Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wedding Mass of Roberto & Marina
When Clothes Make the Marriage

Readings: Genesis 1:26-28, 31; Psalm 33; Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 19:3-6

Clothes make the man. Sisters and brothers, I think you’ve probably heard this proverb before, right? Clothes make the man (or woman). You know what it means. The proverb refers to how, for better or for worse, we often judge one another by our appearances. By the clothes we wear. Which is not always a good thing, because it can lead to mistakes being made. For example, a person who may dress very poorly–because he feels comfortable in old and worn-out clothes–may in fact be very rich. But, despite this risk of mistakes, isn’t there still a sense in which the proverb may actually be true?

Clothes make the man. Isn’t it true that the way we dress does actually have an effect on how we feel? On how we carry and conduct ourselves? We see this most clearly, of course, in the comic books. For example, dressed in ordinary street clothes, Tony Stark is just an arrogant but brilliant billionaire. But once he puts on his suit of armour, he is transformed into Ironman, superhero extraordinaire. But it’s not just the superheroes who experience this. We do too, don’t we? Putting on a smart well-tailored suit, for example, may help a corporate executive to feel and act confident and successful. Just as my wearing of these religious vestments can help me and the congregation to enter more deeply into worship. And perhaps we may also ask Marina how she feels in her beautiful wedding dress. Or Roberto, in his stylish suit. Very likely, donning these special forms of dress does in fact help them to enter more deeply into the joyful mystery of matrimonial union that we are gathered here to celebrate today. What does this tell us, sisters and brothers, if not that, like Ironman’s armour, the clothes we wear can give us power of some sort.

Clothes make the man. There is indeed a sense in which this is true. And I mention this only because, through the readings that they have chosen for this happy occasion, Marina and Roberto seem to be reminding us of something very similar. Consider what we heard in the second reading from the letter to the Colossians. Notice how the reading begins: You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience... You should be clothed… What is the writer doing, sisters and brothers, if not describing for us a spiritual dress code. A uniform of goodness to be worn by all those that God has chosen to be saints of God. This is neither a tuxedo nor an evening dress, but a suit made up of spiritual virtues of different kinds. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience... And this uniform of goodness bestows on the wearer a special power. The virtues that make up this suit help the members of the community not just to remain united among themselves, but also, and most importantly, to remain close to Christ.

Not only do clothes make the man. Clothes also make the saint. And clothes make the church. But that’s not all. There is something more. Something more specific. For, if it is true that this uniform of goodness makes both the saint and the church, then it must follow that it also has the power to make a marriage. If it is true that the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience do confer power to unite a community, then it stands to reason that they have the power also to unite two different people in holy matrimony. Even to bind them so closely together that–in the words of Jesus to the Pharisees in the gospel–the man and the woman become no longer two but one body.

Not only do clothes make the saint. Not only do clothes make the church. Clothes also make the marriage. This is the lesson that you, Marina and Roberto, are proposing to us today. The power to preserve and nurture the marriage bond comes from putting on the uniform of goodness, the suit of virtue described in the second reading. But, as those among us who have been married for some time will probably be able to testify, this is easier said than done. It’s not always easy to be kind and humble, gentle and patient with another. Especially when work pressures increase, or when the baby comes along, or when illness knocks on our door. In challenging times like these, from where am I to find patience, when it appears that I’m filled with nothing but bad temper? From where am I to find kindness, when my tongue is just itching to say something critical or sarcastic? From where am I to find the virtues that together make up this uniform of goodness that I’m supposed to be wearing?

Even if it’s true, sisters and brothers, that clothes makes a marriage, the question remains, from where are we to find this clothing? Are we to manufacture it for ourselves? The first reading provides us with a hint of an answer by reminding us of two things. First, that God created us in God’s own image and likeness. And, second, that when God saw everything that he created, God found it to be very good. From where, then, are we to find the uniform of goodness, if not from the hand of God. And if this is true, then it’s important for us to remember that a vibrant marriage depends not just on us, but especially on God.

In order, then, for the bond of marriage to grow and deepen, attention needs to be paid not just to one’s relationship to one’s spouse and to one’s immediate family, but also to one’s relationship to God, as well as to the wider community. For as the response to the psalm tells us, the earth is full of the goodness of God. On days when my own goodness is in short supply. On days when my own patience is at an end. On days when kindness seems missing from my heart. Still all is not lost. For God remains the Source of all Goodness. If only I have the time and the humility to ask. And not just from God, but also from friends and relatives. From all of you, who have gathered here this afternoon, to show your support for Marina and Roberto. To express your friendship.

Clothes make the marriage. And God alone is the Divine Seamstress, providing us with the virtues that unite us in a bond of love. Sisters and brothers, as we celebrate this joyous occasion, how might we continue to clothe ourselves with the goodness that God offers us today?

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