Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wedding Mass of Christina Puno & Warren Okubo
Thank You for the Music

Readings: Genesis 1:26-28, 31a; Psalm 103:1-2, 8 & 13, 17-18a; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8a; John 15:9-12

Christina and Warren, dear friends, are you familiar with the word Abba? Some of you may know that in Aramaic, Abba means father. But that’s not the Abba I mean. I’m sure at least some of us here are also familiar with the Swedish pop group from the 1970’s. Perhaps some of us have watched the more recent musical, Mamma Mia, or the movie of the same name, which featured their songs. I don’t know how you feel about ABBA, and I’m sorry if this seems less than appropriate, but on this joyous occasion, I’m reminded of the following words from an ABBA song entitled Thank You for the Music.

I’m nothing special. In fact I’m a bit of a bore.
If I tell a joke, you’ve probably heard it before.
But I have a talent, a wonderful thing.
‘Cause everyone listens when I start to sing.
I’m so grateful and proud.
All I want is to sing it out loud.

So I say:
Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing.
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty?
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music.
For giving it to me.

Whether we like ABBA or not, I’m reminded of these words today because they resonate rather well with what we are doing here. As you may know, in the song, a woman celebrates and gives thanks for her musical talent: Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing… And aren’t we doing something very similar at this celebration too?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really know whether either of you, Christina or Warren, or any of the rest of us, for that matter, is musically inclined. No, the song that I’m referring to is of a different sort. The music for which we are giving thanks today is, of course, the love between Christina and Warren. One of the main things we are doing at this celebration is saying thank you for the music, thank you for the song of love that has brought together, not just these two young people, but also all of you, their family and friends. But what exactly is the nature of this song? Why are we so grateful for it? What does it sound like? From where does it come? And where does it lead us? The answers to these questions are found in the beautiful readings that you, Christina and Warren, have chosen for this celebration.

These readings tell us at least three things about the song for which we are giving thanks. The first is how precious, how very important, it is. For in the first reading, we are told that woman and man are made in the image and likeness of God: in the image of God he created… them. And we know, of course, from the first letter of John, that God is love (1 John 4:16). It follows, then, that the song of love that we are celebrating today is not something extra, something that is good to have but that we can actually do without. For if we are all made in the image of love, then we can remain human only to the extent that we keep singing love’s song. By inviting us to this celebration, Christina and Warren, you are reminding us that, as important as it may be to have a comfortable home, a good job, a stylish car, well-connected friends, lightning-fast Internet service, or HD TV, love is far more precious. For love is what makes us who we are – to be human is to be loved and to love. Or, if you prefer ABBA’s expression: who can live without it, I ask in all honesty? What would life be? Without a song or a dance, what are we?

And that’s not all. Not only is it precious, but our readings also tell us that this song of love is immensely powerful. Consider what we heard about love in the second reading. When faced with trying situations and difficult people, for example, when our tongues are itching to say something sarcastic or hurtful, when our hands are eager to wrap themselves around another’s throat and to give it a good shake, love gives us the power, instead, to be patient and kind. When circumstances – either experiences of failure or success – may lead us to think either too poorly or too highly of ourselves, love empowers us to be neither jealous nor pompous. And when it may seem that everyone around us delights only in that which is comfortable and convenient, in whatever is easy and painless, love enables us to rejoice only with the truth, even if the truth comes at a cost, as it did for the Lord Jesus and those who seek to follow him.

Yes, this song that we are celebrating today is indeed as powerful as it is precious. Which is why the readings remind us of a third important thing about this song of love. In order for it to endure in our lives, we have to do all we can to persevere in singing it. As Jesus tells us in the gospel, remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. Or, in the words of ABBA, we need to remember that we have all been given a wonderful thing, for which we are justifiably grateful and proud. Such that all we want to do is evermore to sing it out loud.

Dear friends, isn’t this why we are all here today? We have come to witness this joyous moment when you, Christina and Warren, will commit yourselves to each other, not just for a day, but for the rest of their lives, not just in good times, but also in bad, not just in the vigor of youth and health, but also even in the frailty of sickness and old age. Today you will declare before the church and the rest of the world that, through your life together, even when circumstances might seem to conspire to drown out your song, you wish to keep on singing.

And you, Christina’s and Warren’s family and friends, will also pledge to support them, to share in the song of their love. Why? Because, as Jesus reminds us in the gospel, I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. Whatever may happen in the future, whatever the price we may have to pay, we believe that as long as we continue to renew and to live out our commitment to singing this song that begins in God and that continues to resound among us, we will all be led ultimately to the fullness of joy.

Dear friends, today is indeed a joyous occasion. Christina and Warren, together with you, in this Eucharistic celebration, we all want to say a big thank you to God, and to one another. Together with you, we all want to say thank you for the music, the song that makes us grateful and proud! May our compassionate God grant us the power to keep on singing it out loud!


  1. What a beautiful song of love! This somehow reminds me of the movie August Rush, which some have said is just "a nice, but somewhat disjointed little feel-good movie."

    I feel good... differently. The little boy said, "The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen." What do you think this "music" is? How is it possible for a kid to use "music" to find his parents? How is it possible for his parents to have found each other through "music"? This "music" is no ordinary music! My earlier interpretation was that this "music" must be the spirit - the Holy Spirit.

    After reading your homily, Fr Chris, I see that this "music" is also the spirit of love! Yes, thank God for the music! And may God grant us the grace to keep on making beautiful music with our lives and to make them loud!

  2. Today (Jan 4, when I am reading this) is my 40th wedding anniversary. There could not have been a more meaningful message than this. Yes, married life can be a tremendous struggle. And sometimes one does feel like giving up. Life alone can be so much more simple. But so much less fulfilling. So thank you Father Chris for sharing this homily. And if I might add an extra prayer, to pray that even if thins seem hopeless, it is hopeless only if you give up. And to give up is to give up on Jesus.

  3. A poignant, heartfelt sharing that resonates with me more deeply now than it would have had at my January wedding day 2 decades ago.

    Revisiting my pre-wedding journal entries, I am amazed at the incredible stretching and growth the commitment to marriage has effected in my life; and how through the years, the need I had to turn to God for wisdom and strength to live out this commitment. Gratitude must go to the God of Love and Giver of the Song who plays his music through evey deep human relationship.

    Though I'd much prefer the beautiful, soothing melodies of "a little night music" to the crashing, discordant pieces of more modern-day composers, married life is often more about discerning God's hidden song in the diverse, disparate and often disturbing tunes of every-day living than a comfortable supply of flowers, wining, dining and sit-down flawless musical performances.

    For ultimately, we are the imperfect musical instruments trying to bring God's music into the messiness of real life, and perhaps be a source of cheer and comfort to a song-starved world.

    This inspiring homily of God's precious, powerful and persevering love lived out in deeply committed relationships (whether in marriage or community) is a message for all. For ultimately, marriage is about making visible (no matter how imperfectly) God's faithful and fruitful love for his bride in each one of us. And God's love is eternal.

    Blessings to the bridal couple.

  4. How true the comments on the importance of commitment and perseverance in all relationships, when things seem to be at their darkest.

    While two are needed to develop a relationship it only take one to break it. And the one who does, can often think of many reasons, both divine and human not to continue.

    Yet to live through and persist in an unhappy marriage, rebellion by a child, being let down by friends, is the call for each of us to return to our source of the Music: of Love and Life.

    It is only when I turn to Him and receive His Music in my heart, and learn to accept and love my own nonsense, and brokenness. That I can begin to accept the nonsense and imperfections in all the significant others in my live. And perhaps, begin to truly love.

    Thank you for the Music!