Saturday, October 03, 2009

'The miracle of being human (Respect Life Sunday homily)

What our Lord just said in the Gospel is very demanding—
there’s no getting around it.
It explains why the Catholic Church teaches what she does
about marriage and getting married again.

It should be pointed out that when Jesus said that,
He was going against the grain from every direction.
As we heard—he was overriding what Moses taught;
As well as what the prevailing, Greek and Roman culture,
around him, taught.

So—when we feel like our Catholic Church’s teachings
are out there, all alone—
That’s the way it was at the beginning,
with a lot of what Jesus said and did.

But there’s something underlying this that bears attention.
The larger picture is the high calling God has placed on humanity.
Not just about how we live in our marriages—
but who we truly understand ourselves to be,
both in our destiny for eternity,
and also, right here and right now.

You see, it was this passage (or rather, the parallel passage in Matthew)
that Pope John Paul II was studying,
when he began to offer the world a new way
of looking at our importance, and our purpose, in being human.
This is what is often called his "theology of the body."

It’s not easy to sum up in a few minutes in a homily, but:
the big idea is this: that our humanity—
how we are made, our bodies, our emotions,
and the way live in relationship with one another,
especially in family, and above all,
the unique love between a man and a woman—

all this has an indispensable role in showing the world who God is.
That includes, showing us who God is;
and along the way, it shows us who we truly are.

Look at this way.
If you think you are a small, almost insignificant part
of a large corporation, or of an army, you may think,
"what I do isn’t very important;
and whether I do my best, or I slack off…
how can that matter to the whole effort?"

But what if you found out that you really aren’t just a small cog—
a third-string utility player who rides the bench all season—
but in fact, you are a key player,
the whole plan for success depends far more on you
than you ever realized?

We are caught between all the messages of our culture—
which are everywhere, and they permeate our thinking
and our decisions far more than we realize—
and one of those messages is, that our bodies,
and the way we use our bodies in expressing intimacy—
isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things.

It’s fun, it’s fulfilling—but really,
why should God care so much about "dos and donts"
when it comes to such things?

Why does God insist on marriage for life?
Why would God care about it being a man and a woman?
And why should God object to something like contraception?

The answer is that our human nature is a kind of sacrament:
Bringing God to the world;
And how we live our lives either tells the truth about God—
and ourselves—or it tells falsehoods—to ourselves and to others.

You and I are made in the image of God.
In the first reading, Adam—before he meets the woman—
meets all the other living things.
What happens is he begins to discover
what an awesome thing it is to be human.

And when he meets his partner—
he discovers the rest of himself.
The human image of God is made complete
in the union of a man and a woman.

If we continued reading that passage,
we discover her name—Eve—"the mother of all the living."
An essential part of being image of God is that we are life-givers.

So notice how, after Jesus teaches about marriage,
the passage talks about children.

The love of a man and a woman is designed by God
not to be a closed circle, but to break out of itself, into new life.

Realize that when a man and a woman come together that way,
and new life comes into existence, nearly out of nothing—
at that moment, human beings come closest
to being like God: as a pro-creator and a life-giver!

The implications are staggering.
This is why we emphasize waiting until marriage,
being faithful in marriage,
and being open to the gift of life each and every time
a couple comes together.

Because these seemingly ordinary aspects of human life
are, in their own way, as sacred and awesome
as what happens on this altar at every Mass.

You and I would be scandalized
to have the sacred mysteries of the altar with disrespect;
it’s exactly the same with the sacred mystery
of our own human existence,
particularly as it involves a spouse and family and new life.

So as much as we might prefer to keep quiet,
We keep speaking up on behalf of the weak and powerless,
especially the poor and the unborn children
who are targeted for destruction.

We refuse to be silent
about the use of early human life
as a commodity for scientific "research"—
because every human life is part of the sacred mystery,
and it is a sacrilege, a blasphemy,
to treat any human being as something to throw away.

We realize that part of the danger is that if we get used to it,
we adjust ourselves to a big lie about who we are in God’s eyes—
about how special it is to being human.
It would be as if Adam, in seeing those animals, merely thought,
"I am one of them."

Does this demand a lot of us? Indeed it does.
But the key question is not, is it too hard?
But: is it true?

If we really are that important to the divine plan,
then we cannot opt out; we cannot be bystanders
and our choices matter quite a bit.

And that’s why as Christians, we take sin seriously,
and we are so grateful, so overwhelmed, by what God did in Christ
to rescue us, and to give us his own power, the Holy Spirit,
to live up to, and achieve, the wondrous truth of being human!

This is why the Sacrifice of the Mass—
Jesus offering himself as one of us, for us—
to rescue us from the lie—is so awesome and overwhelming!
God is calling us and lifting us up
to something vastly beyond our wildest imagination.

It demands our everything—
like the challenges and joys of marriage and family;
and like the Cross demanded of Jesus—
But it’s where we discover who we are
and the miracle of being human.

(A liturgical note: I thought the fourth Eucharistic Prayer was especially appropriate for this Mass.)


Matthew Warner said...

Just wanted to ask you to be one of our featured bloggers for Support
a Catholic Speaker Month.

All you do is write a simple post supporting one of the speakers on
the list and then we link back to you. So then more people find and
learn about your blog all while supporting this great group of
Catholic speakers.

If you're interested just select a speaker who hasn't been taken yet
(let me know which one you choose), and then write a post in the next
1-2 weeks in the context of this effort.

More info here:

Hope to hear from you! God bless you and thanks for all the work you do!

Matt Warner

Paul Tully said...

A very beautiful and simple explanation of how the theology of the body illuminates God's plan for us. Many thanks.