The second of three wedding selections from Romans is another excellent passage. Much of Paul that is selected for the Lectionary is teaching material: theological, rational, philosophical. This passage isn’t one of those. In Judaism, much of the Old Testament is devoted to simple rules for living. Romans 12 and the following three chapters devote themselves pretty much to the apostle giving sage advice for good living.
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.
We skip six verses to get to Paul’s advice for the Christian community. Husband and wife are a community of two, so this advice is still apt:
Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil;
be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
The last three lines really apply more to those outside the believing community than other Christians. The framers of the Lectionary could have easily ended this selection at verse 16.
If an engaged couple wanted a simple listing of virtues to bring into their marriage and cultivate there, Romans 12 provides it. There are some wordings that seem strange given our modern tastes, but they really stand out and make one think. One example:
… anticipate one another in showing honor.
Are we concerned about showing honor to a spouse? What does that mean? Has our Western egalitarian sensibility and exposure to tv culture rendered us more apt to deliver sarcasm or wit than real signs of honor?
This reading picks up on the Beatitudes, even echoes something of Matthew 5:1-12a. If this line of thinking were important to a couple on their wedding day, why not select these two passages and ask the homilist to develop this into more than a list of do-good advice.