Eucharistic Marriage: A Wedding Homily

I haven’t been a priest very long but in the few years I have always enjoyed celebrating the Sacrament of Matrimony, there is a great link between their sacrament and the sacrament of the priesthood (Holy Orders).   For me it is a moment of renewal and re-commitment to my own vocation as I assist a young couple embrace theirs.  

When I first meet a couple who approach the church for marriage, I always ask a very basic question:  “Why do you want to get married in the Church?”    It isn’t meant as a test, but more like a curiosity.   Why go through the trouble of Christian Marriage when it’s very easy and less complicated to marry civilly.  Most of the time there answers amount to simply a form of, “because we love each other so much, that we want God to be a part of it”.

Marriage is a Sacrament, between a man and a woman.    It is the intimate,    exclusive, indissoluble   communion of life and love   ordered toward their own good and the procreation of children.   Marriage is the Sacrament of Conjugal Love.  This is Church teaching, this is Christian Marriage.  

But what exactly does this mean?   What I think has been lost is the understanding that Marriage is designed and created by God and ordained to be a sacrament.   Many believe it to be a mere social relationship, a civil union, with benefits and duties.   But that is at its most fundamental level, but that seems rather empty.   When it remains at this level, devoid of it’s Creator, marriage seems somewhat unnecessary.   Some will even say that they “love each other” isn’t that enough?   But even that still hasn’t reached the heights and depths of true conjugal love.   

How do we get at the true meaning of Marriage, at its highest level, the Sacramental level?

When two people “in love” come to the Church and stand before the altar of God to make vows to each other and to God they believe that their Marriage is not about them, rather they say to God:

Lord we belong as a couple to you. We believe that you drew us together, for your purposes so that we can  fulfill a mission.

What is that mission? They become a living teaching union of love that express to us, that show us something of the love that God has for us, or using St. Paul’s metaphor that Christ has for his Church. In essence they fulfill their own baptismal dignity of becoming Priest and Prophet.   They embody the true reality of God’s eternal love.   When we see them, we see God.  

Listen to the words Jesus uses in the Gospel today speaking to his Father, which I believe he had in mind each one of us, N. & N. too:

They are your gift to me, I wish that were I am they also may be with me, I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.  

God’s life in them begins today, in this Mass, as they exchange their vows and consummate their love, the Lord unites himself to them.

As they live their new life in Christ one thing becomes clear, they are not alone.    Yes, their families are there to love them, their friends to support them, but no one, nothing can strengthen them or console them it times of sorrow and trials or unite them more that the one they are uniting to today, Jesus the Bridegroom.

They find him, most dearly and truly in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and the Bride.   For it is in this precious gift of the Lord true body and blood given to us under the forms of bread and wine at every Mass that this couple will find their true life.  

They will learn from the Lord how to love, in a way that can be nothing less than his love, sacrificial love.   The Lord Jesus, the Eternal Bridegroom, suffered and died for his Bride, the Church.    He loves her so completely that gives, not his heart, but his body and blood without reservation.   In that, N & N will learn to completely give themselves to each other, without holding anything back.  

In just a few minutes they will express in their vows the words of consecration Jesus uses to sacramentalize his own “total gift of self” when our Lord says

Take this all of you, and eat it this is my body.  Take this all of you and drink it this is my blood

N & N will say to each other:

Take me, everything I am, everything I have, my love, my life, my dreams desires, even my body – it is yours, I am yours.    They will give themselves to each other and are received and blessed by God in unity.  

These two parallel expression of love demand selfless charity, enduring patience, whole hearted generosity, and courage.    They are called to exclusive, faithful, fruitful love, enduring until death. 

This seems almost too demanding.   For those who do not follow the Lord it is too demanding.   They are asked to do what is humanly beyond their natural ability, their capacity to comprehend, their power to perform.  How will they be able to do this, when it will seem easy to be selfish, self-centered, unfaithful, and lacking in generosity, and ultimately succumbing to ending it?  They know the statistics of the culture which reveal the difficulty of “far-reaching” promises.  How can they bear a burden that is too much for us to bear alone? "A task which exceeds human capacity"? But they are not alone.  

The Eucharistic Jesus is with them.   He is the “secret” to a life-long, joy-filled marriage.  As he is the “secret” of the priestly life, so he is of the vocation of the man and woman in the state of holy matrimony.  

The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage, it is the very source of marriage. 

In the Eucharist they will learn how to trust God completely.   In today’s first reading Tobiah takes his new wife Sarah and on their wedding night and Tobiah prays to God placing his marriage in God’s hands.  Listen to the end of his prayer:

Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose.   Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age. 

That is why they are here today, not in a civil court or a beach side, but at the altar of God, begging, imploring God on their knees for his blessing upon them.   To share his divine life with them, to bless them and keep them with united to him.  It is here strengthened by the Eucharist that the Jesus will be their teacher, their master, and their Lord.     That is why the best place to renew your vows, your commitment and strengthen your fidelity is at Mass every Sunday and even daily.  

Today N & N you are to become a living, teaching, priestly example of Christ’s love for his Church.   Your vocation is now as a married couple a communion of persons, a family, nothing will give greater glory to God and be more important to your family and friends than your authentic witness of Eucharistic marriage.  

Just as the crucifix reminds us of God’s love, so will your marriage be a constant sacramental reminder of God’s intimate love for us, of Christ’s love for his Church.  Live your marriage promises faithfully, trusting in God and we will look to you to show us God.     

If you think you love each other now, you haven’t seen anything yet.  Fix your hope on heaven. Lead each other there, where Christ awaits you in the Eternal Banquet of Heaven, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and where love will be perfect. Receive the full blessings that our Faith has to offer! Live your Faith intensely! Live your life in union with Christ and his Church and Christ will teach you how to love.   He will teach you N. how to be a true husband a loving father.   He will teach you N. how to be true wife and a loving mother.  

A marriage founded on Christ, through the Eucharist and prayer, will be aided by every necessary grace, and it cannot fail!

Yes, open, open wide the doors of your life to him give yourself away to each other and to him, and in him you will find true life and you will learn how to truly love.

 

 
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