14 August 2021
How a wedding becomes
a sign of God’s love and
of the Kingdom of God
Saint Mary’s Church,
Askeaton, Co Limerick
1.30 p.m., 14 August 2021,
The wedding of Sarah-Anne Drew and Brian Anthony Dennehy
Readings: I Corinthians 13; Psalm 121; Matthew 5: 1-10.
May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
A wedding not only makes but also shapes a family. And Jesus knew that only too well – not only in his own experience of family life, but in the way too that he taught his disciples.
Even before his public life and ministry began, Jesus spends a full weekend at a family weekend in Cana (John 2: 1-12).
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 together with abundant generosity. His generosity shows that he knows how to celebrate with his family and his friends; with the bride and groom, the man in charge of the banquet, the people serving at the tables, the guests.
But so often when we recall this story, we never quite get to the end. After the story of the wedding at Cana, Saint John’s Gospel 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: almost 30 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: Sarah and Brian each has a new father-in-law and mother-in-law, Ann and Ralph, Michael and Patricia, have a new son-in-law and a new daughter-in-law. Adam has a new stepfather, Joe and Caitlyn have a new stepmother.
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 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.’ A key document of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (‘Light of the Nations’), describes the family as the ‘domestic Church.’
Sarah and Brian, 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.
But being signs of the Kingdom of God in your marriage takes some working at; it does not just fall into place or happen by accident.
As Christ tells us in the Sermon on the Mount – the Gospel reading Sarah and Brian have chosen for this afternoon – there is a number of ways we are blessed when we respond to the love of God and the love of one another.
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: 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 Sarah and Brian, Ann and Ralph, Michael and Patricia, 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 these 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 become 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.
Matthew 5: 1-10:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’
525: Let there be love shared among us
581: Here I am, Lord
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org