Jim and Leonie, thank you for asking me to be the priest who witnesses your marriage vows today in this little corner of Co. Monaghan which holds so many wonderful memories for all of us.
By way of a reflection I want to share with you a story which was first given to me some weeks after my ordination 33 years ago. I offer it today as you speak to each other the most important words you will ever speak to another person and in the presence of the most important people in your lives.
The story is of a shopkeeper who was a little eccentric and one of the ways this showed was his fascination with pencils. In his shop he stocked all kinds of pencils and he even talked to them!
When he sold the shop the last thing to go were the pencils and he had a few words of advice for them before they left him.
Firstly, he said to them that wherever they ended up each of them would be asked to make their mark on the world. Jim and Leonie, individually and as a couple you have both made a significant mark and contribution in the world, in the lives of your families, your friends, your work places and your community. You will leave this church today as a married couple and the greatest mark you can make is the witness of your love for each other.
Secondly, the man said to the pencils: “The mark that you make must come from the heart, the centre because of course it is the lead and not the wood that does the writing.” Jim and Leonie, it could only be in your two hearts that you first realised that you loved this person and that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with them. We have a saying that when our hearts are in something then it will succeed. I pray that your two hearts will always be in this amazing commitment which you make to each other today.
Thirdly, the man reminded the pencils that there may be times when they will grow blunt and will need to be paired back and sharpened so that they can make their mark better.
You are both instruments in the hands of someone much greater than yourselves: God”
In all of our commitments and relationships there may be times when we wander off course or take the other for granted. Someone might tell us to cop ourselves on and get back on track. It could be painful to hear but we know it is the right thing to do.
Fourthly, the little eraser on the end of the pencil is essential because mistakes are made which need to be rubbed out so we can begin again. Unless you are going to be the most perfect couple ever to walk out that church door there will be times in the years ahead when you will need to forgive and be forgiven by the other. I pray that that the sun will never go down on your anger.
Finally, the man said to the pencils: “The most important piece of advice; remember that you are but an instrument in the hands of someone much greater than yourselves.”
The pencil remains useless until it is picked up and guided by another. Jim and Leonie, as you begin your married life together please remember that you are both instruments in the hands of someone much greater than yourselves: God.
Somehow, he has had a part in bringing you together. You have chosen to begin your marriage in God’s house in the context of Mass. I pray that he will always have a place in your lives and your home.
A man went on an assertiveness course at work, and as a result he decided that things needed to change at home. When he got home he told his wife: “I want supper on the table each evening when I get home from work. I want you to run a bath for me and scrub my back. Then I want you to turn back the sheets, warm the bed and lay out my pyjamas. And in the morning, do you know who’s going to button my shirt and tie my tie?”
“Yes,” replied his wife. “The undertaker.”