Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Anthony’s Church, Lowell, MA
Wedding of Paul Michael Stevens and Amanda Marie Dinis
September 6, 2014
Tob 8:4-8, Ps 103, 1 Cor 12:31-13:8, Jn 15:9-17
To listen to an audio recording, please click below:
The text that guided the homily is below:
One of the great love stories in the Bible is between Jacob and Rachel. Jacob was the father of the twelve sons from whom eventually came the twelve tribes of Israel and the direct ancestor of Jesus according to his humanity. Jacob was sent by his father Isaac back to the territory of his mother Rebekah so that he could work and eventually find a woman to marry who would be different from the Canaanite women who were surrounding them where Abraham had brought the family decades earlier. When he arrived in his mother’s native place, Jacob quickly caught sight of a young woman named Rachel, with whom he immediately fell in love. He helped Rachel and the others there to water their flocks. Later, Laban, Rachel’s father, said he wanted to pay Jacob for his work. But Jacob said, “I will serve you for seven years for your daughter Rachel.” And that’s precisely what Jacob did out of love for Rachel — and the Book of Genesis tells us that the seven years “seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.” After he had completed his time of service, however, Laban double-crossed him and tried to substitute Rachel’s older sister Leah as Jacob’s wife. But that didn’t deter Jacob. When Laban said he needed to work another seven years for Rachel, that’s precisely what he did. And at the end of those seven years, Laban finally allowed Jacob to wed Rachel. For Jacob, Rachel was worth the work and the wait.
I couldn’t help think about the love story between Jacob and Rachel when I ponder the beautiful love story between Paul and Amanda, a story in which we’re all participants today. It was, you guessed it, seven years ago when Paul first laid his eyes on Amanda in 2007 during a job interview at Advanced Polymers, now Vention Medical. After the interview, Paul’s dad asked his him how the interview went and Paul replied he thought it went fine, but preferred to spend his time describing how beautiful the HR woman was. After he was hired, he began to ask her out but she was against dating anyone who worked with her and repeatedly said no. But Paul didn’t stop asking. He also quickly saw how important Portuguese culture and activities were to her, with the Holy Ghost Society, the Portuguese Senior Center, the Carnival and other events, so Paul started volunteering at these events in the hope that he might get a chance to talk to her. He endured many occasions of people speaking to him in Portuguese as if he were fluent. Eventually after almost five years of attempts, Paul gave her a Starbuck’s gift card and told her that he would like to take her out for coffee with the card. Amanda said yes, lest she seem ungrateful. That was the wisest investment Paul ever made. During that coffee, Amanda said she realized they really had a connection. And here we are rejoicing that Paul’s seven years of hard work and patient waiting have paid off!
Paul’s love for you, Amanda, and your love for him in return, is but one small sign of the love God has for us. God tells us about that love in the Gospel you chose for this Mass. “As the Father loves me, so I love you!” Jesus has pursued us not for seven years, but for 70 times 7 years. He’s pursued us with love so that we might be his Bride. And he calls us to love each other in the same way, for you to love each other in this way. Paul, do you know that Amanda’s name in Latin means, “She who deserves to be loved.” Your patron, St. Paul, told all grooms in his letter to the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives like Christ loves the Church and laid down his life to make her holy.” Jesus describes this true love in the Gospel when he says, “No one has greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” Real love sacrifices for others. That’s your job description as a husband, Paul: to sacrifice yourself to make Amanda not just happy for a short period of time here on earth, even decades, but forever. And that’s your task as well, Amanda, to help God make your husband another St. Paul.
In the second reading, we see how important this love is and what it involves. St. Paul tells us that if we have the faith to move mountains, or give our lives as martyrs, but don’t do so out of love, we are and will gain nothing. In 21st century terms, if we have a huge house, expensive cars, a gargantuan stock investment portfolio, good health, lots of friends, but don’t have real love, in the final analysis our life will be empty. Then St. Paul describes what love is. He says it’s patient, kind, not jealous or arrogant, inflated or rude. He says it doesn’t seek its own selfish interests, is not quick-tempered, doesn’t brood over injury or rejoice in wrongdoing but celebrates the truth. He says that it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. If you are going to love each other with the love of God, you should constantly hold this passage up as a mirror and seek to substitute your name wherever St. Paul says love. We should be able to say “Paul is patient” — something we already know after 7 years. We should be able to describe you, Amanda, as kind, something Paul did in his essays in marital preparation, saying that this is something he believes makes you such a great HR head and will make you such a good wife and mom. You can’t be jealous but trusting. You can’t be arrogant but humble toward each other. You won’t be rude to each other, even on a day you think the other might deserve it. You won’t be selfish, but selfless, and won’t keep score of the times the other hurts you, but will love each other enough to be merciful. I once was told by a 98 year old man as I was anointing his 97 year old wife what the secret was for their 76 hapy years of marriage, and he told me, “One of our favorite things to say is: Honey, you got your way the last time; I want you to get your way again.” If real love reigns in your relationship you’ll believe in each other, hope in each other, endure with patience the hard times with each other. The Lords wants to help you to love each other in this way.
To love each other in that Godly way, you must first have a real reverence for each based on a recognition that the other isn’t merely a fellow human being, isn’t merely attractive, isn’t merely good. St. Paul calls spouses to reverence each other out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:22), to see in the other the image of God and to love the other together with God. That’s the type of reverence we see in the first reading in the beautiful story of the wedding night of Tobias and Sarah, who began their marriage praying to God, blessing him for the gift of their love, recalling what marriage is as he made it — the union of a man and a woman — asking for his mercy, and then recalling that they take each other not out of lust, not out of carnal attraction, not even out of personal attraction, but out of the “noble purpose” of pious, spiritual attraction. They turned to God, recognizing that it was God who brought them together, and begged him for the grace to live together happily to old age. That’s the prayer both of you make here, Amanda and Paul, and that’s a prayer that all of us make with you and to which we say, as Tobias and Sarah finished their prayer, by saying, “Amen! Amen!”
As you make that prayer, that you might love each other with the love of Christ, that you might support each other in good times and bad, in sickness and health, in poverty and prosperity all your days, that you might never cease to sacrifice yourself for each other’s happiness and holiness, and become through the school of love that is marriage living examples of patient, kind, selfless love, you do so here at the altar. In the early Church altars were always covered with canopies to symbolize the Jewish chuppah, the canopy under which the bride and groom would exchange their consent and the canopy that would later be put over their bed when they would come to consummate their union, becoming one flesh after God had joined them in one flesh. The altars of churches, like St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, were covered with canopies to signify that the altar is the marriage bed where the union between Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride the Church is consummated, where we, the Bride of Christ, take within ourselves the body and blood of Jesus, become one flesh with him, and are made capable from the inside of going out to make love with him, letting his love flow from within us toward all we meet. If you want your marriage not just to survive, but to thrive and become everything you want it to be and God wants it to be, the best thing you could ever do is to come as after as you can, hand in hand, to the altar of God, where you will receive within Christ the Bridegroom’s love for you and then be helped by him on the inside to be able to love each other with this same love. Today as you come forward to this marriage bed, we pray that God will bless you all the days of your married life. And we pray that, seeing the example of true Christ-like love reigning in your marriage and family, he may bless us all and bring you and all of us one day to share in the fulfillment of the sacrament of marriage, which is the eternal wedding banquet.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
First Reading, Tob 8:4-8
When the girl’s parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, “My love, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance.” 5 She got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. He began with these words: “Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. 6 You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.’ 7 Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age.” 8 They said together, “Amen, amen,”
Bless the LORD, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, my soul; do not forget all the gifts of God, 3 Who pardons all your sins, heals all your ills, 4 Delivers your life from the pit, surrounds you with love and compassion, 5 Fills your days with good things; your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD does righteous deeds, brings justice to all the oppressed. 7 His ways were revealed to Moses, mighty deeds to the people of Israel. 8 Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in kindness. 9 God does not always rebuke, nurses no lasting anger, 10 Has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our deeds deserve. 11 As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on the faithful. 14 For he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust. 15 Our days are like the grass; like flowers of the field we blossom. 16 The wind sweeps over us and we are gone; our place knows us no more. 17 But the LORD’s kindness is forever, toward the faithful from age to age. He favors the children’s children 18 of those who keep his covenant, who take care to fulfill its precepts. 19 The LORD’s throne is established in heaven; God’s royal power rules over all. 20 Bless the LORD, all you angels, mighty in strength and attentive, obedient to every command. 21 Bless the LORD, all you hosts, ministers who do God’s will. 22 Bless the LORD, all creatures, everywhere in God’s domain. Bless the LORD, my soul!
Second Reading 1Cor. 12:31-13:8
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. 13:1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. 2 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. 3 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. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, 5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, 6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
Gospel John 15:9-17
As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. 17 This I command you: love one another.