. Nothing fancy. Just ordinary people who chose to be there with and for each other. To help shoulder the burdens of life and, to share its joys and laughter. In the first letter of John (4:16) it states: God is love and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them. In the book of Genesis (1:26) it states that God made us in his image. When we chose to love, it is at precisely that moment, that we most perfectly reflect the image of God in our world. It is at that very moment when we are at our best, our most noble. It is no small thing that causes you to speak these words here today and to enter into marriage.

Just as there exist misconceptions regarding the nature of love in our society, so too, there exist misconceptions regarding the nature of marriage. One of the most common is that marriage is a partnership, a fifty/fifty deal. The absurdity of this concept can be seen when it is applied to other human relationships. Friendships, for example, are rarely a 50/50 relationship. There are times in a friendship when our friend needs our help. Sometimes that means an understanding ear. Sometimes it means a pickup truck and a day's work to move them. Sometimes it means money. The beauty of a friendship is, that when we are in need, our friends are there for us as well. If this is true of friendship, then how could it not be untrue of marriage, which is the most intimate relationship that two people enjoy in this life?

Your marriage will seldom, if ever be a 50/50 deal. There will be times and periods in your life where it may be 70/30. There may be a time when it is 100/0 if, you doubt that take a drive to a nearby hospital and realize that for every patient in that hospital, their other half is at home holding down the fort and paying the bills. There may come a time in your marriage, when you believe that more is being demanded of you than you can possibly deliver. If that moment should come, pause and take some time in prayer to God, to the one to whom you make these vows this day. In that time of spiritual communion, God will remind you of the words that Our Lord said in the Gospel (John 15:16): "It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit." As people of faith we believe that about marriage. That God has called you Francis for Lee and you Lee for Francis. That as spouses you have a responsibility to each other and to God. To help each other achieve their potential in this life and in eternity. This means building each other up. It also will mean, at times, challenging each other with love and prudence. So that 25 or 50 years from now, when you look back at all of the trials and hardships of the years, they will evaporate like the dew before the glory of the morning sun and you will realize that you enjoy the greatest happiness that Divine mercy has bestowed upon us in this lifetime.

14 comments:

KJ said...

Amen.

When detractors suggest that same-gendered relationships are solely about sex, I have to wonder if that's true about their covenanted relationship. Why would anyone assume that about another?

steve v said...

What a wonderful homily! I'm happy for all of those lucky couples who have heard the variations on that theme from you over the years. I'm also looking forward to the time (soon!) where you'll be able to use that sermon to bless the union of any couple that comes to you in love looking for your blessing in a ceremony among their friends and family. And also, to that time in your future, where you can hear someone say those words to you and your heart's love.

You continue to be such a great role model to all of us to truly follow our hearts, and just to watch as you grow, and we along with you. All the best - don't ever stop or go back. We're all with you on this journey.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful.

On Oct 12, my beloved (who is Roman Catholic) and I (not) exchanged our vows at a civil marriage.

I have been fighting across the blogs the hate (some from Catholics) of us.

I needed a moment of reflection of the beauty of what we are.

IT

Theresa J said...

Father Geoff, found the link to that film I mentioned yesterday.
Hope you watch these as they are awesome. Here are the
links: http://www.starthrower.com/for_the_love_of_it.htm,
and also:
http://www.celebratetraining.com)
See you soon Nov. 2.

Krisana said...

This is beautiful. Thank you for posting.

Lemuel said...

To use a baseball metaphor, you knocked that one out of the park! Excellent! How much our society needs to hear this message instead of the syrupy crap that is marketed by nearly every one - sadly including all too many pastors. Thank you again for an excellent discourse on the nature of marriage and love - as it applies to *all* people.

Father Göran Koch-Swahne, Ch of Sweden said...

Beautiful, Goeff!

I tend, in my speaches, to stress the work and the responsability involved.

I'll remember this for the next time...

seithman said...

This is an incredible homily, Fr. Geoff. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

My partner of 13 years and I were married one month ago at the clerk's office. She was born in another country and raised Catholic and considers herself still Catholic although she has not attended mass for years (I was raised Protestant.) The day we were married was the best day of our lives, and even if we are only married this one month I will still consider it the most important thing we've ever done. We visited the small Catholic church in town later that day. The church doors were open, but no one else was around. We searched all around because we wanted to buy a candle at the little store but found nobody. The place was just for us. In the courtyard there was a breeze and we sat there a while listening to something knocking in the wind, and we experienced an emptiness of human contact but that seemed in a way appropriate. It was just us at the house of God. Inside the church it was hot, no air conditioning, and she put a drop of holy water on our rings and we stayed in the church a while and prayed.
Maybe there should be no marriage sermon for anyone. Maybe couples should just get an hour at the church by themselves, in complete silence, alone with God and their other half. Perhaps that way people would come to understand what marriage really means, not just flowers and dress and guests and right words to impress people, not a ballot measure, not prejudice & discrimination, but just you two and God and love. Although it will be better when someone like you can give a sermon to a church full of people for someone like us, we still feel we got a blessing that day in a way that a ceremony couldn't have given us. I hope you personally also find your way in life, you and God together perhaps closer now than ever.

Ron said...

Geoff
I am a RC priest and I applaud your courage. While I am not necessarily in favor of redefining marriage I resent the Church shutting down the conversation. Just as it does in all the areas of human sexuality. So I vote no on 8.

The Catholic stand on sexuality is parallel to the evangelical fundamentalists attitude toward evolution--Invincible ignorance!

sarah said...

Thank you. I'll refer you to my front-page post yesterday at Street Prophets (a progressive faith/politics website, affiliated with DailyKOS), wherein I argue that the most consistent Catholic response to Prop 8 is to vote NO. http://www.streetprophets.com/story/2008/10/29/134341/77 My email address is available by clicking on my profile there ('paxpdx'). Much more to talk about, but for now, this'll do. Pax.

Antler said...

I am married to my spouse.......another woman - legal in the UK as 'Civil Partnership' and married by MCC Pastors in front of God and the congregation of loving friends who gathered to witness the fact - and to wish us well.

What the world needs are more priests like you - why hide your talents in a denomination that shoots you down for preaching love........there are other churches who might welcome you MCC or Open Episcopal......?????!!!!

Adam said...

This was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. It was inspiring and so reaffirming.

David said...

Geoff+
what incredible gifts you bring to your priesthood
this is a glorious homily
and i can only ache for the people of your parish who have been robbed of the blessing of your priesthood
but i also rejoice for the larger ministry (and community) you have been given in taking your stand
thank-you again

David@Montreal