Wedding Homily: You Are the Light of the World
Genesis 2: 18-24
Romans 12: 1-2, 9-18
God, in his eternal plan, knew that our group of friends didn’t have a chance without at least one priest- he had a dozen options for Catholic kids but he ended up having to settle for me, the one Protestant kid in the group, to be the priest. I don’t know if that says something about me or if it says something about all these hams, you make the judgement. But it’s great because all of you now know that even if you try and leave the Church, you will never escape. I’ll always be here, and I will find you.
It is seriously an honor to preside over your wedding, Kelsey & Jake, and because I know so many people here so well, I feel like I basically have free reign to say whatever I want. I don’t need to sugarcoat anything. So, to everyone out there who got married before I was ordained- I’m preaching to you too! Just kidding — but seriously, I am.
The first reading told us, “It is not good for man to be alone, so I will send him a helper fit for him.” A strict translation says something more like, “I will send him a divine helper.” Jake is fully aware that he needs much more than just anyone. God sent Kelsey to, in many ways, reveal to him a different way to live. Jake’s natural attitude is to try and conquer things, to approach every situation, every trial as a problem to be solved, an obstacle to be overcome. This, honestly, is a pretty dang good and effective way to approach life, and we all know that Jake is good at it.
But the temptation will always be to plow right through life, conquering and getting things done, looking for that next big success, but forgetting to savor the small things, to enjoy the given moment, or to stop and really think about why we are here.
That’s why we all thank God, who in His providence has sent him Kelsey — who has an eye for beauty, who walks more of the contemplative road, and who has a gift for slowing down in order to look out and get that wider perspective on a situation.
You two naturally fill in the other’s deficiencies: What one lacks, the other has in abundance. And the contrast in your personalities and gifts will, with patience and work, bring happiness. I emphasize the patience and work, because without it the same contrasts could tear you apart. I have seen you put in the work, I know you’re equipped for the challenge.
Ok, enough of the fluff, you’re both good-looking and talented, and have any gifts, but I am not here to affirm you, I am here to call you to greatness. It’s my job to make you fully aware of this great and treacherous adventure you have chosen to take together. And you made it easy on me by choosing a very aggressive Gospel reading.
“You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” It is so easy for us to get all individualistic about marriage, to think that our marriage is about us. Well, I am here to shatter any dreams you have about that right now. Of course, your marriage only exists because of the love you have for one another, and cannot survive without it. But your marriage is bigger than you.
Much of our generation is absolutely convinced that marriage doesn’t work, and who can blame us? The divorce rate in America has been climbing for 50 years, and sits right around 60% at the moment. That is something every couple must face when they consider marriage, and who isn’t discouraged by that? But you — Kelsey and Jake — are the light of the world, you are “a city set on a hill.” Everyone around you will look to you as a witness that a beautiful, happy marriage is still possible. You better be ready for that. Be ready to witness to that truth.
And that is not an easy thing to do, as any couple in this Church can tell you. The years wear on, your good looks will fade, and assuming you will have children (soon?), they will exhaust you. But this is precisely the joy of marriage: To look to one another 10, 20, 30 years from now as you sit on the dock at Flathead and think, “This person will never leave me, no matter what happens.” To look at a tiny baby and say, “We made you!” To look at them ten years later and see the best parts of each of you. This is the joy of marriage, and this is the joy you must witness to.
So remember that this is a covenant, and in case any of you out here have flushed your Catholic education, that means that Jake and Kelsey’s consent today is not a matter of exchanging things. Instead, they give themselves to one another. This is no small matter, because the person sitting next to you is a mystery. Don’t think that just because you have a full decade of dating under your belt, that you have each other figured out. Ask your parents–who have been married for years–if they have their spouse figured out. That will be a struggle at times, and you may even think sometimes, “Are you even the person I married?” Yet it is again the source of great joy- even when you’ve been married for 50 years, you will still be realizing new and amazing things about your spouse.
Finally, and most important of all, remember you are not alone in this marriage, and your natural strength is inadequate for what you are about to undertake. God, in this sacrament that you give to one another, is going to give you the grace to live out your marriage vows. And at the most fundamental level your job is to get your spouse- and someday your children- to heaven. That is the vocation of marriage, it is a partnership in the Christian life. God will always be with you to guide you, and I will always be here point you back to him. You chose to be married in the Church, you tolerated six months of tedious marriage preparation from a celibate dude your own age- you’re ready for this.
So here we all stand, as witnesses before God, looking to you as “the light of the world’ setting out on a journey the so much of world doesn’t think is possible. I pray, as does everyone here, that your witness is powerful, that you grow daily in love for one another and together in your love for God.
Your reading from St. Paul tells you to: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Make this your life’s work and your marriage will truly be a much needed light to this world.