I’m afraid there’s not much chance of a short homily at this wedding. Michelle and Derek, you have chosen texts from Scripture that have spoken deeply to your hearts, and I know you want them to do the same in our hearts today.
But before I say a few words about these beautiful readings, I really have to say how happy I am to be here—deeply happy, honoured and delighted. And I know Father Paul feels the same. Father Dennis does not know you as well as we do, but he also shares our joy in witnessing the marriage of two seriously committed Christians.
At first I was a bit concerned about this match—Derek does my taxes and Michelle is paid by my taxes, so I thought there might be a conflict of interest. But when I got my usual refund in April I was reassured.
I am also happy for all of you here, because I know that you’re gathered not as spectators or guests, but as family. Many of you are members of the Gaudet or Mercurio families; many belong to that great extended family of CCO; all of you are part of the network of faith and love that embraces Michelle and Derek today.
I’m sure most of us caught some of the wonderful TV coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the States last month. My favourite moment was his off-the-cuff remarks on the Saturday night in Philadelphia.
He said “God always knocks at the door of hearts. He likes to do this. It comes from His heart. But do you know what He likes best? To knock on the doors of families and find families that are united, to find families that love each other, to find families that bring up their children and educate them and help them to keep going forward and that create a society of goodness, of truth, and of beauty.”
Isn’t that what God is doing here, right now? He is knocking on Derek and Michelle’s door, and they are throwing it wide open. By their lives of faith and by the sacramental covenant they are about to make, Derek and Michelle are God’s messengers to us all today and witnesses of His love, words we heard at the very beginning of this liturgy.
God is knocking on the door of every family in church this afternoon, and of each individual’s heart. In word and sacrament, he stands at the door and knocks. These scripture readings and the exchange of vows we’re about to witness invite each of us—married and single—to open our hearts to his loving plan.
When God knocks, he gives more than a light tap on the door. Today he’s knocking with divine joy, divine enthusiasm. Again, Pope Francis explains why: “All of the love that God has in Himself, all of the beauty that God has in Himself, all of the truth that God has in Himself, He gives to the family. And a family is truly a family when it is able to open its arms and receive all of this love.” The Holy Father calls the family the most beautiful thing God has made.
Michelle and Derek, you are here proclaiming with your lives the scriptures we have just heard. The first reading proclaims the love of God in Himself—expressed in the act of creation and especially in the creation of man and woman, destined from the very beginning to become one flesh in marriage.
The second reading presents the truth that comes from God—truth that is good, acceptable, and perfect, genuine truth that has the power to confront the counterfeits our society offers. St. Paul paints a picture not only of married love but of Christian love, rooted in our human dignity, both in body and spirit.
The beauty of God, which he manifests in His love and His truth, is at the heart of our responsorial psalm, which gives voice to the deepest of all longings, the longing for God himself. There’s not an ounce of duty in the psalm that Chelsey sang; it’s all beauty. The beauty of God’s face, the magnificence of His holy mountain. Light and truth lead us to the incomparable beauty of God’s dwelling place.
Pope Francis says that God shared all of this love, beauty, and goodness with the family. It boggles the mind, which may be why the Pope was smart enough to anticipate an objection. “Sure,” he said, “one of you could say to me, ‘Holy Father, you speak this way because you’re single.’”
He knows there are difficulties in families. He said “the family is beautiful, but it is costly. It brings problems… we argue; sometimes the plates fly; in families, the children give us headaches.” Husbands fight with wives and they give each other dirty looks, he added. The Pope is a realist, not to mention an Italian Latin American!
And he’s right: we’re not living in the Garden of Eden! But thanks to God’s gift of His Son to the world wounded by sin, God is once again walking with us. The Book of Genesis tells us that God walked in the garden in the cool of the evening; now he walks with us in His Son, true God, true man, member of his own human family and of every human family.
The presence of Jesus in your married life, Derek and Michelle, is not the assurance of an easy life. He will be with you in the power of His resurrection, certainly, but he will also be with you in the power of His cross. That’s why Pope Francis called the family “a factory of hope, of life and of resurrection.”
Walking with the Lord, you will experience both His suffering and His joy, His sorrows and His victory; and your little “factory” will produce hope for the world.
I’d like to end by telling you about my trip to the airport in Vancouver. The weather was nothing special, but as I turned off the highway I saw a spectacular sunrise—brilliant colours stretched across the sky, reflected in the wispy clouds.
Immediately it occurred to me that the sun that produced this wondrous sight rises every morning. The sun hadn’t changed a bit.
But the atmosphere on Friday morning made the sun’s rays more visible, more beautiful, more radiant.
That’s your challenge, dear friends; that’s the exciting opportunity you have in marriage. God is at work in every marriage, but his presence and his plan needs to be visible.
Last night I met the great-grandson of Malcolm Muggeridge, the British writer who helped to bring Mother Teresa to the world’s attention in a BBC documentary and a book he wrote more than forty years ago. The name of the book was “Something Beautiful for God.”
Michelle and Derek, there’s your calling in four words. You’re going to do something beautiful for God. You’re going to do something beautiful for the world. Your married life, your family life, will let His love, His truth, and His beauty shine out for all to see.
For all that, we thank God, and we ask Him to bless you every day of your married life.