God's blessings on the marriage of Megan and Jonathan!
Sarah Smith comes down from heaven to welcome her husband Frank at its threshold. Glorious in her resurrection, Sarah shares God’s love with all she meets, yet she greets Frank with an apology. Sarah confesses that in their earthly marriage, she loved him “only in a poor sort of way.” While there was a little real love in it, she mostly loved him for her own sake because she needed Frank. Living fully in Christ’s love, Sarah grew to understand that real love is a giving love, not one based on need. That’s the message of our Gospel, and the secret to a happy marriage.
In our very brief Gospel passage, Jesus invokes the word “love” seven times and invites us to “remain in his love” three times. In our second reading, Saint Paul encourages the Colossians to “put on love,” which he calls the “bond of perfection.” Jesus and Saint Paul aren’t talking about any old love, like loving pie or the Lakers. They’re talking about a completely selfless, giving love. They’re talking about God’s love.
It’s humbling to consider that God created us and everything around us purely out of love. What does that mean? “God did not need to create the world because he needed someone to talk to, or to have friends or because he needed or wanted our submission . . . . The world is not created because of some lack in God.” The world is created purely out of love. God’s love doesn’t need anything; it’s pure gift. That’s why Thomas Aquinas defines love as “willing the good of another, and not willing my own good through another.”
Christ’s invitation to remain in his love is wonderful advice for marriage. You see, when we remain in God’s love, we have everything we need. As Sarah explained to Frank, when we’re in Love Himself, there’s nothing more we need. Then, when we have no need for each other, we can begin to really love each other. God’s love transcends our needs, and moves us beyond our own self-interest to care and concern for the one we love. Married love differs from other kinds of love because its essence is giving – giving one’s whole self to another, and therein lies the wonderful gift and the great challenge of marriage.
Marriage isn’t easy. We’re not always giving; we’re not always loving; and we’re not always lovable (Although I think Megan might always be lovable). But Megan and Jon, if you follow Saint Paul’s advice, if you exercise the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love, you will remain in God’s love, you’ll bring God’s love to each other, and God’s love will carry you through any hardships you may face.
We’ve been preparing for this day together for a year now, and in that time I’ve become convinced that your relationship has a whole lot of real love in it. Your love for each other is a giving love; it’s God’s love. You’ve shared God’s love with me, and I know that you share it with each other. How do I know? Well, I asked Megan and Jon separately what they loved the most about each other. Since I warned them that anything sweet or funny that they say during marriage prep is fair game for my homily, allow me share a few of their responses with you: When I asked Megan what she loved most about Jon, she said, “His heart; he’s patient; and the kind, loving person that he is.” She also said that he’s not a Saint and that she used to laugh more at him than with him when they first started dating. When I asked Jon what he loved most about Megan, he said, “The way she treats others; her positive outlook; she’s supportive and understanding; and she always sees the best in people.” He also said that she leaves fingerprints all over his car seat.
Readings: Sirach 26: 1-4, 13-16; Psalm 145; Colossians 3:12-17; John 15: 9-12