Still, I think they should rewrite the message on this sign to read: “Welcome Spring???”
Last Saturday, April 23rd, at St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Beverly; I had the privilege and honor to officiate at the wedding of a very nice couple. It was my first wedding ceremony as a deacon, and to say I was a little nervous, would be putting it mildly. So I put everything in the hands of the Lord, and stepped out into the sanctuary and greeted the handsome groom and beautiful bride. The ceremony was both simple and powerful. A single violin provided the music; and the old church never looked better. The following is the homily I delivered, although I did change it a little as I preached:
My friends, we are a gathered here today, to witness something awesome! We have two unique individuals, Jaclyn and Michael, who soon will become one. They have been brought together by the power of love; they will be joined together by the power of love. We are to about to witness, we are about to celebrate a sacrament, the sacrament of marriage. A sacrament, instituted by Jesus Christ, when it is celebrated, reveals and makes present the divine reality they signify, a visible sign of the God’s grace at work within us. And we will soon witness the grace of the Father’s love at work within Jaclyn and Michael. And they are going to be changed down to the core of their being by the grace of God, transformed, and forever changed. They will be a new creation.
It is love, perfected by God’s grace, which binds them together. And we need to understand that the love I am speaking about not the sentimental love one sees in Hallmark cards. It is the type of love that St. Paul describes in his letter to the Corinthians.
“Love is patient, love is kind…It does not seek its own interests. It is not quick tempered….It bears all things… believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1st Cor ).
This is what love should be for all of us, in all of our relationships, but especially in a marital relationship. But I will tell you now, after 27 years of being with the love of my life, with all the joys and happiness, there can still be challenges, there can be some struggles, because we can never know what curve balls life will toss at us. Even the day to day of living together will bring happy surprises, but also some challenges. But I can also testify to the fact that you will each have some new discoveries about the other; the majority of which will bring joy and happiness in your life, but some that may drive you up the wall. It is love that will keep you both on an even keel; it is love that will see you both through. It is love that will keep the joy alive for both of you. And as St. Paul says, “Love never fails.”
For love to work though, our hearts, our souls, must be continually open to its source; open to God’s grace through Jesus Christ the Son. Jesus Christ, who is the prime example of what it means to love, who emptied Himself for love of us all. We encounter Him in Word and Sacrament , we encounter Him in quiet moments. And in that encounter, we are refreshed.
It is appropriate that we celebrate this wedding here in this church, named for St. Margaret of Scotland. She is one of our rare laywoman saints. She is an example of what a Catholic marriage is all about. Born in England, she would become Queen of Scotland, after marrying King Malcolm III of Scotland in 1070. It is said that they had a very affectionate relationship, which was rare for royal marriages of those times. Together, they had eight children. She is said to have had a civilizing effect on the Scottish court. She had a strong spiritual life, and she was known charitable works, supported by her husband. A true marriage is life enriching for both husband and wife. And a true Catholic marriage is life giving, by having children, or reaching out to others in need.
The wonder, the joy of the love of God is made manifest in many ways. One of them is by this sacrament we are about to celebrate, in what this couple is about to celebrate. Let us join together, praying for Jaclyn and Michael, for their joy and happiness. And let us witness something awesome!
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)
On the Catholic Church calendar, yesterday, November 2, 2015, was the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed; also known as All Souls Day. The Beverly Catholic community celebrated an evening Mass of Remembrance for all the deceased members of the three parishes in the city: St. Mary, Star of the Sea, St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. John the Evangelist. The Mass was celebrated at St. Mary’s, with our pastor, Father Mark, our parochial vicar, Father Karlo, and one of our two deacons, me! St. Mary’s is one of those 19th century churches that no one can afford to build anymore; with a high vaulted ceiling, beautiful stain glass windows, and an impressive sanctuary.
We had a good turnout of parishioners from all three parishes. St. Mary’s choir beautifully provided music for the service. I proclaimed the Gospel reading, which was taken from Matthew 11: 25-30. Father Mark then gave a very moving homily. After the homily, he read a roll of those from the Beverly Catholic community, who passed away since November, 2014 till now. Every votive candle in the church had been gathered in front of the sanctuary; as a deceased person’s name was announced, a candle was lit. Should a member of the deceased’s family, or a close friend was present; they were invited to light a candle. Soon, the majority of the candles were lighted, quite a few family members had come up.
A couple of years ago, my mother had passed away; I was an ordained deacon, and I preached at her funeral Mass. I took as my text, John 14: 1-14 (I think). I focused on John 14: 2-3: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” I focused on the theme of pilgrimage; that from the moment we are born, the moment we are baptized, we begin a pilgrimage; a journey of exploration as to what it means to be an adopted child of God the Father. And this pilgrimage does not end when we die, but it becomes a journey of purification; helped by the prayers of the loved ones we left behind. Our pilgrimage will end when we finally reach the place that Jesus Christ has prepared for us; and we are in the Holy Presence of our God.
All Souls Day expresses our hope, that those who have gone before us will find the final destination of their pilgrimage soon. And that they will be praying for us, when we ourselves will begin the next leg of our own life journeys.
Today was a big day for some of Beverly’s Catholic children. For the first time, they received the Eucharistic Body of Christ, through Holy Communion. The boys looked smart in their dark blue suits and grey pants. The girls were very pretty in their white dresses and veils.
I assisted as Deacon at the celebration of Mass, and for me, the most moving moments during the Mass, is at the moment of consecration, when the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of the Christ! Then comes the moment, when Father lifts up the Host, and I raise the Chalice, and the people say in one voice, “Amen!”
Then came the time for Communion. The Pastor gave communion to each child first, then invited everyone else to come forward. Mothers and fathers , family and friends came up, and to each I held up the Host, and said “The Body of Christ!” To which they respond with an affirming “Amen!” And they receive The Lord!
After Mass came the picture taking; with digital cameras and smartphones, parents and can now take unlimited number of shots. The poor pastor finally had to say “Time!” It was a joyous time for all!