Tobit 8:4-8; Ephesians 5:2,21-33; Matt 19:3-6
"They are no longer two but one."
"Brothers and sisters, live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us."
"On their wedding night Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, "Sister, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant deliverance."
Today i will celebrate a wedding in Round Rock, Texas. I have known the family for many years. I have presided at weddings and baptisms and funerals of loved ones.
It has become for me one of those strange and yet beautiful relationships. As a priest, it is true our own family often takes backstage to the families we serve. It is difficult at times to even begin to register the effect of being drawn away from your own blood in order to be more available to those who have been united to you by the blood of Christ.
But as with all things, God's generosity is never out done. When we give of ourselves God always paves a way forward that is stranger and more beautiful still.
So today I journey to Round Rock, Texas. The pastor, a friend, has given me permission to preside at this wedding and i am grateful.
A few years ago, i presided at the funeral of the bride's sister. It was a difficult time. And now, i travel with a different sentiment welling in my heart. But a similar message remains.
Both in the death and in marriage the cross of Christ stands at the center.
Today, the bride and groom will exchange their vows holding on to a crucifix. Imagine as they say those words, "I promise to be true in good times and bad, sickness and health, to love an honor all the days of my life" their hands shall be pressed tightly around the cross of Christ.
Can we think of any other place more meaningful.
I am told this is a croatian tradition. The people of Croatian for many years have been exchanging vows with hands wrapped around the cross. I am told that the divorce rate is almost nil since the tradition began.
However, I surmise the tradition does not begin in Croatia but rather on Calvary. It is on the cross Christ proves himself faithful to his bride the church. He shows himself loyal no matter the circumstances. His love shines forth regardless of the feelings and terror and tremors associated with the crucifixion. In fact, the cross reveals that love is a power to give of oneself and to seek the highest good of the other. Is this not the vocation of marriage?
In Croatia, I am told that the priest says these words as the couple embraces the cross, "You have found your cross. It is a cross to love, to carry with you, to cherish." After the exchange the priest invites the couple to kiss the cross.
Kiss the cross.
Jesus tells us in the gospel that unless we pick up our cross daily and follow him we cannot be his disciple.
Here the bride and groom become more deeply aware of the cross Jesus invites them to carry. They do not have to look for one that is hidden. No! Their cross is in plain sight. The vocation to marriage becomes that reference point, that axis by which their life will unfold and enter into new life.
The cross is the point by which newness is born into our world. Such it will be for the couple as they journey forth.
This is why Tobiah in his prayer in the first reading states matter of factly, "Lord, you know I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose."
Is there anything more noble than the cross. In the cross of Christ nobility of purpose is introduced into our world. It becomes a sensible and tangible part of our life.
This couple begins their married life together hand in hand on the cross and nobility shall follow them all the days of their life.
"Live in love as Christ loved us an hand himself over to us." True love is the power to give oneself for the other. In the cross this exchange is made real and through the cross it empowers us to do the same daily.
You have found your cross. Love it, carry it, cherish it. Nobility of purpose shall blossom forth.
This is the witness we are in need of today.