A Wedding Homily

St. Margaret

St. Margaret of Scotland Church

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!

Good Friday in Beverly – 2015

TGood Friday Crosshis is the first chance I have had to write some reflections on part of what I have been doing during this Holy Week, 2015.  Yesterday, Good Friday, I assisted at the service that was held at St. Margaret of Scotland parish in Beverly, MA.  The small church was built in the late 1800’s, and has a very unique design.  The interior has a dark wood ceiling, which sort of adds to the solemnity of the liturgy we were about to celebrate.

The Good Friday service commemorates the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, it is the most solemn liturgy held during Holy Week.  Wearing red colored vestments, the Pastor and I silently processed into the church.  Entering the sanctuary, Father, I and the cantor kneeled in the sanctuary, and the service began with readings from Scripture.  I, the cantor, and our music director chanted the Passion of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of John.  After the prayers of the faithful, I went to the rear of the church, picked up a plain wooden cross, and began to process down the main aisle, back to the sanctuary.  I stopped three times; each time intoning: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world!” to which the congregation responded: “Come let us worship.”  After Father and I had each venerated the Cross, members from the congregation came forwarded to also venerate it.  Some kissed the wood, others knelt and touched it, and others just bowed before it.  When everyone had come forward, Father and I set the Cross on a side altar, with two candles on either side.  A communion service followed, then Father and I processed out and we did in, in silence.

After greeting members of the Catholic community as they left the church, I went back in; back to the side altar with the Cross.  As I stood, looking at that bare wooden Cross, it came to me, how an instrument of public execution, has become a symbol of triumph, Christ’s triumph of death.  I think though we forget what suffering Jesus went through, for us, for our salvation.  We need to recall what was written by the prophet Isaiah:

“Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many and their guilt he shall bear.  Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”  (Isaiah 52)

Tonight, we commemorate, we celebrate Jesus Christ victory over sin and death; we celebrate the peace and joy that is still being experienced by so many of us.