Caponi – Do not conform yourself to this age…

Caponi for Homilies.jpg

Wedding of Michael Corcoran and Jennifer Kelly
Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova
Villanova, Pennsylvania
July 29, 2017

Francis J. Caponi, O.S.A.

Tobit 8: 4b-8
Romans 12: 1-2, 9-18
John 15: 9-12

“Do not conform yourself to this age…”

When he was about six-years-old, my nephew Matthew had a new toy, a Magic 8-Ball. I’m sure you’ve seen one: about twice the size of a softball, shiny black plastic, large number 8 on one side and a small round window on the other. You ask yes or no questions, turn the ball over, and a white object floats up through dark blue water with an answer written on it, something like “Without a doubt,” “Outlook good,” “Ask again later,” or “Very doubtful.” Matthew asked me, “How does this work?” So I showed him how. It’s pretty simple, as long as you remember to ask only yes and no questions. But he was not satisfied. “No, how does it work?” And I said, “Well, it doesn’t really work. It’s just a game. It can’t tell the future.” But he was still not satisfied. “No, how does it work? What’s inside of it?”

Ah, now I see. Truly, there is something about a Magic 8-Ball that cries out to be opened up and inspected. Well, not really opened up, more like smashed open. As children, and even as adults, we want to know how things work on the inside. Golf balls bounce, but why? Batteries give power, but how? But it isn’t easy to break open a golf ball or a battery, and it isn’t wise to break open your mother’s new hair dryer or your father’s expensive riding mower.

A Magic 8-Ball is much easier. So Matthew and I found out what was inside. And I can tell you, once you’ve heard a Magic 8-Ball crack, and gotten blue dye on your hands and clothes, and found yourself hiding with your six-year-old nephew from your sister – his mother – you know how a Magic 8-Ball works.

If you want to know how something works, you’ve got to get inside of it. Personally. Since they were students together here at Villanova, Michael and Jennifer have been getting to know each other: They have been learning about each other’s families and friends, likes and dislikes, habits both good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears. They have known married couples, learned from them, listened to them during the Pre-Cana marriage preparation. They know as much as you can know when you are on the outside. Now they enter into marriage. What will they find inside? How does marriage work?

The first and most important thing they find will not be a thing at all, but a person: Jesus Christ. On earth, Christ taught his followers the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Now, within your marriage, Christ will continue to teach this, but with a difference. Now you will live that commandment together. As Genesis declares, you will become one body. Michael, after today you cannot love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind without Jennifer. Jennifer, after today you cannot love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind without Michael. That’s what’s on the inside of marriage: the same great commandment you received in baptism, now lived in a new way, a way that only Christ makes possible.

The spirit of this age teaches us that fidelity is dull, that commitment is opposed to freedom, that promises are made to be broken. But what did we just hear St. Paul say? “Do not conform yourself to this age…” Inside of your marriage, you will find Christ the teacher, showing you how to follow the way of love – real love, Christian love, not the foolishness of television and bestselling novels, but such love as Christ has for the Church. Inside of your marriage you will find Christ the athlete, training you to hold on to what is good. Inside of your marriage you will find Christ the priest, who so loved the Church that he gave his life for her, preparing you to be a living sacrifice of praise to the Father.

Inside of your marriage, you will discover that Jesus Christ has a plan for you, that he intends to use your marriage for the good of His people. Through you, Jesus Christ will rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, and touch the lives of the lowly. He will make you a couple that people turn to for advice, support, and friendship. Through you, men and women whose names you do not yet know will be blessed, when they see the strength of your commitment, when they benefit from your prayers, when the love you have for each other overflows into care for the poor, consolation for the sick, good counsel for the lost. And God willing, through you children will be born, and taught to follow Christ, and be offered a share in the eternal life of the Trinity.

Of course, you’ll find all sorts of other things on the inside of marriage. There will be surprises. Just yesterday afternoon, I met with Michael and Jenn to go over some last minute details. One of the questions I asked was whether they wanted to use their rings for the rehearsal. Some couples like the practice, but others prefer to wait for the ceremony itself. Michael’s face showed he was reluctant, but Jenn said, “Oh, we can do that. I brought fake rings we can use.” Michael turned, and with a look of surprise tinged with awe, said, “You brought practice rings?” I told them that that level of preparation and attention to detail boded very well for their marriage. In addition to the surprises, you have doubtless been told by any number of people what is important for every happy successful marriage: a willingness to compromise, communication, forgiveness, patience, trust, a sense of humor, and a dozen other virtues, skills, and talents.

What will all of this compromise, forgiveness, patient, trust, and humor look like on the inside of your marriage, how will it all fit together, how will the parts mesh, how will God’s grace flow within your special union? Only you will understand the details, but all of us know the basic design. Jesus Christ will be the strength of your commitment, Jesus Christ will be the source of your hope, Jesus Christ will watch over and protect your union. Remain in his love. Keep his commandments. Come to confession together, receive the Eucharist together, read the Scriptures together, and like Sarah and Tobiah, pray together for God’s mercy and protection. Be good to the poor, visit the sick, guide the lost. Forgive one another as the Lord forgives you. By living this way, God will be glorified, and your joy will be complete.