During the last semester of my diaconal formation, we are focused on homiletics and liturgy. My last homiletic’s assignment was to prepare a homily (preached today) for a pretend couple that was described as follows:
- Felicia, 24 year old Hispanic conservative Catholic whose parents are very traditional Catholics (i.e., Tridentine).
- Achmed, 26 year old Muslim whose parents are very traditional Muslims.
The Gospel was from Matthew 22: 34-40,
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
I had to do considerable amount of research so I could find some common ground…and there is very little; however, here is what I came up with. Overlooking that this scenerio would never occur in real life – one or both sets of the parents would put a stop to it, I was asked to prepared the following homily for their wedding. Feedback is appreciated.
Felicia and Achmed, it is with great pleasure that we celebrate this afternoon, your marriage covenant. All of us are here gathered around you to witness your union in the sight our Lord. But before you offer your vows or nikah to each other, Scripture compels us to ensure that your vows always possess your heart, soul and mind in order that you may glorify the Lord and be blessed through your covenant.
Achmed and Felicia, it is true that you come here today from two very different cultures and religious traditions. And, that is part of the beauty of this solemn occasion. You see, both of our traditions find themselves rooted in a common heritage through the Patriarch Abraham whose life and family was dedicated to honor the Lord. Because of this common heritage, we also have a deep understanding of covenant. It is through Abraham that we begin to understand that while contracts are an exchange of possessions, covenants are an exchange of persons brought together by God. The result, covenant creates family.
The covenant created by God through your vows is a joining of your very selves. We share a common understanding that this covenant makes two indiduals one flesh, which is never meant to be severed during your lives.
This covenant not only unifies both of you, but also your families. And we must admit, as your parents have, this unity may sometimes be a challenge. Felicia, you from a Hispanic Catholic background and Achmed from a traditional Muslim family, are blending two very diverse cultures. But while the differences may seem glaring, the values which your families have instilled within each of you, form the common ground and foundation of a successful marriage.
During your time of marriage preparation, it quickly became clear to me that your families had formed deep within you the virtues of faithfulness, family, service and hospitality.
We live in a culture that does not understand the faithfulness of spouses or the importance of family. This is an essential service you can offer. In a society that needs to rediscover that covenant cannot be tossed aside, but requires hard work and commitment, you can be that witness.
Our culture also does not prize close family bonds. Your strong family roots through this covenant will be permanently fused. Both of your families, from this day forward, will now be one through your marriage. The love and firmly rooted faith of your families will not only serve to strengthen and support your marriage vows but will serve as a place of healing and comfort in times of need. I am convinced that your families will be there to share in your joys and triumphs…and support you in times of sorrow and trial. Your continuing commitment to involve extended family in your marriage, will be a glorious witness to the world that our God desires all to be one.
Both of our religious traditions have inherited from Abraham a strong sense of hospitality. The openness of your home to the stranger in need, and your commitment to the less fortunate among us, not only honors the Lord, but makes real His sovereignty among us. Even here today in this Church are the first fruits of your love for one another. Our Lord’s command to serve and love our neighbor is evidenced by our honored guests here among us.
We who are gathered here today, now urge you in the sight of God, to be faithful to your vows and duties as husband and wife. We charge you to place your marriage at the service of the less fortunate and to always have the Lord in your heart, soul and mind. For it is the Lord that will now hear your nikah and blesses you through this marriage covenant. And now, without distraction, and with a firm purpose, let us hear you declare your intention and vows.