Special Occasion Homilies
IF COUPLES ARE FROM THE SAME FAITH OR COMMUNITY
The church appreciates you for finding a spouse from your own faith/community that would help you to keep up each other’s faith and foster your mutual compatibility. It will also help in the handover of the traditions and Catholic practices that you have received from your forefathers to the next generation. By this, you are also pleasing your parents, other family members and the Christian community.
The marriage of Isaac and Rebekah: “Abraham said to his senior servant, who was his steward, ‘Place your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the LORD, God of heaven and earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live; rather it is to my country and my kinsfolk that you will go to choose a wife for my son, Isaac’ ” (Gen 24:2-4).
Before the Israelites entered Canaan, Moses cautioned them: “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons, or taking their daughters for your sons, because they would seduce your children to abandon me and adore other gods for which the anger of the LORD would blaze out against you, and he would quickly exterminate you” (Deut 7:3-4).
A DIVINE INSTITUTION
God instituted marriage with the creation of Eve and handing her over to Adam. The bridal procession, where the father of the bride brings her to the groom, reminds us of God who brought Eve to Adam.
There is a divine plan in every marriage. The first parents did not meet each other or marry themselves. God selected them as partners and blessed their marriage. Adam received Eve stating, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). God took Eve out of Adam. Though they were two, they became one in spirit and moved as a team in their successes and failures.
A single person cannot give birth to a child. The child needs the care of the father and the mother for a balanced and healthy upbringing. Hence, Mary received Joseph to care for Jesus. Both worked as a team in the Holy Family, facing challenges and taking care of the Infant Jesus.
Marriage is a characteristic not found among vegetative or animal life. Human life, especially in childhood and old age, is vulnerable and needs help. Marriage and family care are part of God’s design.
A DIVINE PLAN
When we analyze Michelangelo’s famous painting of Adam’s creation at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, we notice that God is holding a woman and a child while He reaches out to the finger of Adam. The woman is looking at Adam and the child to the earth. The spiritual interpretation is that Eve was in God’s mind when He created Adam. God also had the incarnation of Jesus in His divine plan for salvation, just in case of any human failure. So also, even before the creation of this groom and bride, God had their wedding in mind.
THE DIVINITY OF MARRIAGE
The Biblical analogy of God’s relationship with his chosen people both in the Old and New Testament illustrate the sacredness and seriousness of the marriage relationship.
The Old Testament presents the relationship between God and Israel like that of husband and wife (Jer 3:14). God’s intention of the divine covenant with Israel was for the salvation of all the nations. “I will also make You a light of the nations, so that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isa 49:6). The husband and wife work together for the spiritual and material wellbeing of the children that God entrusts them with.
In the New Testament, the Church is the bride of Jesus who made a new covenant (betrothal) with her at the Last Supper. Their spiritual wedding and banquet will take place at the second coming of Christ. So, Paul advises: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph 5:25-33).
MARRIAGE AS A COVENANT
Civil marriage is a contract bound by civil law, and the court can dissolve it by legal divorce. Christian marriage is a covenant or perpetual vow that no one can dissolve.
Civil marriage is between two people. Christian marriage is a covenant between the bride and the groom touching the gospel representing Jesus Christ Saint So, unlike non-Christian marriage, Christian marriage involves three persons.
The couples in a secular marriage rely exclusively on human promise and abilities. Christian marriage relies additionally on divine grace.
A contract is conditional, and one party can repudiate it if the opposite party breaches the conditions. A covenant is an unconditional commitment. Changes in life situations cannot dilute the marital commitment. Wedding pledge specifies: “to live in love, fidelity and unity of mind, in joy and sorrow, wealth and want, health and sickness, from this day, till the hour of our death” (Wedding pledge in Syro-Malabar Rite).
One signs a contract for his or her benefit. The covenant is an offer of oneself to the other for the mutual well-being. If the contract pledge is “I accept you for me” the covenant vow will be “I give myself to you.”
God does not tolerate idolatry and equates it with adultery. Both are serious offences in the eyes of God.
FROM THE STORY OF ADAM AND EVE
Adam was single only for a while. Then God made a partner for him from his rib, which shows that they are essentially one.
God created Eve from Adam’s rib close to his heart. The wife should remain close to her husband in love.
The purpose of Eve’s creation was to provide a suitable companion and a helper for Adam. “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will give him a suitable companion” (Gen 2:18).
God created humans, male and female, for procreation. “God said to them: Be fertile and multiply” (Gen 1:28).
Eve had heard the commandment of The LORD only from Adam: “You may indeed eat of every tree in the garden. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you are doomed to die” (Gen 2:16-17). When Eve violated this, Adam volunteered to die with her to keep up their unity.
FROM THE LIFE OF RUTH
Some couples use Ruth’s vow to Naomi for their wedding ceremonies. When Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, said goodbye to her when she returned to Bethlehem, Ruth said: “Where you go, there I shall go, where you live, there I shall live. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Let the LORD do so and so to me, and worse evils as well, if anything but death separates me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17). Ruth joined Naomi and later became the grandmother of King David. The bride can say the same to her groom.
FROM THE WEDDING AT CANA
The Biblical sense of wine is joy. When there was a shortage of wine at the wedding feast of Cana, people lost the joy. Sometimes, the unexpected loss of joy can happen in the family life that the family cannot fix itself. The Blessed Mother of Jesus intervened with no one seeking her help. She knew that only her son could help at that critical moment. They needed the presence and the intervention of both Jesus and his mother to resolve the issue. If we have Jesus and his mother with us, they will help with our family problems. The miracle would not have happened if either Jesus or his mother was absent at the wedding feast.
SHARING OF JOYS AND HARDSHIPS
The Jews have a custom of the couple drinking from the same cup of wine at the time of betrothal. Wine is symbolic of joys and sorrows. That was why when the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus for the favour of sitting at his right and left, Jesus asked them, “Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?” (Mt 20:22). It involved the hardships of discipleship, followed by the glorious life in the heavenly kingdom. So also, when the groom offers the wine glass to the bride to share with him, he is inviting her to share in the joys and hardships of their family life. By accepting the cup of wine from the groom, the bride expresses her willingness to do so.
MARRIAGE AS A SACRAMENT
The church highlights the sacredness of marriage by considering it as one of the seven sacraments. “The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (CCC 1131).
“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (CCC 1601).
The bride and the groom are the celebrants of the marriage.
BRAIN, HEART, AND LUNGS
Brain, heart, and lungs are the most important organs of the human body. If one of them stops functioning, the entire body dies within minutes. Husband (brain), wife (heart) and lungs (grace of God) should work in unison to keep up a healthy family. The brain communicates with the whole-body collecting data, processing it, deciding, and giving commands. The heart is the seat of love and purifies the blood and pumps it all over the body. The lungs replace carbon dioxide with oxygen from every cell of the body to stay alive and healthy. Brain, heart, and lungs work in harmony to sustain our healthy life. The brain and heart are not supposed to jostle with each other for prominence but are to complement each other. The grace of God helps maintain the spiritual health of the family by replacing negativity with a cheerful outlook.
UNION OF MARRIAGE
Conjoined twins can be an example of two persons living together by adjusting themselves for a comfortable living. Though the groom and bride are separate personalities, the wedding unites them until death.
STREAMS JOINING AS A RIVER
Marriage is like two streams joining to form one river. The wedding rite is their meeting point. Once joined, it is indissoluble. They flow together until separated by death to join the ocean of eternal life. For a Christian couple, marriage involves three streams. The third stream is the Grace of Jesus Christ who leads them to the eternal dwelling place with his Father.
MARRIAGE AS A TEAMWORK
A team works together without internal rivalries between the members. So shall the couple work together as a team.
A team has unity of mind and a common goal. The couple work with one mind for the making of a successful family and the wellbeing of themselves and their children.
A team typically has a captain and all work in unison with the captain. The husband shall be the captain who decides in consultation with his wife and children.
The success or failure of a team member leads to the achievement or downfall of the entire team. So shall be the ups or downs of a member to the family.
Saint Luke wrote on the early Christian community: “The whole community of believers was one in heart and mind. No one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but rather they shared all things in common” (Acts 4:32). A Christian family shall have the same spirit of this early Christian community.
FOR A SUCCESSFUL MARRIED LIFE
Your spouse should be your foremost friend. Usually, friends will have open communication between themselves than with others. There shall be nothing kept hidden from your spouse. That will prevent many issues in your married life.
It is normal to find incompatibility of spouses later in the married life. So, develop a willingness to adjust to the eccentricities of the spouse. Each party should forgive and tolerate the weaknesses of the spouse. Respect the individuality and diversity of the family members. Resolve conflicts without delay. Wounds or broken bones take time to heal, need patience, and sometimes need outside help. Follow the same in case of crises in your married life.
Give more importance to the character rather than the external appearance. Both expect sexual fidelity from each other.
“Marriage must be respected by all, and husband and wife must remain faithful to each other” (Heb 13:4).
Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. So also, take initiative to serve the spouse than demand service from the other. So, your focus shall be on giving to the life-partner rather than receiving from the spouse. You should have the willingness to sacrifice personal interests for the spouse, especially dreadful habits, or addictions.
The joy of family life is not just in wealth, health, or pleasant living conditions. Love is the most important, which includes everything needed in family life. “Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered, nor does it seek its own interest. Love is not provoked to anger; keeps no score of offences. It does not take delight in the wrong but rejoices in the truth. Love excuses all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor 13:4-8a).
Agape love will make the family successful. There are four levels of love:
(1) Eros (air-ohs) which is romantic. The Song of Solomon expresses it.
(2) Storge (stor-jay) which is family love. Examples are Noah and his family, Jacob and his sons, Mary and Martha.
(3) Philia which is brotherly love. That is a love of fellow humans and those in need.
(4) Agape which is divine or Christian love. It is unconditional and sacrificial. It includes loving enemies and those who persecute us as Jesus taught his disciples to follow. An example is the forgiveness that Joseph extended to the brothers who had sold him to the merchants when they appeared before him in Egypt. The sincere practice of agape love by family members will avoid many issues in the family.