Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
Of all the sacraments I get to be a part of, the most complicated by far is Holy Matrimony. In the first place, there’s a lot of work that goes into planning and preparing for a wedding. The bride and groom have spent months or even years getting ready, and when the day finally comes, you want to make sure everything goes exactly as planned. But there’s a lot to keep track of on the day itself and lots of moving parts. Family dynamics further complicate things, and the celebration of the sacrament is not the only thing on people’s minds. There’s also the reception afterwards and all that goes along with it: speeches, dances, food, and of course drink. But it’s an incredible privilege to be part of a couple’s wedding day, and to witness their love for each other.
One of my favorite moments, besides the vows themselves, is watching the groom watching his bride come down the aisle. Usually at a wedding I’m right next to the groom while this happens. And there’s something incredibly beautiful about this moment. Usually the groom, even the most reserved, has a hard time containing his joy. His eyes will glint and glisten as he beholds his beautiful bride in all her splendor. And the bride, in turn, will rejoice as she beholds her groom.
Watching a groom watching his bride walk down the aisle: to do this is to have a glimpse of what the Prophet Isaiah is talking about in our first reading. “As a young man marries a virgin, / your Builder shall marry you; / and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride / so shall your God rejoice in you.” In the bible, two of the most common images God uses to describe His love for us is the love that a father has for his son and the love a bridegroom has for his bride. Women generally have a harder time connecting with the first image—the love a father has for his son—because in this analogy God is the father and all of us are sons. Men generally have a harder time connecting with the second image—the love a bridegroom has for his bride, because in this analogy God is the bridegroom and all of us are the bride.
But what does this second image of God’s love for us tell us, especially in the light of our first reading? Well, in the first place it tells us about the kind of relationship God wants to have with us. God wants to have a closer and more intimate relationship with us than a bridegroom has with his bride. At their best, a married man and woman know each other as well as any two people do. (Notice, I said, “at their best.” I’ve been hearing confessions long enough to know that’s not always the case). But at their best, a married couple know each other intimately. At their best, they also seek to give themselves to each other, and to receive each other in return. And this is what God wants in a relationship with us as well. He wants to know us, and He wants to be known by us. He also wants to give Himself to us, and He wants us to receive Him and give ourselves back to Him in return.
But for this to happen, we have to want to see God, and we have to allow Him to see us. Think about a bride walking down the aisle. Imagine if the groom didn’t look at his bride or if the bride didn’t look at her groom. The moment wouldn’t be the same. There wouldn’t be the same joy: the groom rejoicing in his bride and the bride rejoicing in her groom. And this is true for us as well in our relationship with God.
God, as the bridegroom of our souls, always looks upon us with great love. But we have the power, the terrible power, to be able to hide our souls from Him. The saddest question ever asked in the bible, the question which reveals this terrible power that we have, is the question, “Where are you?” This is the question God asks Adam and Eve after they have sinned and hidden themselves in shame. “Where are you?”—we, like Adam and Eve, have the power, the terrible power, to be able to hide our souls from God. We do this when we ignore the voice of God in our conscience. We do this when we refuse to pray or participate in the sacraments. We do this when we are cold and indifferent to God and treat Him as if He didn’t exist or isn’t a priority. We do this when we reject God or shut Him out of our lives, especially by committing serious sin or by refusing to be reconciled to Him. In all these ways we hide ourselves from God and prevent His gaze of love from penetrating our souls.
If we want to see God looking upon us with love, then we must lift up our eyes and meet His gaze. We must allow Him to see us. And perhaps we’re afraid of that. Perhaps we’re afraid of showing God our souls. Perhaps we don’t think God can love us because of who we are or what we’ve done. Perhaps we don’t think we’re good enough.
But it’s not about being good enough. It’s about God being good enough, and He always is. God is always good enough to love us, even if we aren’t always good enough to love Him. “As a young man marries a virgin, / your Builder shall marry you; / and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride / so shall your God rejoice in you.” This is the kind of relationship God wants to have with us. And this is the kind of joy He wants to have in looking upon us. And this joy will be ours if we but allow Him to do so, and if we meet His gaze of love in return.
My question for all of us this week is this: Have we been hiding from God? Or what part of our lives have we been hiding from Him? What happens when we imagine God looking upon us with love? Can we meet His eyes, or do we look away in fear or shame?
In just a few moments, the bridegroom of our souls will be lifted up in the consecrated Host. And from that great height He will look upon us with love as we celebrate this Wedding Feast of the Lamb. May we look upon Him with love in return and say, “Amen.”