Sunday, June 28, 2015

What will it take? (Sunday homily)

If the U.S. Supreme Court hadn’t issued the ruling it did on Friday, 
I probably would have taken a different approach in this homily. 
But they did what they did, so I think it needs to be talked about.

First of all, this is a terrible outcome for our country, 
in more ways than one.

The teaching of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord is crystal-clear. 
People like to say that Jesus never mentioned this issue, 
but that’s simply false. 
Jesus was asked about marriage and divorce, 
and in Matthew Chapter 19, he said the following:

“Have you not read that from the beginning 
the Creator ‘made them male and female’ 
and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother 
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 
Therefore, what God has joined together, 
no human being must separate.”

Now, the Bible says quite a bit more. 
The Apostles – who Jesus gave both authority 
and his own power to teach in his name – have reiterated the point. 
And the Catholic Church has always taught 
the same things about sex and marriage, namely:

That it is one man and one woman, till death do us part—no remarriage after divorce;
That sex belongs in marriage—that is, man and woman;
And that marriage always includes the intention of bringing children into the world, 
        and therefore, marital life must remain open to the gift of life—
        and thus, no artificial means of preventing conception.

Now, of course, no law says the U.S. government 
has to listen to the Bible or the Catholic Church. 
We were not founded on any religious creed. 
So, to be very clear—I am not saying that the courts, 
or the legislatures, are obliged to adopt any specific, Catholic teaching.

No, in making this point up front, 
I want to lay down a very clear statement, without any ambiguity, 
regarding what our Faith teaches us. 
Lots of Catholics seem not to know these things.

This is what Jesus teaches, what the Apostles teach, we believe. 
These are not options, like whether you get a sunroof on your car.
This is what it means to say 
we are the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. 
We are not the Church of what’s popular in 2015. 

Jesus is our teacher. He is the truth. 
And nothing any court, or legislature, or politician, or opinion poll, 
or marketing expert says, makes any difference.

I said a moment ago this is bad for our country. 
How can standing against the King of Kings be anything else?

Now, of course, some people are saying—many Catholics are saying—
“who cares what the law allows? 
You just said we don’t expect our government 
to adopt our religious doctrines as law. 
So why not allow same-sex marriage? Why not, live-and-let-live?”

Let’s talk about that.

First, to some degree, we do want a live-and-let-live approach. 
That’s what almost everyone wants. 
None of us wants to go into anyone’s home to see who lives there, 
what their relationship is, and so forth. 
If people want to say they are married to each other, 
there’s nothing you or I can do, even if we cared to. 

What was at issue here was what the society as a whole 
is being asked to give validation, and approval, to -- 
a new and fundamentally different understanding of what marriage is. 
And that is no longer, “live and let live.”

Until the Supreme Court gave its ruling, 
each state was finding its own way. 
But the majority of the court decided that wasn’t acceptable: 
everyone had to be forced to accept a new understanding of marriage. 

Second, while a society can have lots of diversity, 
a society really isn’t a society unless it has some common foundations. 
A room full of strangers is not a “society.” 
They might become one, but only as they discover, 
or create, values in common. 
That is the foundation of any cohesive society.

Marriage isn’t just a detail. It is at the foundation, 
because what marriage is, is really about what being human is. 
Earlier I laid out the basics of what our Catholic Faith 
holds about marriage. 
But let’s be clear: what marriage is, isn’t simply a Catholic doctrine.
This is very important to grasp.

Does anyone seriously think that before the Church existed, 
marriage wasn’t already man-plus-woman? 
Do people think Moses invented this idea? 
If you go to India, where most people are Hindu – 
or to Saudi Arabia, where it’s almost 100% Muslim – 
or to southeast Asia, where almost everyone is Buddhist – 
will they say be surprised to hear of man-woman marriage?

Of course not. Every human society, ever, 
before our earliest memories, 
has understood marriage is man-plus-woman. 
Because this isn’t a religious dogma; it’s biology. It’s human experience. 
What Jesus was telling those people 
was that this truth was written by God into human nature itself. 
It’s not for us to rewrite it.

Yes, I think it’s very bad for our country 
to think we can remake human nature. 
And that’s not just bad for our country; it’s bad for all of us. 

This decision sets up an inevitable conflict. 
It’s already been happening 
even before the High Court imposed a redefinition of marriage 
on the entire country. It will get worse.

Within hours of the decision, a host of big companies 
were publishing ads, or sending out twitter messages, 
aligning themselves with this decision. 
This will continue. 
People who don’t agree—meaning faithful Christians, in particular, 
and many of other faiths—will find that they are simply excluded 
from jobs, from promotions, from professions.

Justice Kennedy’s decision equated our refusal to redefine marriage with being a racist. 
I told you weeks ago this would happen. 
Read his decision. He puts it in the same category. 
This is a lie; but when a lie is told often enough, two things happen: 
lots of people come to believe it; 
and lots of other people, out of fear or self-protection, 
stop fighting back.

(Now, I had wanted to say something 
about Pope Francis’ recent encyclical. 
I still haven’t read it. I will as soon as I can.

But there are a couple of points that have been widely quoted. 
Obviously he had a lot to say about respecting and reverencing
the natural environment. 
He’s been quoted as saying, if we slap nature, 
don’t be surprised if nature slaps you back.

When it comes to destroying forests, or polluting the water, 
or not being thoughtful about chemicals we create and use, 
this is clearly true. 

Some years ago, we found out that aerosol products 
were damaging the atmosphere; and if we didn’t stop it, 
it could have led to terrible consequences. 
We did stop using those products, and the situation has improved.

We’re learning similar lessons about how the human body works. 
In recent years, we’re discovering just how very complex, and delicate, 
is the interaction between our own bodies, 
and various life forms—including bacteria—that live inside us. 
We didn’t know how delicate the balance was. We’re learning. 
And we still have a lot more to learn.

Well, Pope Francis, in his encyclical, extended that point 
to respecting the balance and design of the human family. 
Man, woman, mother, father, children.)*

The Court’s decision about marriage didn’t happen in a vacuum. 
Our society has been redefining marriage and family 
for most of the last century. 

We redefined marriage when we allowed no-fault divorce. 
When we accepted promiscuity as normal. 
When, as a society, we embraced contraceptives. 
And when we decided it didn’t matter all that much 
if a child had both parents in the home. 
What the Supreme Court did is only the last nail in the coffin 
to our society’s understanding of what marriage and family are.

Now, I want to say something to the question of what we say to people who have same-sex feelings. What do we say to them?
First, that everyone is God's child; no one is not welcome.
No one is better than anyone else. We are all sinners, begging for God's grace.

Second, it can be a very hard thing to realize you have feelings that others don't, and you can feel very apart. It doesn't help when there are people who bully, and you hear people say some ugly things. It's hard to know who to talk to. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were the seen as the sort of people someone in that situation would feel free to come and confide in?

Now, when you're feeling very alone with a difficult situation, it is easy to think no one else knows what it's like, and your situation, your trial, is worse than anyone else's. It can happen when you're unemployed; when you have cancer, or when your marriage is breaking up. But when we talk to each other, and support each other, we can find that, while our trial is great, we aren't alone.

I wish I could say there was some easy way to make it all better, but I can't; neither can I do that when someone is facing a terrible illness, or some other crisis. What we do is turn to the Lord, as in the psalm, and ask the Lord to draw close to us.**

The first reading from Wisdom assures us that God’s design for us 
is about life. We don’t always know this, or believe it. 
Sometimes we think God’s ways, God’s laws, 
are just about taking away our choices. 

Sort of like how you and I responded to our parents’ rules 
when we were little. 
And when we ignored their rules, we often found out 
what it was they were protecting us from.

In the years to come, we’re going to find out 
what God was trying to protect us from. We’re already finding out. 
We’ve already made a mess of the family. 
We have a flood of pornography. 
We have young people growing up who don’t even know how to be adults, 
often because the adults in their lives also don’t know how.

They don’t know how to give themselves sacrificially to each other. 
All they’ve been given is lies about sex and what it means.
And it is going to get worse for awhile. Oh yes, we’re going to find out.

In the Gospel, we see a woman who suffered for twelve long years; 
and we see a father whose child is dead. 
Both of them had good reason to give up hope; 
the mourners thought the father was crazy to hope. 
So what? They didn’t reckon on what Jesus could do!

Jesus can do anything. 
The woman and the man fell to their knees and begged him for help. 
What will it take for us to fall to our knees, in repentance and humility, 
and beg for him to save us?

* I omitted this part at some Masses, due to time.
** This part was not written down; so I handled it differently at each Mass.


Peter Gojcaj said...

God bless you Father for speaking the truth. Had other clergy been this bold, we would not be in this position.

Steve said...

Thank you for preaching this and sharing this online. I have been heartened to see many U.S. bishops, including our own Archbishop Schnurr, speaking out in a timely and unambiguous manner against this court ruling. The only thing that troubles me is the constant caution that we still must be welcoming to those with homosexual attractions. Don't get me wrong: I completely agree we must welcome those who struggle with homosexual attraction and show them love, kindness, and respect. However, now that a majority of the supreme court (lack of capitalization is quite intentional) has twisted the Constitution to support the radical homosexual agenda, we will soon have people of the same sex who claim to be "married" attending Mass. While I know that it is not for me to judge whether a person is in mortal sin, I cannot fathom how a man holds himself out as "married" to another man (which certainly shows a lack of intention to "sin no more") is not in an open state of mortal sin and rebellion against the Church.

It would cause scandal for that person to present himself for Communion. Should we expect an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist to deny this person Communion? Should we expect a priest or deacon to do so? I would think it would be much more likely for a priest or deacon to do so, which to me suggests we should do away with the practice of using Extraordinary Ministers and just deal with longer Masses (like that would really be a BAD thing, anyway...). I would hope that SOMEONE from the Church would intervene to try to stop this.

In a very related way, the faithful NEED bishops, priests, and deacons to speak out strongly against homosexual "marriage" (or more accurately, "mirage" - you and I both no it is NOT and can never be marriage) and not just tell us to still be "welcoming," but to clearly explain what the means as a practical matter. I'm sure you know and practice this, but unfortunately far too many clergy do not: priests need to tell people what is sinful and not minimize those sins. Your job is to help your parishioners get to Heaven, not to make them feel good by thinking that their sins are really no big deal (I've heard that from priests in confession). That requires focusing on Jesus' admonition to the woman caught in adultery to "go forth and sin no more." Far too often, the Church seems to focus on the forgiveness portion of Jesus teaching without giving enough attention to Jesus command to sin no more.

Yes, Jesus is merciful and will forgive us if we confess our sins and show contrition. But is a person who claims to be married to someone of the same sex either (1) admitting that he is sinning, or (2) demonstrating a desire to amend his life to avoid sinning in the future? If I confess a sin I have committed before, I truly intend to try my best to not commit that sin in the future. Will I fail? Perhaps (even probably). But I will not assume that because I have been forgiven I can go forth and keep sinning without consequence. I need to hear that from the Church.

I want to get to Heaven. I don't want a feel good, happy clappy affirmation that I'm not really so bad. I need to know what I am supposed to do and what I am NOT supposed to do in order to get to Heaven. When I fail, I need to come to the Church with proper contrition and throw my self on God's mercy. I don't need the Church to water down the teachings that may be very hard to many people. I'm sure the fact that Jesus affirmed that marriage is and will always be only between one man and one woman is very hard to people who suffer from homosexual attractions. However, the worst possible thing the Church could do would be to ignore Jesus in the name of making those with homosexual attractions feel more welcome.

Anonymous said...

And how about the Same - Sex Referendum in the Republic of Ireland ? Quite frankly , the Western world began unraveling in the 1960's as Big Government and One World Government increasingly became the norm . Things like Governmental control of an individual's property rights and taxation without representation are now the order of the day . What the Government ( local , township , county , state , and Federal ) says goes - at least in the Western world . And the Church is culpable in all of this as they have eagerly lapped up any and all taxpayer dollars afforded to her by various and sundry governmental agencies - i.e. Faith Based Initiative money , State and Federal school operating monies , etc. . - to the tune of literally 100's of Millions of dollars .
Forget "Natural Law " forget procreation and the logical order of things ........ the Government has spoken . I would encourage you to examine the proclivities of the nine Supreme Court Justices . They are the new norm . Those more traditional individuals are easily kept in line by threats and intimidation regarding their own failings in life . You honestly don't believe that the NSA only maintains files on " terrorists" do you ? No , we're all human . We all - members of Congress , judges , the clergy , you and I - have our shortcomings and moral failures . And those moral failures have throughout mankind's history both plagued and even literally destroyed a given society - along with all the individuals who claim said society as their own .
So what to do ? Lead by example . Push back as best you can . Maintain your Christian Composure in the face of all of this dissonance . Recognize that at the end of the day God is working his purpose out and ultimately His will be done .

Jenny said...

Excellent homily, Father, thanks once again!! I always share your pearls with family and friends, as we don't get good homilies locally. No mention was made by our priest here of the life-altering Supreme Court travesty. (He is a good man, our priest, and personally faithful...just challenged, I think, to speak frankly about such a mind-boggling evil.). I am so grateful right now for blogs such as yours and for faithful clergy speaking out; sure could have helped 45 years ago with the Roe v. Wade decision!

Anonymous said...

As a Catholic raised Atheist, I felt that a comment from people that you disagree with might be of value.

One of the things I like and support about the Jehovah Witnesses that came to my door and spent about an hour with me one day, is the fact that their religion believes that they should not vote but should pay their taxes. I won't bother with the Bible verses they quoted because (a) I don't accept the Bible as being anything but a collection of thoughts by various people through the early ages of man and (b) there is always another verse that "proves once and for all" the exact opposite point of yet another verse.

No; I mention this because, as a Catholic, I grew up knowing that the Catholic church enforced it's own rules on it's congregations and followers, based on their beliefs, and they existed harmoniously in society. Specifically; "Lawfully married" after being "lawfully divorced" individuals were still considered to be sinners and not married in the eyes of the church. This left everyone to be peacefully equal but separate. But it seems that for some reason, in the modern times we live in, you and your church are not satisfied to try to make a point about an issue and garner support based on the merits of your teachings, but rather wage a political battle with society itself through the courts and political process. This is one of many reasons I no longer believe in any religion or deity. If I were to consider any religion to have value in society beyond the harm that they cause to people, I suppose it would be the religion that doesn't try to force feed their dogma through a political process.
But then; The Catholic church has always been a source of ruthless power applied in an unjust and cruel way.

At least the Pope has been doing what Christ would have likely done in his time; Focus on issues that HELP people and avoid the erroneous and cruel dogma of a more heathen age of mankind.

For the record; I am not gay, and I am a 60 year old, white male. While I do wince when I see two men kissing, I hope that I have become a better human being by setting aside my personal feelings and beliefs in favor of honoring other human being's rights to exist and live peacefully in our society.