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I can recall the halcyon days of the ’50s when newspapers grew fatter with each passing week. Weekend editions were especially treasured because they bore picture after picture of bonnie brides wreathed in smiles that set hearts afire. Frothy, billowing yards of lace fell gently over the bride’s face, awaiting the moment when the veil was lifted for Dad’s kiss goodbye and hubby’s receptive hello.
My memories, I trust, serve well as I was one of those women whose life reflected the songs we hummed. I can hear it now. “Love and marriage...go together like a horse and carriage. This, I tell you, brother, you can’t have one without the other.”
Romantic? Idealistic? Surely, the description is applicable. At the same time, the words remind us that life with its depth and intensity is possible. There is a call to remember the power of two becoming one in an awesome unity. More than a possibility, it is the potency that counteracts cynical remarks like the one Fran Drescher made: “Divorce...it’s the new marriage.” Uttered in jest, I hope, there is yet an underlying truth that frightens me. There is a shadow cast upon the sunlight of two people in love. There is a built-in loophole to exit the land of lovers. Data gleaned from various polls affirms the fact that today’s “forever” has become a temporary agreement, rather than a transformative action.
As Hubby Dear often remarks, love is a four-letter word. It demands work as well as play. It means that each spouse promises the other to care, to bend down to meet the other in his or her vulnerability. Love means to risk everything in order to be truly one in spirit. It means to stop and really look at the other, seeing God anew. Love calls for one to hear the cry of the poor and to give self as healer. Love holds the other close as both wait to discern God’s will.
It has not been long since people across the globe prepared for and participated in the wedding of HRH Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton. Flurries of excitement commingled with cries of injustice and comments regarding the extraordinary expenditure of money always associated with gala affairs; however, to the credit of the couple involved, modesty prevailed. Tea parties and hats were the order of the day. Simplicity was the keynote and thousands flocked to view the event in person or via the media.
There was, and is, so much more to this day than the exchange of vows and rings. It was, as Bishop Richard Chartres, bishop of London, reminded the couple, as well as the entire world, a day to commemorate and to integrate the words of St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
Be who God means us to be and we will set the world on fire! The conflagration of injustice, merciless cruelty, and violence will fall prey to another kind of combustion, a blaze that heals and seals its own demise. It is the fire of hope. In the heat and light of this hope, this love that surpasses all understanding, we are renewed. The face of the earth is renewed.
Bishop Chartres reminded the young royals of their individual, personal commitment to each other and their immediate family. He also extended the call to include their progeny and all of us: “Life flows through them into the future.” The promises they made to each other became sign and symbol of eternal life. As God gives divine life to us, daily and in multitudinous ways, so are we harbingers of incredible grace. Life flows through us.
In the midst of all the pomp and circumstance, we learn along with William and Catherine, that we are not the center of the universe. We learn to find our center, beyond ourselves. We learn that the road is not smooth; nor is the path easy. It is, however, a journey worth taking, a pilgrimage that surpasses all expectations. More wondrous yet is the revelation that the more we give of self, the more we have to offer. We may have begun with the proverbial five loaves and two fish only to discover that sharing did not simply increase our supply. Instead, there was an abundance remaining.
Unfortunately, television reality shows, along with glitzy magazines, beckon us into the land of weddings while ignoring the commitment that underscores a marriage. The cut of the gown and the label of the designer become paramount, even to the point of going into debt for this one-time event.
All the while, God beckons us...God impels us into radical action. God’s love for us is like a true marriage commitment. It involves work and play, hearing and speaking, bending down and lifting up.
God is married to us and we to God. Tattered and torn, flawed and fearful, we are good enough for God. Our reality show has nothing to do with choosing the right gown or tuxedo. It has nothing to do with the size of the cake or the number of guests. It doesn’t require the depletion of a bank account or seeking a loan. It has everything to do with understanding that a wedding does not make a marriage. The only debt we have is our indebtedness to God who loves us more than we can ever imagine.
Our royalty consists in remembering, celebrating, and sharing God’s graciousness in calling us children of God, heirs of heaven. Our goal is to be who God means us to be. It is then that the world will be set on fire.