Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony
Patrick Moyer and Rachel McCarthy
The Secret of Setting Up Shop
Picture: cc ralph and jenny

My dear friends, have you ever been to the opening of a new store? What was it like? I remember when the Apple Store opened some months ago on State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara. It was such a grand and joyous affair. The line of people waiting to get in stretched almost halfway around the block. But beneath all the fun and excitement, I imagine that much serious thought was also put into ensuring the store’s success. Which is important especially in the current economic climate where, as you probably know, at least on State Street, the turnover rate is particularly high. Many stores don’t survive beyond a few months. But then, there are also others that seem to thrive. I know of a sushi restaurant, for example, that opens only for dinner, but is always filled to the rafters. So what is the secret? What are some of the things that help to ensure a store’s success?

I’m not a business person. But I imagine that at least three things are crucial. The first is, of course, location. As far as possible, you want to situate your store at a place that’s conducive for the particular kind of business that you’re operating, a location that’s convenient for both your suppliers and your customers. But that’s not all. A store’s success will also depend upon the product or service that it provides. It’s got to be something that people need or want. For example, there are no less than six coffeeshops on Downtown State Street. And, as far as I can tell, all of them are doing well. Why? I guess, everyone gets thirsty. Finally, of course, in addition to location and service, one must also have access to the necessary capital to get the store set up and to keep it running. A successful business doesn’t usually flourish without continuous careful attention. It requires a considerable investment of resources, both financial and otherwise.

Dear friends, today we are, of course, not gathered here for a store opening. But we are celebrating the union of Pat and Rachel in Holy Matrimony. We’re here to support Pat and Rachel in their new undertaking. We’re here to share their joy as they set up shop as husband and wife. And, as with any store opening, together with Pat and Rachel, we do well to consider some of the crucial ingredients for success. Especially at a time when the turnover rate for marriages seems particularly high, we need to give serious thought to location, service and investment.

Consider first the location to which Pat and Rachel have invited us. In choosing to be married in church, Pat and Rachel are doing more than simply giving us an excuse to gather in this beautiful building. In choosing a church wedding, they signal to us their determination to situate their life together in a very particular spiritual location. We find the shape of this spiritual location described in the scripture readings that Pat and Rachel have chosen for this joyous occasion.

In the gospel, Jesus speaks about the nature of the union between a husband and a wife by referring to what God intended at the beginning of creation. Jesus alludes to the creation story in the book of Genesis, where God’s plan was not just to bring a man and a woman together, but also to give them a happy and harmonious life in the Garden of Eden, a place in which every created thing exists in right relationship -- the man with the woman, humanity with the environment, all of creation with its Creator.

And if the gospel reminds us of the harmony that characterized the beginning of creation, the second reading speaks of the how this harmony eventually comes to its fulfillment at the end of time. The image offered to us is that of the marriage between the Lamb and his bride the Church, the union between Christ and God’s chosen people.

It is between these two unions -- one at the beginning of creation, and the other at the end of time -- that Pat and Rachel have chosen to situate their own coming together as husband and wife. And this choice of location also indicates to us the service that they wish to offer to us and to all the world. In a society polarized by various apparently opposing ideologies, in a world torn by conflict and division, through their commitment of love for each other, Pat and Rachel are bearing witness to the possibility of lives lived in harmony and right relationship, in unity and peace.

But this happy state of affairs does not come about without a willingness to make a substantial investment. As we heard in the first reading, a husband is happy when he is blessed with the gift of a good and virtuous wife, a partner willing to invest herself completely in their life together. And what is said of the husband is, of course, equally applicable to that of the wife. Her happiness is linked to the willingness of her husband to invest himself totally in their life together. Still, as those among us who are already married probably know well, this kind of investment is not easy to make. It’s especially difficult once the euphoria of the honeymoon is past. When a couple is faced with the ordinary challenges of daily routine, when one might discover, for example, that one’s partner is determined to squeeze the toothpaste from the middle of the tube instead of from the end, or that the other has an allergy to doing the dishes or taking out the trash, it becomes so much more difficult to remain totally invested.

Which is why the location chosen by Pat and Rachel for their marriage is such a wise and prudent one. For by making this choice, they demonstrate their awareness that their ability and willingness to invest fully in their relationship does not come ultimately from them. As our second reading tells us, the linen dress worn by the bride of the Lamb, which symbolizes the virtuous deeds of God’s saints, is itself a gift from her spouse. The bride’s virtue is a gift that was paid for by the Lamb, when he gave his life for his spouse, when he shed his last drop of blood for her on the Cross. In choosing to celebrate their union in church, in choosing this particular spiritual location for the beginning of their life together, Pat and Rachel are expressing their determination to rely upon the prior investment of Christ in the life of his Church. And we who are witnesses to their commitment, in turn, commit ourselves to giving them our continual support and encouragement.

Dear friends, you have all probably heard that well known phrase that goes: a wedding is for a day, but a marriage is for a lifetime. In the days ahead, together with Pat and Rachel, how might each of us remain attentive to location, service and investment in the shophouse of the Lord?

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