[Homily: Marriage of Uwe and Jessa Panimdim, Old Tagum Cathedral, 11 March 2017]
My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, but especially Uwe and Jessa:
I feel very privileged to have been chosen to deliver this homily on this happy occasion. In agreeing to do so, I confess I have had the active collaboration of Uwe and Jessa. I asked them to choose the readings for today’s Mass from an array of many possible readings which I’d offered them. That they chose the readings we have just listened to speaks of the spirit with which they come to this celebration of matrimony: the desire to celebrate their union before God as one flesh, indivisible, and the desire to celebrate genuine love as the soul of their union.
With the Gospel reading, they celebrate themselves as male and female coming now together as one flesh. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” It is a very earthy coming together that is referred to, an ecstatic coupling in the flesh, ”so that they are no longer two but one flesh.” But the emphasis of the scriptural passage chosen by Uwe and Jessa for this matrimonial ceremony is strong: What God has joined together, let no man separate.” (cf. Mt. 19:3-6 ). They come together in the flesh, but in this sacrament of Matrimony, God joins them together. What God joins together, no one should pull apart.
With the reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, they share with us the nature of the love that joins them together. There is arguably no more beautiful nor more profound description of love:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. …
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:1.4-8)
Uwe and Jessa take this description of love and make it the description of their love. This is their resolve. Their love has been anything but a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. It has been rather quiet and unobtrusive, but alive and animated. I asked them to write down on paper why it was that they were choosing to marry each other.
Some of their answers were on the level of feeling.
Uwe said, “She makes me feel I’m the most handsome guy – mas pogi daw kay Daniel Padilla. She makes me feel very special.”
Jessa said, “He tells me I’m beautiful, even when I’m feeling messy. He makes me feel he loves everything about me. He makes me feel he’s grateful for having me in his life.”
Other answers were on the level of what they admired in each other:
Jessa said: He is a family-oriented person. He really loves his family; he takes care of his family. He is not a boy anymore; he takes care of himself. I feel safe being open and honest with him. He is willing to lay down his life for me.
Uwe said: She’s maganda; she’s funny; she’s independent; marunong magluto. She’s everything I prayed my wife would be.
Other replies were very honest. Statements of struggle, of discomfort seeking relief, of misunderstanding seeking understanding, of goodness seeking perfection.
Jessa said: sometimes he acts like he knows everything; that annoys me. But he only wants to give me the comfort and good quality of life he thinks I need. He wants to better himself and be his best self. He really works at our relationship. Three years ago we parted ways. But after a while we realized we missed each other. Now, we’re not afraid to express our true emotions; I feel safe being open and honest with him.
Uwe said: she nags me like my mother. Sometimes she’ll get offended at the smallest things I’d say. We’d annoy each other and argue over small insignificant things. But the more I’d spend time with her, the more I’d notice her flaws, the more I’d look at her, the more she’d nag and get grumpy, the more I’d notice her smile, the twinkle in her eye, the every small and big thing she’d do not only for me but for everyone close to her heart, the more I’d fall in love with her. Having experienced the pain of separation and the joy of reconciliation, Uwe said, “Yes, with Bababs it’s possible to fall in love over and over again.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth,” St. Paul says. “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Uwe said: “Thank God he laced my destiny with her! She had me at the first Hello when I treated her and her friend to a 20-peso ice cream with my first salary. I couldn’t ask for a more caring, loving woman, for someone who has more of a desire to share her life with me. I have spent the happiest, saddest, most challenging three years of my life as her boyfriend, and I am looking forward to the rest of our lives together annoying each other! I could not have gotten a better and more loving partner. She is my girl best friend, my best girlfriend, my confidant, and the person who allows me to be me. Jessa Marie is my soulmate, the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.
Jessa said: “From the day we met to this very day, we are both working towards loving, giving and serving one another to the best of our ability. I can trust without the shadow of a doubt that he will love me, support me, and make me his main priority in life. He has always been my boy bestfriend and best boyfriend. He’s the kind of friend willing to lay down his life for you. That is love worth holding on to.
So today, we celebrate how in Uwe’s and Jessa’s life God brings them together in love. We celebrate the sacredness of that love which they elevate today to the status of a sacrament, taken out of the privacy of their lives and allowed to shine for us all as a symbol of God’s love for the Church and of our love for God. We pray for Uwe and Jessa that what God has joined together no person pull apart, and that the love that has begun to unfold so beautifully be blessed with healthy children, a healthy family, and supportive relatives and friends. And may the challenges of your love today, Uwe and Jessa, find hope in the fullness of love that is yet to come:
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13).
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud….” “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”