Tag Archives: Marriage

Wedding Homily for Home Beer Brewers Sara & Erich

On Labor day weekend I had the privilege of presiding at the wedding of my cousin’s daughter and her fiancé in another parish. Afterwards, I received many compliments on the homily and how appropriate it was to the couple. You see, they are both beer enthusiasts who brew beer and meet at a group for home brewers in Washington D.C. The groom proposed at a favorite craft brewery in southern Illinois, Scratch Brewery. After getting positive feedback from an editor of a national publication, who was a friend of the couple, about my use of an extended metaphor (I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing), I admit I got a little “big-headed” for a while and asked the couple for permission to publish the homily on my blog, which they have graciously given. Perhaps a few home brewers will find their way to this corner of the internet if they search beer and brewing and wedding. It’s published here for those friends and relatives who wanted to revisit the homily, too.

frjoeerichsaraCongratulations and Best Wishes to Erich and Sara! May you have many happy years together as husband and wife.

Wedding Homily for
Erich & Sara
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, Herrin IL
September 3, 2016 – 2:30 PM
Rev. Joseph C. Rascher, homilist and presider

Readings:
Tobit 8:4b-8
Colossians 3:12-17
Matthew 5:1-12a

Most of us know that Sara and Erich first meet at a club for home beer brewers in Washington D.C. Both our bride and groom brewed beer at home then meet attending a club of home brewing enthusiasts. So how could I not make at least some reference to beer in my homily this afternoon? I promise I won’t belabor an analogy about the process of brewing to making a successful marriage but I couldn’t resist looking up a quote attributed to one of our nation’s founding fathers. It’s popularly believed Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” As I looked for the quote on the internet I came to find out Mr. Franklin never spoke such a thing! Well, if you can’t believe that a founding father of the country said such a great truth, what can you believe?

Here’s the actual quote.”Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” That actual quote is a bit more poetic. This quote about vineyards watered by God’s rain actually points us toward a truth we can believe in that we are witnessing this afternoon. Here’s something to believe in — God wants us to be happy. God showers down upon humanity his grace, his love where it enters the hearts a man a woman and brings them together in marriage. Their marriage then produces a new reality, a fruit of oneness that is sweet and complex and joyful and yes, sometimes a bit bitter like hops, but a wonderful coming together of individuals that can witness in the flesh to the presence of God’s love in the world. God is at work this afternoon in this liturgy making two baptized people into the sign of his unity. We are witnessing the revelation of the Love of Jesus in human flesh so that the world will get the message, God is Love and Jesus still dwells with his people. Bride and groom become something more than a legally bound partnership. They are changed into a visible sign that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Sara and Erich, those who are married many years (like some that are gathered here with you to celebrate your wedding) will tell you the process of becoming this sign of “God Love” takes time. Saint Paul, one of the founding fathers of the church wrote the recipe of how you’ll become more and more this sign of “God Love” revealed in his Son Jesus who you will now enflesh in your becoming one as husband and wife. In our conversation on Thursday about the readings you said as much.

In generous portions you both will need to show each other compassion, humility and forgiveness. There is one more essential ingredient to make this marriage a sign of “God Love” in a union that is bound together for ever — The Love of God revealed in the life of Christ. Not just welcoming that love in praying together. Not just acknowledging you need God, like Tobiah and Sara did on their wedding night as we heard in the first reading. Together, you must love like Jesus. That means sacrificing the self on the cross of your life that so the life of your spouse (and one day, children) may be richer, more alive, full of a joy that can not be taken from you. As Pope Francis has written in his Apostolic Exhortation On Married Love, “The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon – not an idol like those of stone or gold prohibited by the Ten Commandments – capable of revealing God the Creator and Savior.”

Erich, you also reminded Sara and yourself in our conversation that this task you embark on, today (and have been on for a few years), will take the ingredient of patience. The second reading is Paul’s recipe for the faithful disciple, and yes, the successful marriage. Paul stresses patience with each other; patience with yourselves for not being perfect. Patience, like the compassion Christ showed us sinners on the way to the goal of God’s kingdom will be the “yeast” that takes time to do it’s work. The yeast of patience will ferment the perfect brew that satisfies the pallet of your marriage over time. Then the rest of us, including your children and your children’s children, as the nuptial blessing says, will share in drinking of the love of God in our midst that you have revealed over a lifetime.

All of us should be aware of something, though, about biblical times and the symbolism of yeast. Yeast was not a thing you wanted around in your house during the high holy days of Passover. It was a symbol of corruption, something that destroyed the purity of the unleavened bread needed for the feast. And as our couple know, too much yeast and the beer is destroyed. (Didn’t Sara have a batch blow up in her apartment closet once?)

In a way, marriage truly lived according to the vision of the church and of the Beatitudes we have heard in the Gospel can corrupt the world. Married Christians should be a kind of “corrupting” influence mixed into our world where selfishness seems to be the motivation of so many. We live in a society where violent aggression is seen as necessary to establish the superiority of a political or religious system. The culture we live in is an environment of toxic individualism. Married Christians by their example of selfless love for each other and their children are to be the corrupting yeast that breaks down the selfishness of society, reveals cooperation is the antidote to violence and helps others see that we are responsible for the well-being of one another. It was wonderful to hear Sara tell me in our conversation how “We both feel strongly about social justice. We both want to try to help the less fortunate. As a couple we need to be people for others and not just focused on ourselves.” You get the Beatitudes. You both are “Blessed” for you recognize that you must live in the Kingdom of God here and now in a culture that needs the yeast of corruption, married love. You’ll just be a small influence, but small is always powerful in the Kingdom. As Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who will declared a saint tomorrow once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” This is your task. Love greatly! Be Gospel, be Good News! The world needs your witness to the power of God who wants us to be happy.

Sara and Erich, you are entering into a great mystery not to be solved or even understood. You are embarking on a journey of discovery where you’ll come to know more and more how deeply you are capable of loving. That journey will take you to new places where you’ll discover how profound is the mercy, the love of Christ for us.

Erich told me of a quote from Kaiser Wilhelm: “Give me a woman who truly loves beer and I shall conquer the world!” (And then he lost WWI!) Another quote not to believed as true. But believe this… “God’s love given you in baptism has given you each other to love without measure. His love revealed in you will advance God’s Kingdom in this world, enabling others to know God loves us and loves to see us happy. Remember this truth, God’s love has conquered this world of death!”

May God who has begun this good work in you bring it to completion!

 

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Wedding Homily for Alex and Lacy

Marriage clipartI 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.


Readings for the Nuptial Mass were
Genesis 2:18-24
Romans 12:1-2, 9-13
John 17:20-23

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!

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