Monday, June 29, 2015

The Response

Readings for Sunday, June 28/ 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15
Mark 5:21-43

In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis spoke to us these words: “The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these beonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with tohers depite our differences and to belong to one another; it is alos the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage no tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensable contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. As the French bishops have taught, it is not born ‘of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but form the depth of the obligation assumed by spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life.’”

As you all presumably know, the Supreme Court of the United States announced their opinion Friday, decided by a 5-4 vote, to reject the traditional view of marriage in light of a new definition that permits ‘same-sex marriage’ in all 50 states. While this may upset us, it should surprise us because traditional marriage has been under attack for a long while and this is just one more step. Catholic theology on marriage notes that marriage has two ‘ends’ or ‘goals’, namely procreation and the good of the spouses, which basically means the union is emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, & physically beneficial. We can see that attacks on procreation began decades ago with the introduction and encouragement of contraceptives. This fundamentally separates marriage and its first end. Following behind it is the continued attack on children. Abortion necessarily follows because when contraception fails there has to be a means to be rid of the child one sought first to avoid. From there society made ‘advances’ in being able to choose certain attributes of their children and ‘get rid of’ children who had undesirable attributes. In vitro fertilization and other unethical means of creating life only further the chasm between marriage and the gift of children. The good of the spouses came under attack with the introduction of no-fault divorce, which necessarily makes marriage less binding and thus less valued. To this we can add the devaluing of women in general. It’s interesting to me that in an age when feminism fights so strongly for the rights of women to equal pay, equal job opportunity, etc. (rightly so!) that the culture continues to treat women worse and worse. Women are generally not valued in themselves for the gift that they are, but rather are used for their bodies and their ability to increase sales. This is only encouraged by the acceptance of pornography and pornographic films and books, which only seek to make people objects to be used instead of persons to be loved. With all that has happened to the two ends of marriage, it is no surprise then that the very definition of marriage itself should be free from attack.

The question is this: how do we respond?

I’ve seen responses ranging from fear, anger and despair to excitement, relief, and celebration. As Catholic we ought to stand on neither end of that spectrum but rather firmly planted in the middle full of faith, hope, and love. We are called to have faith that God is in control of this country and this world, regardless of what happens around us. We are called to have hope that Marriage would shine brightly in our culture and remind us of the love of God for us and our call to heavenly life. And we’re called to love. Love of every single person who stands in front of us, regardless of their age, sex, race, social status, sexual orientation, or any other personal attribute, because they are a person. Because they are created in the image and likeness of God. Because they were made to love and be loved.

A lot of times the Catholic Church is painted as this hate-filled body that spews its hatred and condemnation at people who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, bi-sexual, queer, etc. But did you know the Church says the stands for the exact opposite? The Catechism says unambiguously that we are called to show them ‘respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ and that we are to avoid any sign of unjust discrimination toward them. Holy Mother Church loves all of her children and wants to have all of humanity rest in her loving arms. Sadly, we Catholics and fellow-Christians often failed to convey this truth, but the call still stands for us to be images of God’s love ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we condone or celebrate ‘same-sex marriage’ or relationships that lead to such, but it does mean continuing to love the other by showing respect, compassion, sensitivity, and honoring the dignity of others.

So our response needs to be one of faith, hope, and love, which is exactly the same at it has always been. The Supreme Court can say whatever it wants, but the ultimate reality is that the true King of this world is Jesus Christ. I love my country deeply, but we all have to remember that we’re Catholic first and American second. And that means that our Catholic faith informs everything we do. And what is our mission as Catholics? To shine with the light of Christ.

Did you hear the Collect at the beginning of Mass today? It’s easy to miss but it was beautiful: “O God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light, grant, we pray, that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.” I love that last line ‘be seen to stand in the bright light of truth’; not just to stand there, but to be seen standing there. We are called to be witnesses that reflect the Light of Christ as the moon reflects that of the sun.

As I noted last weekend, Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders both are sacraments of service. The entire goal of the individual is to get the other person to heaven. I’m a priest. I’m obligated to be a holy priest, a saintly priest. The Catechism tells me that my life as a priest is to be entirely consecrated to service of the others. Every moment of my day is to be dedicated to getting every single one of you and many others to walk through the pearly gates of heaven and sing the Gloria along with the angels and saints. And if I get there too, good! My call is to shine with the Light of Christ in holiness and priestly ministry.

Single people, your call is much the same. To consecrate your days to loving whoever stands before you. Love them as if it were Jesus Himself and seek to recognize in them the Christ who seeks to love you as well. Be holy and happy Catholics, radiating the joy of the Gospel in your eyes as well as on your lips. Seek the Lord at all times and trust in His guidance of you through all that life brings.

Married people, your call is the same, but even more important. When marriage is under attack, the need is for good, holy marriages to be even more visible and even more effective in their outpouring of love and witness of the goodness of the sacraments. You are called to be icons of the Most Blessed Trinity! The love of husbands for their wives and wives for their husbands is a powerful sign of the love of God for us, and the love of both for their children speaks even more fully of the life and love of God in Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Husbands and wives, remember that your goal is not to get to Heaven and hopefully to drag your spouse along with you. The goal is to get your spouse to Heaven and for them to drag you! When this mutual selfless love is present then it produces saints, both in the parents and the children. The parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, Bl. Louis & Bl. Zelie Martin, will soon be canonized and only for the fact that they were a holy family. Be models for your children and for all the world of the gift of God’s grace, and the joy of selfless giving. It can seem that you have little effect on the world, ‘what good can I do in such a big world?’ you might be tempted to think. But remember that Pope St. John Paul II called the family the basic cell of society and a blessing to the world. Strong words. St. John Chrysostom has some strong words too in a homily on marriage as he reminds each and all of us that “The love of a husband and wife are the force that welds society together.”

Be the force and the weld. Be the blessing and the light. Be saints.