Thanks to our good deacon, I didn't have to prepare a homily for the Lord's Day Mass; but I had a wedding. Below were my reflections on their special day, relevant to all who are mindful of the "end" of their lives--by "end" I mean "purpose," as Scholastic philosophy uses the term. (The names of the spouses have been changed.)
I join with Matilda and Oscar in thanking everyone for your presence and support of them throughout the years that have led to this day. The Psalmist of the Hebrew Scriptures fittingly expressed our sentiments: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (118). Every aspect of this day testifies to the presence of our wise and loving God. Yet I can’t help but frame it in the context of a curious report: according to a modern-day prophet, the 21st of May 2011 is supposed to be the end of the world. Now any Biblically-literate Christian will easily refute that claim with Our Savior’s words: "But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mat 24:36). At the same time, we must accept the reality that this world is not meant to endure forever, that the Lord Jesus Christ will indeed come again in glory to join His faithful people to Himself. Furthermore, the final day of life comes for us all, with or without a fair warning. It remains for us, therefore, to “seize the day,” to savor the graces that God has in store for us, to share the blessings of life that we have received.
I am reminded of Eugene Hamilton, a young man who was studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of New York. In his final years of preparation this holy man was stricken with terminal cancer and given a very short time to live. Through the recommendation of Cardinal Cooke, his bishop, Gene was ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood on his deathbed. He never celebrated Mass on his own, but for the three hours of his priesthood he embodied the Lord’s Passion and Death. By his patience in grave illness and his courageous pursuit of holiness, Father Hamilton remains an extraordinary example of sacrificial love for persons of every vocation. The length of life matters less than the quality of choices we make. Even if the world were to end today, Matilda O'Grady and Oscar Haussenpfeffer would be united to each other in a bond that mirrors the eternal union of love that Christ forged with His Church by giving His very life for her.
The first reading from the book of Tobit provides an interesting parallel to Fr. Eugene Hamilton’s situation and to today’s “Judgment Day Drama.” Again, a little context is helpful. We heard the prayer that newlyweds Tobiah and Sarah offered together on their wedding night. Sarah had married seven other men before; each of them mysteriously died on their wedding night. We can only imagine the urgency in Tobiah’s prayer: “Please, Lord, don’t let me be number eight!” No doubt Sarah had the same thought in her mind. As the story unfolds, they receive the divine deliverance for which they prayed: according to the final words of the prayer, God allowed them “to live together to a happy old age.” While they escaped tribulation in that moment, their married life must have had its share of challenges; but their firm determination and their firm reliance on God’s help and the support of others won not only the day, but the lifetime—however long it lasted.
Our ears may have been piqued by one sentence of Tobiah’s plea: “Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose.” Apparently this young couple had allowed God to purify their intentions for marrying to the point that they could proceed with confidence in God and in themselves. It is no secret in this day and age—if it ever was—that people unite with each other for lesser reasons than the ones that Matilda and Oscar are being invited to express today. Or, perhaps people take this leap with fingers crossed—and toes, and feet, and eyes as well! The reservations of the banquet facility aren’t the only reservations they have. The Church is particularly eager to prepare couples as best as possible to face the many temptations “out there” and “in here.” Without God’s grace and human effort, what you are about to do today is not only unsustainable, but unimaginable.
So today, 21 May 2011, is “Judgment Day.” Oscar and Matilda have employed not only their hearts, but also their minds to make a judgment for each other in the sight of Almighty God, their family, and their peers. They have come to believe that the Love of God—a patient, kind, other-centered, truthful love—moves mountains and never fails. It is the “still more excellent way,” the Way of the Lord Jesus. We wish them a long and happy life, a household that grows in quantity and quality; but however long this life will last, it requires something more than mere human power can accomplish. Christ Himself shows us that it can be done. See His hand in all your undertakings; walk together in His Way, and this Judgment Day will have been a good one.