“Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me…As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”
-John 15:4, 9-12
I spent all morning getting ready for the ceremony, which didn’t start until three in the afternoon. My hair was swept into an up-do and my makeup was carefully applied. Once I arrived at the church, I stepped into my dress and my dear friend zipped up the back as a photographer snapped pictures. I walked down the aisle carrying a beautiful bouquet. And then, I proudly stood beside my dear friend as she married the love of her life.
This June marked the official start of “wedding season” for my friends and me. As an engaged woman myself, I have seen first hand how the wedding industry can sweep a girl (or guy!) off her feet and give her a false sense of what is really important on her wedding day. Just recently, however, I got a glimpse of what a wedding is truly meant to be about: it is about a community of disciples coming together to support and celebrate two of their own as they commit publicly and permanently to living the greatest—and toughest—commandment God has given us.
In his farewell discourse as recorded in the Gospel of John, Jesus gives his disciples the last, and the most important, instruction of his earthly ministry: “love one another as I love you.” For Jesus, this love took the form of the incarnation, the passion, and the resurrection. And he asks us, his lowly disciples, to love in the same way? It seems like a nearly impossible task.
Jesus recognizes the enormity of what he asks us to do when he says, “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” In other words, we must stay connected to the very source of love—God—in order for us to be able to live out the command to love as God loves. Because Jesus understands that we, as fallen humans, need help in this regard, he sent the Holy Spirit among the disciples and established the sacraments for us, so that we can always have access to the grace that transforms our efforts to love each other into something truly divine.
This was evident at the wedding I witnessed this June. My dear friend and her new husband have rooted their relationship in God, which has made their love for each other pure and strong. Both husband and wife were positively glowing throughout the entire day. My dear friend never looked more beautiful, and I’m certain it wasn’t just her gorgeous dress or fabulous hairstyle. There was something inside of her that she simply couldn’t contain: joy. And that joy was contagious.
Because they “remained in God’s love,” the marriage of my dear friend and her husband inspired joy in the community that surrounded them that day. As I stood beside my friend as her maid of honor, it felt like my heart was pumping happiness through my veins rather than blood. I’m certain that you will see me smiling from ear to ear in the background of many of her wedding pictures. Seeing someone I love so happy made me happy in return, and gave me twice as many reasons to praise God that day. Moreover, seeing someone I admire receive the grace that she will need to live out her vocation to marriage has made me all the more confident that my fiancé and myself will be able to answer the same call courageously on our own wedding day.
Because we are fed by the Holy Spirit in the sacraments, remaining in the community of disciples in the Church will not only keep us connected to the very source of love, but also will multiply our joy so that “it may be complete.” There is a reason why we gather to celebrate when two people who have decided to commit themselves to loving each other as God loves us, and it’s not only because a great party often follows that commitment. When two or three are gathered in his name, God is present and grace and joy abound. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Catherine Wisniewski will begin working as a religion teacher and campus minister at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, Maryland this fall.