Homily for Kate & Kevin’s Marriage – July 4, 2015
Early in the twentieth century, two giants of the literary world, George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and G. K. Chesterton, the English journalist and writer of detective fiction, entered into a spirited debate on the institution of marriage. The two men were the best of friends. Mr. Shaw had a rather harsh view of marriage, considering the venerable institution to be enslaving. By marrying, a couple sacrificed their freedom in exchange for a life of boredom and drudgery. Why be chained to another person, Shaw argued, when you are given the opportunity to enjoy unlimited freedom, no strings attached. An early advocate of “free love”, the Irishman would undoubtedly be on board with those who, today, support “friends with benefits”, “hooking up” and “dating apps”.
Now Mr. Chesterton took exception to his friend’s radical view. In his opinion marriage is “the wildest of adventures and an extraordinary bequest by the Author of life.” He zeroed in on the marital vow as a key in understanding the daily drama of married life. The sheer thrill of marriage consists in the keeping or the breaking of a sacred bond and the real struggle to live out God’s plan for the mystery of human love, one that is patterned on God’s unfailing love for us. Chesterton asks: “Will the bride and groom be faithful to their promises? Will they be true to their word? Will their loyalty to each other and their commitment deeply embedded in their Christian faith stand the test of time? Will they, in the course of time, come to appreciate the beauty of selfless, sacrificial love?”
Chesterton was the master of paradox. To be free, according to this wisest of writers, is to be bound, and the more we are bound to another, as in marriage, the more we will come to understand and delight in the true freedom we enjoy as disciples of Christ. Chesterton would certainly be in agreement with St. Paul’s musing on the mystery of love: “Love bears all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1Cor.13:7-8).
In the New Testament, Christ is more than once referred to as the bridegroom (Mk.2:19).
On the day before he died, Jesus prepared the disciples for his departure. In John’s gospel, we learn the meaning of true love, and not the counterfeit love, which is so commonplace today. In the thirteenth chapter, we read, “Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass in this world to the Father, having loved those who were in the world, loved them to the end” (Jn.13:1). Jesus never threw in the towel. Nor did he raise the white flag of surrender. He loved us “to the end”.
Kevin and Kate, you are faced with a daunting challenge. Just consider the words you’ll speak to each other; “I promise to be true to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will love you and honor you all the days of my life”. In accepting this challenge, you must take up your swords and prepare to do battle with a culture that as David Brooks of the New York Times has recently written, is ‘post Christian’. You are called to be faithful witnesses. You have been commissioned by Christ to be his ambassadors and a light to the community in which you live. And please keep in mind, that like the disciples of Emmaus, you’ll never walk alone. Jesus said: “I will be with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt.28:20).
In 1925, the songwriter Irving Berlin composed a song as a wedding gift for his bride. Perhaps some of you in this lovely chapel may recall the popular song “Always” The words of the song are heartfelt and unforgettable:
When the things you’ve planned need a helping hand I will understand Always.
Days may not be fair, always… that’s when I’ll be there, Always.
Not just for an hour, not just for a day, not just for a year, but Always.
Kevin and Kate, it is my wish that your marriage brings you joy, fulfillment and peace. And my prayer for you is that you love each other, Always!