Tuesday, July 13, 2010



Here are some notes from a homily that I gave at a recent wedding. (Actually I gave it at two different weddings, but don’t tell anybody!)


In the church this afternoon we’re surrounded by beautiful flowers of all sorts, on the altar, in bouquets, and along the main aisle. But I want to talk for a few minutes not about flowers but about seeds.

A seed seems like a pretty ordinary thing: everyone knows that you just put it in the ground and water it and it becomes a flower or a plant. But this everyday fact is actually one of nature’s deepest mysteries. A seed, you see, doesn’t grow. What a seed does is something very different from just getting bigger and bigger.

Crystals grow. Stalagmites and stalactites in caverns grow. But crystals and stalagmites, for all their increasing in size over the years, will never be anything but bigger crystals and taller stalagmites.

Living things, on the other hand, undergo a different kind of change. It’s called “transformation.”

Even a three year-old child knows the difference between growth and transformation. No child will look at a flower and say, “Oh, look at the big seed!” Nor would anyone look at an oak tree and say, “Wow, look at the size of that acorn!” A daisy happens because a seed stopped being a seed. An oak tree happens only when some acorn, buried in the cold, moist earth, stops being an acorn and bursts open to become something new.

The purpose of a seed is to stop being a seed and be transformed into a flower. And transformation doesn’t just apply to flowers and trees, but to animals such as tadpoles and caterpillars. A caterpillar whose whole aim in life is to become the biggest and furriest caterpillar around will end up a very unhappy caterpillar. He’s missing the meaning of his existence. The purpose of a caterpillar, after all, is to stop being one and be transformed into a butterfly. Only then will its life make sense.


Well, we humans certainly want our lives to make sense, to have a meaning. We make all sorts of unsuccessful attempts to give meaning to our lives – possessions, power, pleasure, being esteemed, and so on. But what does Jesus say about our search for meaning? He never calls us to be holier, never asks us to improve or to grow. What he repeatedly calls us to do is to be transformed, to die. His favorite metaphor for this is the grain of wheat: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat.”

Okay, so we’re supposed to somehow be transformed – like tadpoles and caterpillars. But what are we supposed to be transformed into? What are we supposed to become? Saint Basil of Caesarea answers this question boldly” “A human being is a creature whose purpose is to become God.” We are supposed to be transformed into GOD! And this is where we get to the wedding part. We are supposed to become God; and God is love. We are supposed to become love. The gospel reading today speaks of the transformation of the bride and groom; it says, “ They are no longer two but one flesh.” The two of them become transformed into love.

In this sacrament we celebrate the mystery of God as Love. And through it this couple standing here before us today will become transformed into something new. Into Love itself. And this is our purpose in life, to become God, to become self-giving boundless love. But, as many of the married people here today can tell you, this takes some letting go. It’s a difficult challenge, this dying to oneself. Think of that caterpillar that wants to hold on to being a caterpillar and just get bigger and furrier. His life will never make sense. Despite what everything in our culture tells us, if we stay centered on ourselves, our lives too will be missing something.

So you, our bridal couple, are staking your lives this afternoon on Jesus’ promise: that if you die to your self-centered inner two-year old something brand new will come of it. Saint Paul somewhere puts it “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” As both of you know, this present age will be of little help to you with its insistence on competition, on “me first,” and “more is better.”

Your attraction has grown into love, and this afternoon you are asking the Lord to transform that love, to transform both of you into a single new being – “the two shall become one.” But our human brand of transformation, unlike that of tadpoles and acorns, is not a one-time thing; it is a constant, ongoing process. It’s neither instantaneous nor easy, so you have to be willing to help one another in this ongoing process. And you'll undoubtedly need to ask the help of family and friends from time to time. That's where the rest of us here today come in.

The rest of us have come here today to witness your exchange of vows, to celebrate with you, and to be edified and encouraged by your example of self-sacrificing love. But just as important, we are saying by our presence “we’ve got your back.” We promise to keep supporting you and praying for you, and in some cases be baby-sitters or furniture movers.

Long after all these lovely wedding flowers have faded, your ongoing transformation will still be taking place; every day, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until that day when all of us are all finally transformed into love, and are welcomed into the Kingdom of God that is promised to those who love.

1 comment:

  1. I was at one of these weddings and your message was wonderful. Whenever I'm asked what makes for a good marriage I always answer, " Die to self." You said it so much better in your homily. Thanks!