Wedding of John & Angie
Beyond the Smallest Squares
Readings: Ecclesiasticus 26:1-4, 13-16; Psalm 127: 1-5; Ephesians 5:2, 21-33; Mark 10:6-9
John & Angie, sisters and brothers, have you ever come across a puzzle that is presented as a square diagram? In the square, many other lines are drawn, so as to form smaller squares. You’re then asked for the total number of squares that you can see. The puzzle may look easy at first. What can be simpler than counting squares? But there’s actually more to it than we think. As you may know, many of us will tend to count only the smallest squares inside the diagram. But those are not the only ones that we can see. We easily overlook the fact that these smallest squares make up larger ones, which also need to be counted. And, of course, the whole diagram itself is also a square. That needs to be counted too. To solve the puzzle, we have to count not just the smallest squares, but the larger ones as well. Without forgetting the largest.
To look beyond the smallest squares. This is a challenge that we face too, as we gather here this afternoon. Today, we are here to witness the coming together of both of you, Angie and John, in holy matrimony. Today, we share your joy and excitement as you profess your marriage vows to each other. Today, it’s quite obvious to all of us that the spotlight is shining brightly on you both, Angie and John. And yet, even as all the attention may be focused on you, we may also ask ourselves a question that is similar to the one posed by the puzzle. Not how many squares do we see?, but how many parties are there in a marriage? How many parties does it take to make a marriage work? At first glance, the answer is simple. A marriage is between a husband and a wife. John and Angie. Two parties. What could be simpler?
And yet, as those of us here who are already married will probably be able to tell us, it takes more than two parties to make a successful marriage. The husband and the wife are just the smallest squares in the puzzle. There are larger ones as well. Our scripture readings for today tell us the same thing. In the gospel, Jesus says that a man must leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two become one body. At first, this may sound as though Jesus is saying that a marriage consists only of husband and wife. But that is not all. Jesus also says that it is God who has made them male and female. It is God who brings the two together as one. And what God has united, man must not divide. The strength of the union between a husband and his wife depends not just on their love for each other. It depends ultimately on God. To love each other as they should, the spouses must first learn to love the One who has loved them into existence, and who has brought them together.
The first reading gives us a similar message. At first, it may seem that the reading speaks to us only about two parties. It’s all about what a great blessing a good wife is to her husband. Now we know, of course, that this was written many hundreds of years ago. At that time, the husband was still considered the head of the household. But now, things are a bit different. Now, many married couples see themselves as equals. So we can just as easily think of a good husband as being a great blessing to his wife. But that’s not all. The reading is not just about two parties. For not only does it tell us what a great blessing a good spouse will be to his/her partner, it also tells us what kind of person is likely to be blessed in this way. A good wife (or husband) is the best of portions, it says, reserved for those who fear the Lord. The ones who are more likely to be blessed with a good spouse are the ones who put God first in their lives. Again, the message is that there are more parties to a happy marriage than just the husband and the wife. There is more to the puzzle than the smallest squares.
But does marriage then involve only three parties? The husband, the wife, and God? Is that all? Not quite. Our second reading explains to us that there are more. It reminds us that the marriage between a husband and a wife is modelled on another marriage: The marriage between Christ Jesus and the community of his disciples–the Church. As Christians, we believe that Jesus died and rose again for us. And, by doing this, he made us members of his Body. We, the members of the Church, are the living parts of the Body of Christ. And it is from this Body, that each of us draws the strength to live good lives. It is from this Body that a husband draws the strength that he needs to love his wife. And the wife her husband. Both in good times and in bad. In sickness and in health. Till death finally draws them apart. It is also from this Body, that both husband and wife draw strength to bear and to bring up children in the love of God.
These then, are the parties in a happy marriage. Not just husband and wife, but also God–who joins the two of them together as one–as well as Jesus the Lord–who gathers and strengthens them in his Body, the Church. If all this is true, then, in the days ahead, it is important not just that you, Angie and John, continue to strengthen their love for each other. It is also important, if you wish to build a happy marriage, that you continue to strengthen your connections with God and Christ and Church. It is also important that the rest of us gathered here on this joyous occasion commit ourselves to supporting John and Angie in their life as a married couple.
Sisters and brothers, Angie and John, how willing are we to see beyond the smallest squares today?