Sunday, May 26, 2013

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (C)
Beyond The Paradox of Publicity

Sisters and brothers, have you ever had to manage publicity of some kind? Say, for example, you wanted to spread the word about an event you were organising. Or maybe you were trying to keep some information from certain people. If you’ve ever had experiences like that, you’ll probably have noticed something very puzzling, something even paradoxical, about publicity. The paradox comes in two parts. The first has to do with how to get people interested in something. How to get them excited and talking about it every chance they get. What’s a good way to do this? You’ve probably guessed it. If you want people to spread the word about something, just tell them to keep it secret.

I think it won’t get me into too much trouble if I told you that a case in point is the recent elevation of our beloved parish priest to the position of Vicar General. As you might expect, the decision was made some time before it was announced. But, for good reason, it was kept under wraps. Those who knew were told to keep it secret. Which resulted, of course, in the parish grapevine buzzing with the news long before any official announcement was made. Which goes to show that the best way to publicise something is to tell people to keep it top secret.

But that’s just half the paradox. The other half has to do with how to keep something quiet. How to ensure that people take no notice of it. How many of us, for example, have noticed what the person next to us is wearing this morning? Or what materials are laid out for distribution on the tables at the entrance to our worship space? Or what announcements are being flashed on the TV screens at the Place of Gathering? I may be wrong, but my guess is that many of us haven’t noticed these things at all. Which goes to show that the way to make people ignore something, is precisely to make that something as obvious and as accessible as possible. Isn’t this, sisters and brothers, the paradox of publicity? If you want to spread the word about something, tell people to keep it secret. If you want to keep something hidden, display it openly. In plain sight.

I mention this, on the solemn feast of the Holy Trinity, because I think it can help us to answer a crucial question that this feast poses to us today. Except that it’s not the question we may be expecting. For some of us, the question the Trinity poses is something like a mathematical puzzle. How can God be both One and Three at the same time? There are various ways to answer this question. We may, for example, compare Father and Son and Spirit to coffee and cream and sugar. Or to shampoo and conditioner and aloe-vera. Three-in-one. And one-in-three. That’s possible. But what good does an answer like that do for us, really? What difference does it make to our lives? Is there perhaps another, more helpful, question we can consider?

I think there is. A closer look at our prayers and readings for today helps us to see the Trinity not so much as a puzzle, but more in terms of publicity. In our opening prayer, for example, we told God our Father that He had made known to the human race God’s wondrous mystery. That’s what this feast is about. It’s about God’s deep and ongoing desire to make Himself known to us. To publicise God’s self to us. It’s about how the Father keeps revealing Himself to us, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.

We see this expressed in our readings today. In the first reading, for example, we’re told not only that the Wisdom of God is always by the side of God, ever at play in his presence. But also that the Wisdom of God is at play everywhere in his world, delighting to be with the sons of men. This implies that our Trinitarian God–Father, Son and Spirit–is constantly with us and among us. Continually trying to make His presence felt by us. To publicise Himself to us. And even enjoying Himself in the process. Isn’t this why the psalmist is able to look at things as ordinary as the heavens, the moon and the stars, and to feel himself being led into the presence of God? To experience his heart being moved to praise the glory of God? How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth.

But that’s not all. God’s efforts at publicising Himself to us is not limited to the things that we see around us. It goes even deeper than that. For the second reading tells us that through our Lord Jesus–through the life, death and resurrection of Christ the Son–the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. As a result, it’s possible for us to find God not just in the awesome beauty of nature–in the moon and the stars–but also in the shadowy depths of our own hearts. Even when those same hearts may be broken by suffering. Whether resulting from natural disasters (such as that tornado in Oklahoma). Or from human sinfulness (such as the collapse of that garment factory in Bangladesh). Or simply from the more trivial, but no less heart-wrenching, setbacks of everyday life. Whatever their cause or their circumstances, our sufferings can actually usher us into the very presence of God.

Of course, we aren’t always able immediately to recognise God in such difficulties. Very often our first response might be denial, or anger, or unspeakable sorrow. And this is understandable. Like the disciples to whom Jesus is speaking in the gospel today, much of what the Lord has to say to us, much of what God has to publicise to us, would be too much for us at any given time. And yet, the Lord continues to pour his Spirit into our hearts. Continues to help us to recognise His consoling voice. Continues to enable us to yield, tentatively, to His gentle caress. And to fall, ultimately, into the warmth of his reassuring embrace.

But this is where a crucial question is posed to us today: If God takes so much trouble to make Himself known to us. If God keeps tirelessly reaching out to us through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Then why do we not recognise His presence more readily? Why are we not more able to find God in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives? I’m not sure, sisters and brothers. But I think we find the answer in what we were talking about earlier. In the paradox of publicity. By making Himself so close and so accessible, God has actually made it easier for us to ignore Him. To take His loving presence for granted.

If this is true, sisters and brothers, then what we need to do, more than anything else, is to beg God for the grace to go beyond this paradox. We need to ask God to help us to pay attention to the things that are most obvious. The things closest to us. Such as our own feelings and emotions. Or the people around us. Or the situations in which we find ourselves. Our joys and our sorrows. Our friends and our enemies. Those who help us and those who need our help. Since God is Trinity, everything can potentially lead us to Him. What we need are the eyes to see, the ears to hear, the hands to touch, the hearts to feel...

Sisters and brothers, today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. Today we rejoice in a God who continues, relentlessly, to reveal Himself to us. What can we do to pay more attention to Him? What do we need to go beyond the paradox of publicity today?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost Sunday (C)
Beyond Chicken & Duck Talk

Picture: cc darkpaisley

Sisters and brothers, have you ever heard a baby trying to speak? You know what it sounds like, right? Sort of like goo goo da da. Or something like that? Which is really very cute. Except that it doesn’t mean anything. At least not to us who are listening. Even if the baby may be trying to express itself, it’s not using language that we understand. We don’t know what the infant actually wants to say. To do that, to truly understand, we have to wait till it actually learns to speak our language.

Something similar happens when people who speak different languages try to communicate with each other. The Cantonese have an interesting way of describing such a situation. They say it’s like a chicken and a duck. Which can be very frustrating. Neither party understands what the other is trying to say. No meaningful connection is made. At least not until the chicken and the duck somehow manage to find a common language. One that both can understand.

And isn’t this what happens at Pentecost? Isn’t this what we find the Holy Spirit doing in the first reading today? In a gathering of people who speak many different languages, the Spirit somehow enables each person to understand what is being said. We’re not sure exactly how it happens. The reading itself isn’t very clear. At first, we’re told that the disciples began to speak foreign languages. Then, later, it seems that, although the disciples were speaking a single language, each of those listening, heard them in the listener’s own native language. It all sounds very mysterious. But, whatever actually happened, one thing is clear. People who spoke languages different from them, somehow managed to understand everything that the disciples were saying. All through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But is that all that happened? Was it really only a matter of simultaneous or auto-translation? Is that the full extent of the Spirit’s power in the first reading? If it is, then maybe we should not be too impressed. After all, with the advances of modern technology, it’s not difficult to arrange something similar today. But could it be that something even more important is happening in the first reading? Something even more meaningful for us. For this amazing new language that the Holy Spirit taught the disciples to speak didn’t just enable them to connect with other people. More importantly, it enabled them to remain connected to God.

Isn’t this what Jesus is talking about in the gospel? If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him…. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. What is Jesus saying here, if not that the Holy Spirit teaches us to speak a new language. One that enables us to connect not just with other people, but also with God. And not just to connect with God, but even to allow God to make God’s home in us. What an incredible thought!

And what is this amazing language, sisters and brothers, if not the language of love? The language that we have spent the past seven weeks of the Easter Season celebrating and reviewing and practising. The same language that Jesus was speaking from the Table of the Last Supper to the Wood of the Cross. From the Tomb of his Burial to the Mount of his Ascension. The same language that Jesus continues to speak here at this Mass. From the Proclamation of the Word at the Ambo, to the Breaking of Bread at the Altar. The language of God’s undying love for us. A love that refuses to let us go. A love that continues tirelessly to seek us out. And to send us forth. This is what the Spirit teaches us. This is what the Spirit is for us. The power to speak and to live a new language. One that allows us to remain in communion with God and with one another.

Which also helps us to understand what Paul means in the second reading, when he makes a radical distinction between the unspiritual and the spiritual. Your interests are not in the unspiritual, Paul writes, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. What is Paul saying, if not that the Spirit teaches us to speak a language that gains us access to God. No longer the unspiritual language of selfishness and sin. But the spiritual language of love and self-sacrifice. A new language that allows us finally to understand the Mysteries of God. The same Mysteries we are celebrating at this Eucharist. A language that enables us to cry out to God. No longer saying goo goo da da. But Abba, Father!

Sisters and brothers, isn’t this the true and precious gift of Pentecost. A gift that we need so much, especially in our world today. A world in which we find such difficulty connecting with those who may be different from us. And even with those who are very much the same. Our colleagues at work. Our fellow parishioners in Church. Members of our own communities and families. Ours is a world where we often feel surrounded by many, and yet truly known and understood by very few. A world that often seems to comprehend no other language than that of insecurity and jealousy. Of selfishness and greed. A language that leads too often to isolation and indifference and exploitation. Instead of solidarity and compassion and care.

In a world such as this, isn’t it all the more important for us, sisters and brothers, to do what the disciples did on that first Pentecost. Isn’t it all the more important for us to continue making every effort to speak and live and even to teach the new language that the Spirit imparts. No longer the self-centred dialect of infants. But rather the Spirit-inspired speech of the children of God. The language of God’s love for us made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sisters and brothers, as we bring the great Season of Easter to a close, how might we continue to speak and to live this new language? How ready are we to keep progressing beyond chicken and duck talk today?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

7th Sunday in Easter (C)
Moving To Skype

Picture: cc jayneandd

Sisters and brothers, there was a time when, if you wanted to have a face-to-face conversation with someone, you had to take the trouble to actually travel to the place where that person happened to be. Otherwise, you’d have to settle for communicating over the phone, or through a letter, or email. But now, thanks to advances in modern technology, we’re actually able to see the person we’re talking to, even if s/he happens to be very far away. This is what Skype enables us to do, doesn’t it? Skype lets us see and speak to people from a distance. Without our having to travel to another place. I can have a face-to-face conversation even with someone on the other side of the globe. And all from the comfort of my own home. That’s the wonder of Skype. It allows us to enjoy the presence of our colleagues and business associates, our friends and our loved ones, without us actually having to travel great distances to wherever they may happen to be.

And yet, we should not allow ourselves to be fooled. As much as Skype is able to help us communicate without having to travel very far, isn’t it true that some kind of movement on our part is still always required? For one thing, even if people can now communicate from wherever they happen to be, they still have to be willing to at least come in front of their computers or smartphones. They also at least have to be willing to make time for each other. They at least have to be ready to share their thoughts and feelings with another. And to listen to what the other has to say. Just having the Skype programme in my computer will do me no good, if I have neither the desire nor the will to use it. However advanced the technology may be, true human connection still requires some degree of movement on my part. To communicate with another, there’s always a certain distance I have to travel. Even if it’s just the distance to wherever my computer may happen to be.

In order for meaningful connections to be established, some degree of movement is always required. And this is true not just of connections among human beings, but also especially of the connection with God. This is what our Mass readings are all about today. The establishment of face-to-face connections between human beings and God. Between earth and heaven. This is what Jesus is doing in the Gospel. The Lord prays. And he begins his prayer by establishing a connection with his Father. We’re told that Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Heavenly Father…” In the first reading, St. Stephen–the first martyr–does something very similar. Like Jesus, Stephen begins his prayer by shifting his gaze. We’re told that he turned his eyes to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. The establishment of a connection between earth and heaven. This too is what St. John is writing about in the second reading. Except that here John is talking not just about any connection, but the final connection that will be made at the end of time. When Christ will descend from heaven to earth at the second coming.

But that’s not all. The establishment of a connection between earth and heaven doesn’t take place simply with a shift in one’s gaze. Some further movement is required. It’s quite striking to see, for example, how frequently the word come occurs in the second reading. And of the five times that the word come is used, only twice is it clearly addressed to Jesus. The one whose coming is so eagerly anticipated. Let everyone who listens answer, ‘Come.’ … Amen; come Lord Jesus. The other times the word come is used, it is addressed instead to the people who are waiting for the Lord. It is addressed to us. Happy are those who will have washed their robes clean, so that they… can come through the gates into the city.’ The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ Then let all who are thirsty come... In anticipation of the second coming of Christ, in expectation of the final connection between earth and heaven, the second reading keeps speaking to us about the need for movement. Come!

But where? To which location are we to come? If we wish to Skype we know we need to find a computer or a smartphone. But what if we want to establish a connection with God? Where do we go for that? What movement do we need to make? The answer is found in our readings. In the first reading, what enables St. Stephen to make a connection with God is not just the shifting of his gaze into the heavens. Something else is going on. Something very significant.

We begin to appreciate what this movement is by carefully considering what is happening to Stephen. He is being stoned to death for his proclamation of the Good News. A proclamation that Stephen carries out in the power of the Holy Spirit. And it is also this same Spirit that enables Stephen to surrender his life into the hands of the Lord, even as he prays for the forgiveness of those who are killing him. Lord Jesus, he says, receive my spirit…. do not hold this sin against them. What we see in Stephen is a reproduction of the life of Christ. This is the movement that establishes a true connection with God. The movement into Christ. The transformation of a person’s life into the image and likeness of Christ. Who laid down his own life for us. So that we might have life in abundance.

Coming to Christ. Living and dying in Christ. This is the movement we need to make. And, contrary to what some others may think, this movement is made not in isolation but in community. To come to Christ is also to be more deeply immersed, to be more intimately involved, in the life of the Church, the Body of Christ. For this is also where Christ is found. As the Lord himself prays to his heavenly Father in the gospel, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realise that it was you who sent me.

To establish a connection with God is to make a movement into Christ. A movement that entails deeper involvement in the Body of Christ. Isn’t this why we are here this evening? Not so much because failure to show up would mean being guilty of sin. Requiring a visit to the confessional. But more because we are thirsting for a connection to God in Christ. More because we are yearning to respond ever more positively to God’s invitation to us to come. To come to the living waters of the Body and Blood of Christ, in which we find life to the full.

Sisters and brothers, the Lord wishes to help us establish a deeper, more lasting connection with God. How ready are we to let Him Skype us today?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

6th Sunday in Easter (C)
From Breadcrumbs To Homing Pigeons

Picture: cc Ed Townend

Sisters and brothers, do you happen to know the difference between Hansel and Gretel and a homing pigeon? You remember, of course, who Hansel and Gretel are, right? They are characters from an old German fairy tale told by the Brothers Grimm. In the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel are a pair of siblings–a brother and a sister–who lose their way in the forest and almost get eaten up by a wicked witch. But do you remember how they get lost in the first place? According to one version of the story, as they make their way through the forest, Hansel and Gretel leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind them, hoping to follow it when it’s time to go home. Unfortunately, as we might expect, birds eat up all the crumbs. And so, the pair get lost. Which just goes to show the dangers of relying only on breadcrumbs to find your way. Hansel and Gretel knew only one trail that could lead them home. When that trail was lost, so were they.

But breadcrumbs are not the only method to stay on course. At least not if you happen to be a homing pigeon. As you know, homing pigeons are so named because they have the uncanny ability to fly home even after being transported to a strange place many hundreds of kilometres away. And they do this not by relying on some temporary external trail. They don’t need breadcrumbs… Or curry puffs, or char siew paos, for that matter. Homing pigeons have an internal directional sense. An in-built map and compass, or GPS, which enables them to find and to fly in the right direction, no matter where they happen to be. How wonderful to have such an amazing ability. You never have to worry about getting lost. Never have to stress yourself out, rigidly trying to protect your breadcrumbs from being eaten. You can be flexible, because you’re always able to find your way home. Even when you’re taken to an unfamiliar place.

Breadcrumbs and homing pigeons. Two contrasting alternatives that are very similar to what we find in our Mass readings today. The first reading describes a crisis in the early Church, which finds itself at the crossroads. Needing to decide which direction to take. There is serious disagreement and long argument over whether or not non-Jewish Christians need to be circumcised. Whether people like us need to be circumcised. Some people say yes. Others no. Happily for us–especially those of us who happen to be male–the final decision of the Church was no.

But why, we may wonder, was there such a strong desire among some to say yes to circumcision? Were these people simply being stubborn and unreasonable? Was it a power-trip? A need to control others? Maybe. We can’t be sure. But perhaps there was also another reason. For the Jews, circumcision is a sign of fidelity to God. Like the breadcrumbs of Hansel and Gretel, circumcision marks a kind of trail leading to God. And if this was the only trail they knew, then it’s quite understandable that some Jewish Christians would be anxious to preserve it at all costs. Even if it meant burdening others. Non-Jews. What’s good for me must be good for you.

Thankfully, there were others in the early Church who did not rely only on the breadcrumbs of circumcision to make their way to God. There were others who had something like the ability of homing pigeons. Finding themselves in the strange new  situation of a Church made up of both Jews and Gentiles, these Christians were somehow able to locate and to proceed along the right path to God. A path that did not require circumcision. A path that did not involve burdening others unnecessarily. A path that enabled the Church to grow, both in faith and in number. So that, in the words of the responsorial psalm, all nations could learn the saving power of God.

But how did they do it? How did the leaders of the Church home in on the right direction to take? To find out, we need to go back to the Bible. To the verses that have been left out of the reading for today. Here, we find at least three important elements. The first is sincere conversation. The leaders of the early Church met and talked to one another. And the second element consists in what they talked about. In addition to discussing their opinions and feelings, the leaders also shared their experiences. In particular, Paul and Barnabas spoke about the signs and wonders that God had worked through them among the uncircumcised Gentiles. Finally, having conversed sincerely and attended carefully to the workings of God, the leaders compared what they had heard with their knowledge of God’s actions in the past. Sincere conversation with one another. Careful attention to what God was doing in the present. And wise comparison with God’s work in the past. These are among the things that helped the leaders of the early Church to decide which direction was the right one to take. They did it not through the rigidity of anxiously guarding and following breadcrumbs. But with the flexibility and freedom of a homing pigeon.

Isn’t this also what Jesus is talking about in the gospel today? If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him. Isn’t this how the gift of the homing pigeon is acquired. In all circumstances, what we need to do is to keep looking to Christ. To remain in his love. To cultivate a sensitivity to his Holy Spirit, who teaches us everything. And reminds us of all that Jesus has said. Helping us to apply the Lord’s words to the concrete situations of our daily lives. Giving us that precious gift of peace that the world cannot give. And so enabling us to home in on the truth. To follow the right path. The one that leads to life.

And isn’t this also why, in the second reading, there is no temple building in John’s vision of the new Jerusalem? Instead, the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple. In place of the rigidity of an external structure, what we find is the flexibility of the radiant glory of God and the Lamb. Which serves as a lighted torch, illuminating for us the safest and surest way home.

From the rigidity of breadcrumbs to the flexibility of homing pigeons. This movement remains an important one for us to make even today. Especially for those of us who are leaders of some sort. We need to recognise that just because something has been good for me in the past, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s appropriate for everyone else at this particular time. St. Ignatius of Loyola, for example, warns spiritual directors to be careful not to impose their own favourite prayer methods on their directees. But to pay careful attention to how God is working with and in them. This movement from rigidity to flexibility is important also for the rest of us. Whether we are leaders or not. When, for example, unavoidable changes in our daily routine prevent us from keeping to an established habit of prayer. Such as when we get married, for example. Or have a new baby. Or fall ill. Or change jobs. How ready are we to cultivate a new routine of prayer? One that is more suited to our changed circumstances?

Sisters and brothers, how are we being called to make the movement from breadcrumbs to homing pigeons today?

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Wedding Mass of Raymond & Grace
Melting, Moulding & The Matrimonial Bond

Readings: Genesis 1:26-28, 31; Lk 1:46-55; Ephesians 4:1-6; Jn 2:1-11
Picture: cc Boudewijn Berends

Raymond and Grace, dear friends, imagine for a moment that, for some reason, you want to join two metal pieces together? What would you do? Well, one thing you could do is to apply some kind of adhesive between the two pieces. You could use Super Glue, for example. Or maybe something even stronger. Once applied, the adhesive holds the two pieces together. But this kind of bond depends for its strength only on the substance–the glue–that has been applied externally. The metal pieces themselves remain unchanged. Which is why such a technique is really only quite temporary, isn’t it? For a much more lasting, far stronger bonding, to take place, a different method is needed. The two metal pieces have to be welded together.

And we know what welding requires. We know why it produces a far stronger bond. Welding involves the application, not so much of an external adhesive, but of intense heat. The kind you get from the flame of a blowtorch, for example. The heat melts the edges of the metal pieces. And when they are pressed together, their boundaries are blurred. So that what was at first separate comes to be united. What was at first two becomes joined into one. And not just joined externally, by the application of some super adhesive. But joined from within, by the melting and moulding brought on by fire.

Melting and moulding brought on by fire. This is what needs to happen when you want to join two pieces of metal permanently. But not just metal. Something like this also needs to happen when what is to be joined are two human persons. And this, my dear friends, as you know, is really what we are gathered here today to pray for and to witness. The joining together of two human hearts. The bonding of two separate lives. In the words of the prayer that we recited earlier, we are asking and wishing that Raymond and Grace may be joined together in a bond of inseparable love. That they may be united in a covenant of Marriage.

And the scripture readings that Raymond and Grace have chosen for us today help us to deepen our understanding of what this kind of bonding requires. The first reading takes us back to the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. Back to the very beginnings of creation. Reminding us that the marriage bond we are celebrating here today has its origins, not in human initiative alone, but in God. For we’re told that God created us in the image of himself. In the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. And those of us who are familiar with the creation story in the Bible will know that it goes on to tell us how this unity between male and female comes about. As you may recall, in the second chapter of the book of Genesis, we’re told that, having made man fall into a deep sleep, God took a rib out of man and fashioned woman. Which is really just another way of saying God blurred the boundaries between man and woman. Joining them together by first melting them in the intense fire of God’s love.

Melting and moulding brought on by fire. This is what happens when two human hearts are welded together by the love of God. But that’s not all. In the Christian understanding, the welding that takes place in the marriage bond doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We gather today not just to celebrate the bond between husband and wife. Between Raymond and Grace. For the first reading also reminds us that the joining together of man and woman takes place against the background of other bonds. The bond between humanity and its Creator. And the bonds among all the created things of the earth. For not only does God create man and woman in the image of himself, God also blesses them and entrusts the whole of creation to their care. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.

Melting and moulding brought on by fire. This is what creates the bonds that bind a man to a woman. This is also what binds the human being to the rest of creation. And, ultimately, to the Creator himself. All of which should help us to understand a little better what is being described in the gospel reading. Here, we find ourselves at a wedding reception encountering a major crisis. They ran out of wine. A crisis that Jesus averts by miraculously changing water into wine. But that’s not all. There is actually something deeper happening here. For the gospel story is not just about the marriage of an anonymous couple. It is really about a deeper reconciliation. A re-joining of another couple. A couple that had been married earlier, but had since drawn apart. An estranged couple. A separated couple. The story of the Wedding at Cana is really about the joining together again of God and God’s people. And notice how this takes place.

Melting and moulding brought on by fire. First, the mother of Jesus cares enough to notice the crisis. The fire of love prompts her to mediate between her son Jesus and the servants. To her son she simply says, They have no wine. To the servants, Do whatever he tells you. And then the miracle happens. Jesus changes his mind. Although his hour has not come yet, he gets involved. For their part, the servants obey Jesus’ instructions. Egos are melted. Boundaries are blurred. Water is changed into wine. And those of us who are Christian will see something deeper. What is being described here is also the melting and moulding that joins humanity once again to its God. A joining brought about when Jesus allows himself to be melted on the Wood of the Cross. And then raised to life on the Third Day. A joining that we Christians celebrate every time we obey Jesus’ instruction to come together to listen to the Word of God, to share in the Bread of Life, and then to go forth to proclaim God’s love in word and deed to all whom we meet.

Melting and moulding brought on by fire. This is what we celebrate today. The coming together of Raymond and Grace in the bond of holy matrimony. A bond that joins not just man and woman, but also God and humanity. Creator and all of creation. A bond that binds us–each of us gathered here–to one another. A bond of love and friendship. Of care and support. And we must be careful not to forget that this kind of bonding is not to be celebrated only in the course of a single day. This kind of welding, this kind of melting and moulding, needs to take place in every single one of the days ahead. As the second reading reminds us, each of us needs to lead a life worthy of our vocation, our calling.  This applies especially to Raymond and Grace surely. But also to each of the rest of us. We need to do all we can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds us together. And, for us who are Christian, we do this by continually remaining in the fire of love poured out upon us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord. A love that moves us to continue caring and sharing. To continue being patient and kind. To continue allowing ourselves to be melted and moulded. To continue having our ego-boundaries blurred. Even long after the festivities and excitement of the wedding day have passed.

Melting and moulding brought on by fire. This is what we are gathered here to celebrate today. The welding together of human hearts. The bonding of separate lives. The joining of disconnected selves. Raymond and Grace, my dear friends, even as we rejoice in the marvellous love that has brought us together on this beautiful wedding day, what can we do to remain in its unifying and reconciling, its melting and moulding, fire in the days ahead?