Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chris & Meghan’s Wedding

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

The words belong to Saint Catherine of Siena, but if they sound a bit familiar, it's because you heard them at the start of the homily at the recent marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, better known as Prince William and Kate.

The homilist, Bishop Richard Chartres, continued: "Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves."

Now let me admit that the royal wedding might seem an odd starting place for a homily at the marriage of a young woman named Meghan Magee!

But between the Queen's recent visit to Ireland and the fact that the streets of Dublin and Cork were empty as thousands of Irish republicans watched the royal wedding on TV, I think I can get away with it.

Because, you see, this afternoon we are celebrating another royal wedding. Even though Chris isn't wearing a bright red uniform, and Meghan won't be a princess when we're finished, they stand before this altar with truly royal dignity.

In the first place, as Bishop Chartres explained, "in a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future."

But Chris and Meghan were royalty long before their wedding day, not from an accident of birth, but from baptism. We know this from the First Letter of St. Peter, who declared the dignity of all believers when he wrote "you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood."

And when you combine the natural nobility of marriage with the supernatural dignity of the baptized, you end up with a reality so awesome that all the glass carriages and pageantry in the world can't add a thing to it.

Alas, the reality is not always recognized. We began this wedding with a greeting from St. Paul—"the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you." At all too many weddings nowadays, the greeting to the couple might as well be "very pleased to meet you."

Some couples want two readings at the ceremony, to keep it short and allow more time for pictures. Others want three so that there's something to do for the cousin from Chicago who showed up unexpectedly.

But Meghan and Chris, you needed three readings just to share the basic outline of your faith with us.

You chose the shortest and the simplest Gospel reading in the book. It details the Creator's plan for man and woman, already created in His image and likeness. It is a plan that makes you one, even as Jesus and His Father are one.

The full richness of this plan emerges from the other two readings. The first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah, proclaims that your vows are not a contract, but a covenant—a covenant with each other and with God, who has already made a covenant with you.

Unlike Melissa and Joe a few years back, you didn't ask me to talk at your wedding about the complex topic of Pope John Paul's theology of the body—for which I thank you! But I must point out that Jeremiah's words point to a related subject, the law of God written on your hearts—what some call the natural law—and to your desire and willingness to follow all aspects of that law in your married life.

The second reading is a bold response to something Bishop Chartres mentioned in his homily: "We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril." The truth is that every life in every century is full of promise and peril; but you have embraced St. Paul's bold answer to the fears the future brings: nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can, and—I believe—nothing will. For Chris and Meghan, you yourselves are really a homily on the readings you have chosen, because the plan for Christian marriage that you have welcomed is obviously part of a bigger plan that you have allowed to shape your lives long before today.

You have not "crammed" for this day; you have worked steadily to be who God meant you to be.

You will not slacken after this day; you will strive daily to be who God means you to be.

And I haven't the slightest doubt: you will set the world on fire.

That fire may burn brightly or glow gently—how your lives warm the world is up to God. But to paraphrase the words of Blessed John Henry Newman that I chose for my ordination card, 25 years ago:

God created you to do Him some definite service.
He has committed some work to you,
which He has not committed to another.

In the Sacrament of Marriage, God now consecrates you for that service, and unites you as you work to build His kingdom in your home and in the world.

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