Though clouds grayed the sky overhead, the unseasonably warm temperature coaxed me into a celebratory mood. On this particular day, I abandoned the “To Do” list which had monopolized my time in recent days to attend a wedding. I could only imagine what my friend Patrice was feeling as she prepared for the fourth time to watch one of her seven children walk down the aisle. I imagined her smiling eyes as she primped her daughter’s gown and offered that last hug before the ceremony.
As expected, this wedding day unfolded beautifully. The bride and groom tended to every detail with great care. The family and friends involved implemented this couple’s plans with tangible love. Yet, in spite of their hard work, I found myself touched most deeply by something over which these newlyweds had no control. Though Beth and Nathan certainly had a hand in determining who would offer toasts at their reception, they had no choice but to allow those who would speak to determine what they wanted to say.
As I consider the commentaries offered, it seems to me that neither the bride nor the groom could have scripted more touching tributes than those offered that evening. Space limitations prohibit my recounting everything that was said, much to the bride and groom’s relief, I’m sure. Still, I must tell you some of what Beth’s mom and sister shared because their words get to the heart of love –our love for one another and God’s love for each one of us.
The bride’s mother expressed gratitude for our presence and for the love that brought us to this day. After thanking those who had added so much to this celebration, Patrice turned to her daughter. She spoke very specifically about Beth and the woman she has become. Patrice’s pride, admiration, gratitude and love for this child of hers is unmistakable. Characteristics and behaviors which Beth likely takes for granted have not escaped her mom. Though she has seven children, six of whom are twins, Patrice’s words on that particular night -and through the years- convince me that she can offer a uniquely personal discourse about each one of her children. As I marveled over this mother’s appreciation of the children she has been given to love, I took in the faces of those seated around me. It occurred to me that God loves each of us with even greater devotion. The qualities and peculiarities which make us unique are just the things that cause God to love us so.
A while later, the bride’s sister interrupted my musing. Amy is Beth’s twin. After amusing us with the obligatory selection of anecdotes, Amy eased into serious mode. She reminded those present that she and Beth have spent their entire lives side-by-side, even in the womb. Amy noted that she took her first steps with Beth at her side. On every first day of school, Beth had been with her. When things went well, Beth was their to celebrate. When their father passed away far too early in their young lives, Amy and Beth had one another to cling to. “It’s always been Amy and Beth and Beth and Amy. Beth has always had my back,” Amy shared. “Now,” she added tearfully, “It’s Beth and Nathan, and that’s the way it’s meant to be.”
I admit that my own tears flowed with Amy’s as I considered the recent loss of my own sister. Though Beth will continue to be tangibly present in Amy’s life, things will be different in the days ahead. Still, in both cases, nothing has changed regarding love. Amy and Beth will always care deeply for one another just as my sister and I do. This “always caring deeply” draws me back to God’s love for us once again.
This Sunday when we celebrate The Feast of Christ the King, we close the church year with images from Jesus’ life that least resemble a wedding celebration. Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate, the accused blasphemer. No one raises a glass to Jesus for revealing God’s love to humanity firsthand. No one raises a glass to Jesus’ generosity, acceptance, mercy and forgiveness. Rather, Pilate washes his hands of any responsibility for Jesus’ fate. The crowd raises a collective fist to demand Jesus’ demise. Yet, in spite of his impending suffering and death, Jesus offers the lessons which no doubt inspire Patrice’s love for all of her children and Amy’s love for her sister. While those around him clamor for his execution, Jesus’ divine heart embraces each one with full knowledge and with absolute love.
The Feast of Christ the King gives us much to celebrate, for we are children of the God of love and siblings of Jesus of Nazareth. We are the beloved of God who knows us better than we know ourselves and who remains at our sides just the same.
©2012 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved