07 July 2018
Saint Mary’s Church,
Askeaton, Co Limerick
2 p.m., 7 July 2018,
The wedding of Nicola Catherine White and Robert Daniel Foley
Readings: I Corinthians 13; Psalm 67; John 2: 1-12.
May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
A wedding is a wonderful event, not just for the bride and groom but for the whole family, on both sides, and it should be too – I shall explain in a moment or two – for the whole world.
At a very practical level, Jesus knows what it is to enjoy a good weekend wedding. The story of the wedding feast at Cana (John 2: 1-12) is set long before he begins his public ministry. Yet it is the first of the signs in Saint John’s Gospel that tell us who he truly is.
It is a story everyone loves. After all, we enjoy the idea that the wine flows freely; we enjoy the idea that he blesses a young couple at the start of their new life with abundant generosity; we like the idea that he knows how to celebrate with his family and his friends; we are thankful that he saves everyone from embarrassment – the bride and groom, the man in charge of the banquet, the people serving at the tables, the guests who might otherwise have had to cough up or go home early … and so on.
But so often when we recall this story, we never quite get to the end. We normally read John 2: 1-11. But I sometimes think the real ending comes in the next verse (12), which tells us:
‘After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there for a few days.’
It was a long walk back from Cana to Capernaum: 18 miles or 27 km, and in the conditions of the time it would have taken a good day’s walk or more.
What did they talk about on the long day’s walk?
Was that your cousin? Is she your new sister-in-law? Who did he dance with? Will they fall in love? Are they really in love?
Who are we related to now? Even: what is the meaning of love?
Everyone goes home after a wedding with a fresh understanding of who they are: Nicky and Rob each has a new father-in-law and mother-in-law, Hilary and Simon, Deirdre and Michael, have a new son-in-law and a new daughter-in-law. But it quickly moves beyond that: new brothers-in-law, aunts, uncles and cousins by marriage, and so on.
Why, in a few generations time, people will have forgotten how we are related to one another. In a few generations from now, cousins will just know they are cousins, people will just know they are part of an extended family. You shall just know that you are family, and that you are blessed for being part of that family.
Probably because he knows how weddings and the way they create and shape new families, the new links, the new cousins, the new relationships they shape and create, Jesus constantly uses weddings as an illustration to tell us about the love God has for us, and the way the future can be, the way the Kingdom of God can be.
When we publicly show our love for one another, when we form new families, when we allow the ripples of love to spread out in ways that we cannot control, in ways in which we lose control, then we are truly partners in creating the Kingdom of God.
From antiquity, the rabbis have taught that the home and family unit is the nucleus of the Jewish community. It is an idea that continued in the early Church. Saint John Chrysostom describes the family house as ‘a little Church.’ One of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (‘Light of the Nations’), describes the family as the ‘domestic Church.’
Nicky and Rob, today you are becoming partners, not just of one another, but in shaping and creating the Kingdom of God.
What a blessing … a blessing for you, and a blessing for us.
In your search for love and happiness, you are creating love and happiness. But you are also building on the love and happiness of others who have struggled before.
You have not earned love and happiness … you have been given them as gifts by those who shaped and created families, shaped them in love, created them perhaps not knowing they were signs of the Kingdom of God.
As Saint Paul tells us in our Epistle reading, love is the most important, the most precious, the greatest gift you can give and receive.
And because that has come to you as a blessed but free gift from the past and the present, you, we, all of us have a duty and a responsibility to pass it on to the future.
How do we pass it on?
How do we allow that love to create more love?
How do we invest so that it yields dividends in the future?
It is quite simple, Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1-12a): blessed or happy are … an amazing list of people we never expect to be happy or blessed: the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, the hungry and the thirsty, those who seek justice and show mercy, those with big hearts; those who not only want peace but who make peace, demand peace; those who are persecuted and abused and maligned.
The Kingdom of God is not about taking the easy options, it is sometimes about taking the risky and costly options – all for the sake of love.
But Nicky and Rob, Hilary and Simon, Deirdre and Michael, everyone here who is married, everyone here who has found a little more love in life because of the marriage of others, all know that happiness and love are not rights, they come as gifts.
And the best way of saying thanks for those gifts is not to leave them to one side, wrapped up in colourful paper, ribbons and bows. The best way to say thank you for a gift is to use it.
Use the love and happiness that you have received as gifts. Pass it on, particularly to those who need it most. Let your love be signs of the Kingdom of God.
For as Saint Paul tells us today: Love does not come to an end. It truly is the never-ending gift, the one true, everlasting, eternal gift that lets us know what the Kingdom of God is like. For, indeed, there are only two commandments: to love God, and to love one another.
Love one another, love God, love those in the beatitudes who are signs of the kingdom, love the walk and the journey together in love and to love, pass on to future generations the love you have received from the present and past generations.
And so may all we think, say and do, be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Today’s edition of the Limerick Leader [7 July 2018] carries the following report on page 1 and continues on page 2:
Historic font back in NCW after 60 years
A ‘precious’ baptismal font which was used for baptisms in Newcastle West over nearly 200 years has been returned to its home town.
St Thomas’ stone baptismal font was absent from the town for nearly 60 years, having outlived the church in which it was originally housed.
In recent years, the Office of Public Works was carrying out restoration works on the font.
But last week, St Thomas’ baptismal font was returned to the town – where it was once used for intended purpose, in a church that has now been demolished.
The baptismal font has been installed in Desmond Castle, where it is open to the public to view. The castle is close to the original site of the church.
St Thomas’ Church was built in 1777, but it closed in 1958 and was demolished in 1962. The font was moved to St Mary’s cathedral in Limerick city.
The only reminder of St Thomas’ church is the building’s footprint inside the gate, so the OPW considers the font a “precious monument” of both national and local significance.
The restoration of the font was carried out by OPW craftspeople.
St Thomas’ font was used for the baptism of hundreds of Newcastle West children of the Church of Ireland faith.
One of the most famous people to be baptised within the stone bowl was Sophie Pierce (1896-1939), an early Irish aviation pilot and native of Newcastle West.
Sophie, who later became Lady Heath, was one of the best known women in the world for a five-year period from the mid-1920s, having become the first woman to hold a commercial flying licence in Britain.
She broke the world altitude record for British light aircrafts in 1927, and also lectured on aviation. In 1928, she became the first pilot to fly solo from Cape Town to London, and she was also the first woman to parachute from a plane, when she landed in the middle of a football match.