I have posted many homilies that I have preached on Sundays and other solemnities or for a couple of funerals on this blog. This time, I thought readers might like to see how I approach preaching at a wedding. What follows is the homily I gave at a wedding celebrated August 29 at my parish. Alex and Lacy are a couple I’ve been privileged to know as pastor the past four years.
The word “transform” means to change. When something is “transformed,” it is changed to something else. For instance, when you use an electrical transformer when traveling in Europe the gadget changes 220 voltage to the 120 voltage used by our U.S. electronics. Otherwise, the electronic divide we want to use will burn up! To transform is to be changed. A group of individual athletes can be transformed into a team, functioning as one to achieve a goal. To do that they’ve got to think as a team, as one unit subordinating their individual wills for the goal of winning.
Catholics believe that the substance of things and the very core identity of people can be changed, too. Baptism transforms us into beings that can eternally live like God. Bread and wine are transformed in the Eucharist into the Body and Blood of Christ. Two individuals, a man and a woman can be transformed into one identity, one reality, one in body, soul and mind. In a few moments we’ll witness a transformation, not just a change in legal status, but a change in how Alex and Lacey exist!
In the Eucharist we’ll celebrate this afternoon our church believes bread and wine are changed, they are transformed into the sacrifice of Jesus recalled in a few simple words. Words have the power to change reality especially if they’re words spoken by Jesus. We know that bread sustains life. Now, Jesus sacrificed his body out of love for humanity. With the words “this is my body” he transforms food and gives us his sacrificial love in the form food that is changed to make real his presence in us and sustain the divine life given us in baptism.
Lacy and Alex will speak a few simple words this afternoon that will transform them into something different, too. The words “I take you to be my husband, my wife, all the days of my life!” changes this man and women’s reality forever. They are able to do this because Jesus wants it to happen, he wants to use their lives, their bodies, their love to make himself present in the world in another way but in a way similar to what happens to the food placed on our altar. Lacy and Alex will, in a sense, declare that they will be imitating the sacrificial love of Jesus that makes life possible even in the face of death. This couple will be changed into a sacrament of God’s presence in our midst by the sacrifice of their wills, of their bodies, forgoing of any other partner acting always for the sake of the other’s richer life. Their love will remind us of the love of Christ for the church. The world needs such Good News. Sacrificial love triumphs over death. Love is what enables us to live something like God, fully alive, forever.
In the reading from Saint Paul we heard Paul say “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Paul is saying change your way of thinking. Don’t think like so many people do, today, that what’s important is MY happiness or I have a right to what makes me feel good as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Alex and Lacy have chosen to reject this thinking and chosen to do “what is good and pleasing and perfect” in harmony with the “mind of God” by a change in their thinking that focusing on my individual single good life is the way to fulfillment to having another, the beloved, always on his or her mind and honoring them with a sacrificial love like Jesus did for his beloved bride, us, the church.
Alex and Lacy know how to make this sacrificial love of Jesus really present in their relationship so we can see Him in our midst. In our conversation about the readings they shared some insights. Reflecting on the first reading about the creation of humanity Alex said the verse about “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” meant for him that he and Lacy must “Constantly be thinking about the other person. Their pain is your pain, their joy is your joy.” Lacy shared in our conversation that the change of mind needed to be sacrament of Jesus means that “you’re making decisions together, doing things together instead of separately when your married. Things will work out no matter what if your love is on where, as St. Paul said, you show compassion towards each other, caring for each other.” Yes, Lacy and Alex are well on their way to making the love of Jesus present to others in this world. As Alex said of the Gospel God set the example for us to follow by sending his Son who would sacrifice his life in love for his spouse the church. We should love each the same way.
That love, to be like the Love of God revealed in Jesus, must give birth to new life-like the love of the Trinity gave birth to creation, too. Someday, we hope Alex and Lacy will be blessed with children. Then They’ll discover new depths of sacrificing the self out of love. The new domestic church we see created today will proclaim the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus in even more profound ways. Then Alex and Lacy will see that emotional love may have led you here, today, but God has used this human love as a way to continue to reveal his divine love present in their lives and our lives. He’s brought them together so they can help each other to heaven and help us believe sacrificing yourself out of love for others triumphs over all forms of death, making life more abundant.
I have a little confession to make. I’ve already told it to Alex who said I could share this story. When I first came to this parish I watched Alex read and distribute communion. I saw some spirit in him that lead me to think that maybe he had a vocation to be a priest. Apparently, others did too, he tells me, like a legendary person in the history of this parish did, Sister Mary Richard. But my thinking had to change, to be transformed. Soon I found out there was this women in his life named Lacy! A beautiful woman and their love for each other was evident. Alex still has a vocation, to proclaim the Gospel as husband and dad and Lacy is his partner in this vocation. Together they will make the real presence of Jesus happen not at an altar table in the midst of the church gathered in a large building, but around the kitchen table surrounded by children and family and friends. The love of Jesus will go forth from their house church into the world. You see, each person transformed by baptism into a disciple of Jesus has the same vocation expressed in different forms, to spread Jesus’ Good News in some way. Today, we your family and friends, the church, rejoice that you have responded to his call to serve as husband and wife. May God bring to perfection the transformational good work he has begun in you, today, so that the world may know the Christ whom the Father has sent! Amen! So be it!