I would like to begin this homily today by sharing with you the extraordinary story of how this boy, Andrew, met this girl, Laura. Picture Andrew, walking one morning across the University of Wisconsin campus in the deep cold of winter. He is on his way to Chadborn Hall where a prayer group is meeting for their twice-weekly 7:30 rosary.
He walks into the room where the group is meeting and casts his eyes, for the very first time, upon a drowsy-eyed coed named Laura. And can you guess what Andrew said to himself when his eyes saw Laura for the very first time? That’s right. He said to himself, “Oh, I don’t know who that is.” This reaction, of course, is to be expected, since Andrew and Laura didn’t know each other prior to being introduced a few moments later.
Now Andrew’s first impression is not what makes this an extraordinary story. Did you notice what was the extra-ordinary part? Here it is: Here we have two college students, getting up, out of warm beds, on a cold day, to pray a rosary, at 7:30 in the morning! Now, you have to understand, in College Student Time, this is like getting up at 4:30 AM. Your typical college student doesn’t get up any earlier than he has to, but these two got up… to pray. For this and a thousand other reasons, I think you will all agree with me, that we have here two extra-ordinary people, from whom we good reason to expect an extraordinary marriage.
Do you two want to ensure you share an extraordinary marriage together? Then there are three things that I, as an ordained servant of Jesus Christ, believe that you should do.
First, like Tobit and his wife Sarah in our first reading, you should pray together. Of course you must pray individually. And of course you must pray with your children once they come. But you also need to pray together. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated. Just hold each others’ hands a few moments before you part for work, or stand, or kneel, at your bedside, like Tobit and Sarah did, and speak aloud from your hearts to God. Ask blessings for each other, and give thanks for all the blessing you have received, and close you prayer by saying, “Amen, amen.”
Some couples find this kind of prayer too intimidating, or too personal, to be attempted; for our prayers express our most intimate selves, our fears, our hopes, our pains, our joys, our deepest longings. If you pray honestly in this way, nothing will be hidden between you. Today you will vow to give yourselves completely to each other. Do you want to be truly and totally one? Then pray together. Through marriage you will share of one flesh, if but pray together and you will also share of one spirit. Pray together and you will share an extraordinary marriage as one flesh with one soul. So please, pray together.
The second thing you should do for an extraordinary marriage is to come to Mass. Come to Mass every Sunday and every holy day of obligation. Come, and be moved by the beauty of architecture and songs. Come, and be strengthened by the experience of Christian fellowship. Come, and be inspired by the eloquence of Gospel preaching.
No doubt some people hear this and think to themselves, “That sounds great… But our church is ugly and the songs are dumb and hard to sing. And our community is little more than a gathering of strangers. And our priest always gives the same boring homilies.” Which all boils down to saying, I just don’t get anything out of going to Mass. Then hear this, even if everything else is lacking at Mass, Jesus Christ is always here for us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. At Mass, the one sacrifice of Calvary and the Last Supper are made truly present to us for us to receive their power.
At Mass Jesus Christ shows us the perfect spousal love that He calls each of us to imitate. Jesus never called himself “the bachelor.” No, He joyfully called himself “the bridegroom” and eagerly seeks to unite himself to His bride. On the cross, naked without shame, He consummates this union with her, giving himself freely, fully, fruitfully, and forever… freely, fully, fruitfully, and forever. Do you want your union with each other to be free, fully, fruitful, and forever? Then come to Mass to learn the pattern of how Christ loves us and draw from the power He offers us through communion with Him. His is the pattern and the power for an extraordinary marriage. So please, come to Mass.
The third and final thing you should do for an extraordinary marriage is to be salt and light in the world. What does this mean? Being salt and light means that your Christianity should show. As Jesus says, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Your good deeds should stand out in the world. As St. Paul says in the second reading, “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” If the world never judges you to be radical in any aspect of your Christian life, then you’re not doing it right. Then you’re not yet living as salt and light–you’re not yet living like the saints. For example, everyone loves their friends, but who loves their enemies and prayers for them? Most people pray, but who spends a long time to be with God every day. Many people can give when times are prosperous, but who gives generously when times are tight? Such things as this are what it means to be the light and the salt of the world. Light is different than the darkness, and salt makes the ordinary flavorful.
Clearly, you two are salt and light already, for who goes on weekend retreats to know God better? Or who drives to Washington D.C. to march for life? Or who goes down to Louisiana to volunteer for Hurricane relief? Or who get up at 7:30 in the morning to pray the Rosary? So, please keep on being salt and light, and your marriage will be extraordinary.
Years from now, I don’t expect that you will remember much from this homily, but I hope you remember these three things: Pray together, come to Mass, and be salt and light and you will have an extraordinary marriage.
[Preached as a deacon for my sister’s wedding, November 22, 2008]