Love never fails, humans fail to love! – Homily for the nuptials of Ryan and Shelly – 11.12.22
By and large there is a tendency to pick and choose ones reading for a nuptial mass, sadly even on a Sunday, disrupting the liturgy of the Church. It’s as if we want to tell God what we want to hear, rather than listen to what God has to say. The Gospel of today, the third Sunday in Advent has much to say to us as pilgrims in this advent season and much for you, my dear Ryan and Shelly to ponder, as you begin this new journey.
The Gospel of St Matthew 11:2-11 is also found in Luke 7:18-23 with a few minor differences. The thrust is the same; John sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, to enquire what ought to be for us the perfect advent question, “are you the one to come, or should we wait for another?” (11:3)
Right away this question should strike us as odd and even alarming. Was it not St John the Baptist who in John 1:29-36 affirmed Jesus as “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?” Is John having doubts about his own cousin? How could John doubt Jesus when Jesus so graciously hailed John as one who was greater than any born of woman?
There are two reflections that we can ponder on based on this question. The first, do I have expectations of others that leave me deflated when not matched. The second, is it wrong to have doubts?
Let us tackle the second question first. Is it ‘wrong’ to have doubts? Clearly John had doubts or as some would call it ‘second thoughts’. One might think that a doubt such as this is a grevious offence against God. John doubted if Jesus was the Messiah, the anointed one.
Our lives are filled with doubt. A decision such as this that we are participating, a marriage of two young people, is fraught with doubts and understandably so. Is the person I am marrying the right one for me? Will they be there for me in good time and in bad?
To have doubts is not sinful or wrong; to have doubts is human; yet to be paralysed by doubt is grievously harmful. There would always be marriages around us that fail, that does not make marriage a failure. There are people who profess their love and do not live by it, that does not make love a failure. It is natural to begin to have doubts when we see failed marriages of others in what ought to be a “happily ever after” for them; but to paralysed by doubt and reject marriage and love would be foolishness.
Yes, we should not “fall” in love blindly. Marriage needs to be well considered. Perhaps some of us would be better off as bachelors or spinsters. Perhaps some are called in God’s service. All are not called to marriage. But should we feel that we are called to married life, then a leap of faith is what we called to. Do not let your marriage or your relationship become a case of paralysis by analysis.
How is doubt overcome? It is overcome through faith. The apostles had doubts. “Lord, we believe, help our unbelief.” Thomas was questioning enough to be labelled doubting Thomas. Yet in moments like this the Lord asks us to trust in him, to put our faith in him, to walk with him. “Doubt no longer he says to you both, Shelly and Ryan, but believe!”
I invite you to ponder now on the first question that I raised; do I have expectations of others that leave me deflated when not matched? Clearly John the Baptist, like the people of his time had expectations. Some, at the time of Jesus expected the Messiah to be like King David. Some expected a wonder working Messiah and still others a liberator that would over throw the Romans. Jesus was none of these. Sitting in his prison cell, John had been hearing of everything that Jesus was not according to peoples expectations and doubt set in .
So many marriages fall apart because expectations are not met. I am not advocating that we should suspend all expectations from a marriage but so much is lost when our expectations do not match what we think we should get. It leaves us feeling lost, cheated and angry. Ironically Jesus did not come to meet our or the expectations of the people of his time. I repeat, he did not come to meet our expectations, he came to meet our need. We were in need of a saviour, but sadly many of us would rather have a wonder working Messiah.
As a young priest, I used to tell married couples to give a hundred percent of themselves in a marriage. What a fool I was. Today, for me, 40 is the new hundred. Focus on what you have, cherish what you have, celebrate what you have and forget what you could have. Perhaps your marriage gives you just 40 per cent, that’s passing marks, begin from there and build up rather than focus on the 60 percent you think you ought to get. Grow from where you are not what you think you should have. 40 is the new hundred!
In all of this there is another lesson to learn. When John had doubts he did not come to his own conclusion; rather he clarified. So much of life is destroyed because we do not sit down and ask the right questions; we rather find comfort in jumping to conclusions. John asked a simple question, “are you the one to come……
Clarifications quells doubts. Jesus was not offended by the question of doubt, yet interestingly he did not dictate a doctrine on Christology. Jesus invites the disciple to be immersed in an experience. Go tell John what you hear and see. Marriage is an experience not a check list that needs to be ticked. Perhaps today, many lists were ticked in order to bring this wedding to a perfection. Yet marriage has no tick boxes that need to be met rather experiences that need to be cherished.
Finally, our Gospel ends with a question that Jesus asked his disciples about John; this is a question that you Shelly and Ryan can ask your selves. When John’s disciples departed, Jesus looked at his disciples and said, “ What did you go out to look for?” John was no namby-pamby that would bend like a reed to the whims and whines of Herod Antipas. John was in prison because he would not bend his morals. John was also no prophet dressed in soft robes. So what is it that you are looking for? So many of us are looking for love yet in reality what we want is security or comfort. If you’re looking for love in a marriage, don’t expect a two bedroom furnished apartment. If you get it, good for you! If not, be happy with love, after all that is what you wanted.
Look around, so many of our parents married for love, material blessing were a long way coming. They made thigs work, they did not walk out on each other even with philandering partners or drunks for a spouse. I am not advocating abuse but pleading to fight for what we pledged on our wedding day.
Your wedding card my dear Ryan and Shelly, unusually beautiful as it is, got my eye for more reasons than just its colour. Printed on the top was a single heart that said “love never fails” a text from 1 Corinthians 13. How right you are, love never fails, humans fail to love!
May God bless you and may the words of the Gospel proclaimed at your nuptials guide you.
Fr Warner D’souza