The apostle begins a section in which he offers final recommendations. The wedding pericope picks up after Saint Paul names some names (4:2-3). This choice is new to the wedding Lectionary, being added at the end of the last decade or so. It’s not in early editions of wedding prep booklets. But it’s a good one:
Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all.
No brainer. A wedding is always a time for rejoicing. It’s not clear under what circumstances Paul was writing to the Christians at Philippi, but even in a time of rejoicing, it’s a good time to add a petition against anxiety:
The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
This litany of qualities is a good reflection for an engaged or married couple. Do we strive for these, lifting up what we see in our partner, working toward what we might lack either as an individual or as a couple?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
For the Christian, it is not enough to be all these good things. Our tradition, rooted in Judaism, also demands that we “do” our faith, that we put into practice the good things we know.
Note the second promise of peace. God’s peace is a gift when we ask for what God can offer. God’s peace is also with us when we respond in action to what we have “learned and received and heard and seen.” Is a couple prepared to “do” as well as to “be?” If so, this passage from Philippians 4 makes sense as a wedding reading, despite no explicit reference to the sacrament. Are they prepared to express their discipleship in Christ through their marriage? Are they open to seeking virtue and applying it to both their family and their expression of baptism? If so, this is a good reading to consider.
I had an assignment at the University of Dallas to find an especially inspiring passage from Phillipians. I am already in awe of Phil 2:5-11 as a Lector. I looked around in Philippians for more inspiring passages and found many already used in the Catholic Lectionary. This passage Phil 4:4-9 popped up and it has such a wonderful message of joy, hope, and peace. If it were available for selection, I might have chosen it 37 years ago.