Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Homily for the Wedding of Dawn Franzen and Daniel Fletcher

Deacon Jerry Franzen 9/15/18       Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
Sirach 26:1-4, 13-16      Ephesians 5: 2a, 21-33       John 2:1-11 

Praised be Jesus Christ.  Good afternoon.
Welcome to the wedding of Dawn Franzen and Daniel Fletcher.

A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor for his physical.
After the doctor finished the various procedures,
he asked the wife for a private conference with her
before they left the office.
“Your husband,” the doctor said, “is under a great deal of stress 
and you must devote your life to sheltering and comforting him.
Don’t argue or disagree with him.
Get up early each morning and fix his favorite breakfast.
Spend the morning cleaning house,
but have a nice lunch ready at noon,
if he happens to come home.
You can spend the afternoon on chores outside the house,
but make sure that a special dinner is waiting for him
when he returns.
The evening hours may be spent watching sports with him on TV.
This must be your schedule to help him through this.”
The wife left the office, picked up her husband and drove him home.
“Well,” asked the husband,”what did the doctor say?”
“He said,” replied the wife, “that you’re going to die.”

That story requires that we reflect on the proper relationship
between a husband and wife.
That relationship is not the one expressed in the doctor’s directions
nor the one exhibited by the attitude of the wife.
Dawn and Daniel, your relationship is the heart of the matter
this afternoon.
The story presents the self-centered extremes of a husband and wife,
the very antithesis of love.
It prompts the question, “What makes a good spouse?”

*A Protestant minister once described a religious person
as a strange mixture of three persons:
a poet, a lunatic and a lover.
I think we can apply this analogy to a couple who is about to
embark on the great adventure of married life.


By poet I do not mean that you must compose cute little verses
for each other.
“How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways
I love thee to the depth and the height that my soul can reach.” Etc.
Maybe you would do that, but not just that.
Poets are people of profound faith.
They see beneath appearances with new eyes and
then put the essence of what they sense into words.      
The Blessed Virgin Mary noticed that the wine supply was low
and her Son was present.
She knew that Jesus COULD take care of the problem.
Her words were simply, “They have no wine.” –
no motherly direction to her Son on what to do. Faith.
She had faith that He WOULD take care of it,
despite his questioning, “What does this have to do with me?”
There was no need for motherly advice; her words were simply
to the waiters, ”Do whatever he tells you.”

Dawn and Daniel, without faith in each other and God, you risk
seeing only as far as the eye can see,
and losing the wonder, the miracle, in the other person.
That other was made by God, in His image, for you.
Without faith, you see only what grows old, gray and feeble.
Pray for the poet within you to see in the other what God sees.  


You must have some degree of lunacy, and
by that I do not mean “off your rocker” lunacy
I mean a “wild ideas” lunacy,
A lunacy that fully understands what others might see
as foolishness, like the foolishness of the cross,
believing in the seeming foolishness of the Messiah
suffering and dying as a criminal.
It means the wild idea of persons
who are ready to give all of themselves for God.
and for each other in this era of the “me” generation.
Many in these times would class this self giving as foolishness
when we are constantly being told to grab for all that we can.
In the second reading some focus on the line containing
“wives should be subordinate to their husbands”
and somehow lose sight of the rest of the reading
St. Paul does not mean a wife is not equal to her husband.
In fact, he is expressing just the opposite.
In that reading from the letter to the Ephesians
St. Paul clearly states:
“Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ”
BEFORE he gets specific about wives or husbands.
Wives and husbands are to be subordinate to each other.
that certainly sounds like lunacy, doesn’t it?  How can that be?
Each subordinate to the other?
It sounds like a general out-ranking a major
while the major outranks the general.  Lunacy.
Well, it is all tied up in the meaning of the word “subordinate.”
St. Paul is saying that the relationship between husband and wife
should be the same as the relationship
between Christ and the Church.
The reading in two places described that relationship:
The Church must be subordinate to Christ
by giving itself to Christ.
And Christ made himself subordinate to the Church
by giving His life for the Church.
Dawn and Daniel, you are embarking on a life together
with this premise of  being subordinate to each other,
and that may sound like lunacy to many.
Near the end of that second reading,
St. Paul did admit that it is a great mystery.


That giving of self, the being “subordinate”
is the definition of true love, of God-like love.
St. Paul says that it is great mystery,
but we have ample evidence in the married present here
that St. Paul’s great mystery can be lived out.
Dawn and Daniel, you may be wondering
just how YOU will be able to live that mystery.
Mysteries can be lived, but only with the grace of God,
the wisdom expressed in the words of His Son
and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
In Greek there are four words
used to show different nuances of “love.”
One of them, “agape,” represents the love
that is rooted in the sacrifice one makes for another.
That is the God-like love of which I speak.
It is the complete antithesis of the relationship
the doctor expressed in the introductory story
and the attitude of the wife in that story.
It is the essence of the covenant God has made with each of us;
This is what Paul was getting at in the second reading.
It is also what Sirach was saying in the first reading.
That reading was heavily skewed
toward the effort and the sacrifices of the wife.
One could just as easily write a counterpart to it for the husband.
That would be a good homework assignment for someone.

Dawn and Daniel, your relationship must be structured
as described by St. Paul as giving your lives for each other,
as in that great mystery.
Remember that such a great mystery can only be lived out
with the help of God.
May a request for that help be your constant prayer. 
**Now I would like to direct some remarks particularly to you,
dear friends.
You have come together in this glorious Cathedral
not just to ooh and aah at the beauty of this ceremony.
You are here because each of you has played a role in this love story.
You are here to celebrate with Dawn and Daniel
that their love has culminated in this sacrament.
But when they walk down the aisle at the recessional,
and you follow, your task is not done.
For Daniel and Dawn will live their love not on some fantasy island,
but in a world where love mingles with hate,
belief struggles against cynicism,
hope all too often ends in despair,
and death never takes a holiday.
They must live their love
when the wonder of each other gives way to the routine,
when the joy of their journey is confronted with
what we now call “reality.”
Wedded love cannot subsist without support.
It needs the solid foundation of God’s love.
If Daniel and Dawn are truly to recognize the Lord as their helper
they need to know how to welcome God into their marriage.
They need men and women,
who, have lived the love that has endured good times and bad,
poverty and plenty, sickness and health.
They need men and women who can tell them without words,
but by their sheer presence, that, Yes, it can be done;
that, with God, all things are possible.
I know many of you married couples
and I know that you have the experience of which I speak.
My dear friends, you are not mere spectators;
you are an integral part of this event.
You are here to indicate your willingness to be those examples.

For this reason,
when Dawn and Daniel join their hands and hearts
a few moments from now,
I invite the wedded among you to join your hands,
and to murmur softly or just express silently in your soul
those awesome words that gave you to each other,
for as long as life pulses within you.

I can think of no greater gift –
not Wedgewood china or Tiffany crystal –
that you can offer this afternoon to Dawn and Daniel.
For in this gift, in your daily example of sacrificial love,
you are giving this dear couple the best possible gift.
You are giving them yourselves.

 *Frederick Buechner, The Magnificient Defeat (New York: Seabury, 1966) p 23
** Based on  Rev Walter Burghardt, Speak the Word with Boldness (New York: Paulist Press, 1994) p 135