Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Edward Roman Catholic Church, Palm Beach, FL
Nuptial Mass of Thomas S. Mellon and Kathleen Marie Corkery
November 12, 2016
Prov 31:10-13.19-20.30-31, Ps 33, 1 Cor 12:31-13:8, Mt 5:1-12
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following text guided the wedding homily:
The Prehistory of your marriage
The beautiful event we’re celebrating today has a long prehistory, one that goes back beyond Tom’s proposal to Kate in the midst of a snowstorm ten months ago, before they met through friends three years ago and began dating, before even their parents Tom and Donna, Neil and Ann, got the joy-filled news to expect them two-and-a-half decades ago. The prehistory to their wedding goes back to even before God said “Let there be light.” And to understand the significance and beauty of this day, we need to see where it fits into God’s plan for them and for the world.
In the beginning of time, as we see depicted in the Book of Genesis, when God created Adam, Adam had God all to himself in the garden. All of creation had been made for him to govern. He was perfectly in right relationship with God. Even though he seemed to have everything one could ask for, he wasn’t happy. And after God had said in the first six phases of creation, “It was good,” “It was good,” “It was good,” “It was good,” “It was good,” “It was good,” and with the creation of the human person, “It was very good,” God finally thundered, “It is not good…for man to be alone,” and so created Eve, a fitting partner, symbolically out of his side, to show that they stand side-by-side, equal, before him. When Adam saw her, he exclaimed, “Finally this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!,” a Hebrew idiom saying that they share strengths and weaknesses. They were to be one flesh. As the text ends, this is the reason we’re told why a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh in love.
The upshot of the Creation account in the Book of Genesis is that God, who is love, has created the human person in his image and likeness. He has created the human person in love and for love. And because no one can love in a vacuum, God could not be solitary, because there needed to be a Lover and a Beloved and in God the love between them was so strong as to take on personality. For that reason, in creating the human person, God created not just a “him, male and female” but a “them,” a communion between man and woman, whose love for each other could be so strong as to “make love,” to generate new life, as a fruit of their loving communion of persons. From the first marriage of Adam and Eve, to your marriage Tom and Kate, marriage was created by God to be a sacrament of love, to help you to grow to be more and more like God and at the same time more fully human.
The courageous and counter-cultural act of Holy Matrimony
What you are doing today in getting married here at this beautiful Church of St. Edward is a courageous and counter-cultural act. Today, many are afraid of commitment — especially a commitment that is for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health, all the days of your life. Seeing so many relationships break down, many millennials today prefer to keep their options open, they refuse to entrust their future to another, they seek to receive some of the comfort and benefits that come from relationships that in many outward ways resemble marriage but without giving themselves totally to what marriage entails.
But what you’re doing today is even more courageous and counter-cultural than simply getting married. Many who marry do so on merely a horizontal plane, forming a civil bond, exchanging commitments in a binding contract often in front of agents of the state. You’re doing something far beyond that today. You’re making not just a contract but entering into a covenant, making a public commitment not only to each other but to God and consecrating your love in a special way within the love of the God who created you, arranged for you to meet, and who today will make a covenant with you as you make a covenant with each other and with him. You’re publicly professing your faith that this is something far more than the love of a man and a woman. You’re announcing to the world that you want to model your love for each other on the love God has for you. You’re declaring openly that you believe that marriage is a sacrament, a bridge into the very life of God, in which God will enter your hearts and your home, and you will seek to do something extraordinary: not just make the other happy, but seek to make the other holy. You’re avowing that the gift you ultimately want to give each other is not just a beautiful ring, or the exchange of last name, or even the gift of yourself. Rather, you’re publicly affirming that that you seek to give God to each other, to help the other become holy.
The first time I met you, Kate, was in 2002 in Rome, at a Mass canonizing a saint who was God’s instrument to teach the whole world that one doesn’t have to become a priest or a religious sister to become holy; rather God calls husbands and wives, moms and dads, and people in every walk of ordinary existence to the fullness of the Christian life, which is to love God with all we have and to love others as Christ loves us. Today you profess your faith that this is what you want most for each other, for yourselves, and for your marriage. You want your bond to be a holy matrimony. And today we are all praying with you that you get that wish.
Marriage and True Happiness
The readings you’ve chosen today with such care help to drive this point home. In the Gospel, we hear what Jesus says is the path to true happiness, and we see that it is something very different from what many in our culture and age say. The world says that in order to be happy, you have to be rich and not have a care in the world; Jesus says, rather, blessed are the poor in spirit, who hunger and thirst for holiness, who mourn when they see others suffer. The world says that to be happy you have to be strong and powerful; Jesus says you need to be meek, merciful and a peacemaker. Our culture says that to have it all you need to give full reign to fulfilling all your sexual desires and fantasies, whether inside or outside of marriage; Jesus says, rather, blessed are the pure of heart, those who see, and love, and reverence God in others such that they would never want to use them merely as means for their own gratification. Today many believe that to be happy one needs to be the life of the party, voted most congenial in your graduating class, somebody about whom all those whose opinions supposedly matter say nothing but the most politically correct positive things; Jesus says on the other hand that we are blessed when we’re persecuted for the sake of doing the right thing, when even people insult us or utter every kind of evil against us because of our fidelity, because that’s what they did to the prophets, to the apostles, to the martyrs, to the saints, and even to him. And Jesus promises us a great reward not in this world, which will only last a moment in the light of eternity, but forever.
It was courageous and counter-cultural for you to choose the Gospel of the Beatitudes for your nuptial Mass. You told me that it spoke strongest to you out of all the possible readings. You said that you both consider yourselves blessed to have come from simple, happy families that taught you that money, popularity, and power are not the goals of life, and that you rather aspire to the higher things and seek God more than the things of the world. You told me that you feel blessed because you know in your own lives that to be pure of heart means that you’re made for one person, that meekness means that you don’t need to be the center, that peacemaking is essential toward happiness since so much hurt comes from the things that divide. What a beautiful witness you’re giving us all as you begin your married life today about the path to happiness, a testimony that we pray you will continue to give us for as long as you both shall live.
Striving to Love like Christ, with Christ, and in Christ
In the Epistle you selected, St. Paul reinforces the point Jesus makes in the Gospel, encouraging both of you and all of us, “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts,” as he tells us that the “more excellent way” to achieve them is through patterning your life on the love we see and have received in Jesus Christ. St. Paul says that if he spoke powerfully the words of God, if he had faith to move mountains, if he gave his body over in martyrdom — all of which he did — but didn’t have love, he would just be making noise and would gain and be a zero. Likewise, if we have perfect health, a tremendous social life, a great career, lots of honorary degrees, friends and family, but don’t have love, our life would be empty. The human person, made in the image and likeness of God who is love, cannot live without love.
Love, however, doesn’t mean merely a feeling of attraction. It doesn’t just mean being adored by another. It’s a choice to sacrifice oneself for the good of another. It involves — as Jesus declared during the Last Supper, right after he told us to love each other as he loved us — the willingness to lay down one’s life for another. And in the second reading you chose, St. Paul describes the daily ways we are called to give our life out of love for each other. He states that love is patient, kind, not jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, it’s not quick-tempered or resentful, it doesn’t seek its own interest or remember every hurt the other causes, but rejoices in the truth and bears, hopes, endures and believes all things.
Katie and Tom, striving eagerly after the greatest spiritual gifts, seeking to love each other as Christ loves you, means each day heroically to be kind and patient with each other, even when the other tries your patience and isn’t as kind to you as you’d prefer; it means not to be jealous but trusting; it means never to be pompous, inflated or rude toward the other, but constantly seeking to regard it as a privilege to serve the other; it means that rather than keeping score over the ways the other has hurt you, you remember the Lord’s mercy and share that same mercy with each other, giving the other a second chance, a third chance, and even a 70 times 7th chance, recognizing that it is through mutually forgiving each other that you are helped to become more like God, whose mercy endures forever and in whose image you’ve been made.
Tom, you told me that Katie is kind and super-patient with you, never short-tempered, humble instead of arrogant, and simply one of the nicest people you have ever met. Kate, you told me that you could substitute Tom’s name wherever St. Paul says love, that he has all of these qualities and would do anything and everything it takes to make you happy. The Sacrament of Marriage is a gift of God to a man and a woman to help them continue striving for the greatest spiritual gift of all. Keep striving in this way so that your love for each other, Kate and Tom, can become a living commentary on St. Paul’s words and be able show the beauty of love to your friends and contemporaries and future generations just as you have told me your parents’ and grandparents’ married love has inspired you.
A gift far more valuable than pearls
The great gift God has given each of you in helping you find in each other someone who aspires with you to the most important things of all is the focus of the Word of God you chose for the first reading. The Book of Proverbs reminds us that a worthy wife is far more valuable that pearls, that the husband who entrusts his heart to her has an unfailing prize, because she will bring him good all the days of her life. The worth of such a wife, Sacred Scripture goes to say, is not found in her charm or physical beauty, but in her “fear of the Lord,” in her faith.
Tom, you have told me how in Kate you feel you have found a treasure more valuable than all the jewelry on the planet, and her worth is not in the beauty that all of us behold with you today but in her faith, the faith that you say has brought you closer to God. You’ve described how she puts that faith into action in the way she loves you, how she always wants what’s best for you, how she’s always been there for you, in the happy times and even in the sadder ones like when your beloved grandmother died.
And Kate you’ve told me that you know that the treasure Proverbs describes is not one-sided, that in Tom you have found a man with a heart and character of gold, who has made you happier, more generous, more sympathetic, someone who knows you so well that when you’re stressed he gives you the perfect remedy in a hug, a glass of wine and lots of M&Ms, who dresses up out of reverence for you even when he’s casual. In each other, you know that you have hit the jackpot, and that God put that winning jackpot ticket in your joined hands.
“The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord,” as we declared together in the Psalm, and we pray that you never cease to see in each other a reminder of the Lord’s goodness.
The Consummation of Christian Marriage
Please let me finish with a thought about how important it is that your wedding is taking place within Holy Mass. You both so wanted all of your friends to come to your Nuptial Mass, because you wanted them to celebrate with you not just later at the reception but with you, in God’s presence, praying for you and supporting you as God joins you for the rest of your life in one flesh. There’s great meaning to the fact that you exchange your vows in the context of the Mass. The Mass is not just liturgical garnish, but at the heart of Christian Marriage.
I first met you Kate, in Rome, at St. Peter’s Basilica, where, like most of the beautiful ancient Churches in Christianity, has an exquisitive baldachino or canopy over the main altar. The early Christians used to illustrate the reality between marriage and the Eucharist in their architecture, covering the altars with a baldachino just like ancient beds were covered, to communicate that the altar is the marriage bed of the union between Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church. It’s here on this altar that we, the Church whom St. Paul and St. John refer to as the Bride of Christ, in the supreme of love, receive within ourselves, we believe, the body and blood of Jesus, the divine Bridegroom, becoming one-flesh with him and being made capable by him of bearing fruit with him in acts of love.
Coming every Sunday and even more often than that to this wedding bed of the altar is the means by which you will renew, Tom and Kate, more and more profoundly your one flesh union.
This place where the consummation of Christ’s marriage with us occurs is the place where you will receive within Christ’s love for you and become more capable of sharing with each other not just your love but God’s.
This is the resource Jesus provides to strengthen you to continue in your courageous and counter-cultural witness to the Sacrament of Marriage, to strengthen you to help each other to live the Beatitudes, to fortify you to strive after the greatest gifts, and to assist you to live up each day to the other’s holy hopes for you and become ever more the treasure that God sees in you and you see in each other, and to bring you together to the unending nuptial banquet of heaven.
Today around this marriage bed of Christ’s union with you and your holy union with each other, Msgr. Klinzing, your family and your friends all join me in praying that the Lord who planted within both of you the deep desire for the Sacrament of Matrimony and has brought you hand in hand to this altar will continue to bring to completion the holy vocation he has given you. And we pray with you that the Lord will never stop blessing you with his holy love and through you and that love never stop blessing us all.
The readings for today’s Nuptial Mass were:
A reading from the Book of Proverbs
When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.
Responsorial Psalm — “The Earth is Full of the Goodness of the Lord”
Happy the nation whose God is the LORD, the people chosen as his very own.
But the LORD’s eyes are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for his gracious help.
Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and shield.
For in God our hearts rejoice; in your holy name we trust.
May your kindness, LORD, be upon us;
we have put our hope in you.
A reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew
When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.