Sunday, October 06, 2019

The vision of chastity will have its time (Sunday homily)

In the first reading, we heard the prophet cry out: “Violence! Ruin!”
With Habbakuk, we ask: Why?
Why can we never see the end of terror and conflict?
Why are people so cruel to one another?
“Write down the vision,” the Lord answers:
“The vision still has its time” to be fulfilled: “Wait for it.”

What’s the vision? Well, it’s God’s Vision—
as opposed to the alternative, which might be called,
“Doing it our way, without God.”

Part of that Vision is not only the dignity of human life,
but also that a moral life means choices that involve sacrifice.
We Catholics seem so far out of step with the world
when we insist on protecting the unborn,
and keeping intimate acts between couples open to the gift of life—
meaning no contraception.
This is a hard sell for many, including many Catholics.

But there’s Vision at work here—wait for it…

If we go out at night, and we gaze at the stars,
are we not filled with awe?
Surely God has some design and purpose in it all.
Who can doubt this?
That Divine purpose is not only written in the stars, 
but even moreso in ourselves.

One reason we Catholics cannot agree
with our culture’s values about human intimacy
is because they deny or at least muddle that higher purpose.

We are made in the image and likeness of God:
and when a man and woman come together,
they are never more like God—because in that very moment,
they do what otherwise only God can do: create new life.

The problem with artificial means of family planning
is they redesign God’s design.

God’s design is that a loving act is also a life-creating act.
Natural Family Planning respects this.
But the whole mindset of contraception and related technologies
is that the life-creating part of us as a problem to be overcome,
rather than a blessing to be embraced with reverence.

As a priest, I am entrusted with an awesome power: 
I offer the Holy Mass.
Through this sinner that I am,
Christ makes his saving sacrifice present,
and nourishes us all with his true and real Body and Blood.

That awesome power and gift is not mine to control or redesign.
I don’t even like to speak of it, but:
obviously I could misuse that power and gift.
I have to be under God’s authority in this or I can do a lot of harm.

Well, as human beings, the life-creating part of us
is likewise an awesome power and gift.
And likewise, we aren’t free to do with that gift just as we may please.

This design, as obvious as it is elegant, 
is why marriage is only a man and a woman; 
because only that union is a true “one flesh” union, 
a union that overflows into new life.

And that is why this union belongs in marriage;
When it is broken away from commitment and total self-gift,
It stops being about life, and it becomes about selfishness, 
Which is the total opposite of love.

That’s the Vision that our world ignores.
But, wait for it, it will have its time.
Our world’s values—how are they working out?
Are our families better off?
Are children better off when their parents never marry?
Is society better off?

I mentioned Natural Family Planning.
One of the striking things is that while it demands more sacrifice,
it also seems to strengthen intimacy.
Divorce is far less common for those who practice NFP.

Many couples in our parish embrace this path, and I commend you.
You have no idea how much you encourage me, and others around you.

Meanwhile, we cannot ignore the direction our society has taken.
After all, who is it that must be the prophet today,
calling people back from a path of ruin, to a path of life?

This is Respect Life Sunday; and we must speak up
against the destruction of the unborn
and we must cry out that we embrace both mother and child.
At the same time, our world desperately needs 
the witness of close family life.

So much of the story of poverty and social disorder 
is really the story of chaos that invades and displaces family life.
How do we combat this disorder? I’m not entirely sure, but:
If you belong to a close family, cherish what you have;
And if you know others who don’t have this gift, 
maybe invite them into your family, 
so they can learn and find courage to make a family of their own.

The world’s vision that offered freedom ends up bringing despair.
We are nothing, and the world will better off without us.

God offers us a different Vision:
We are not only his image at our best,
but even when we’re broken and marred:
God so loves us so much that he gave his only Son.
Life is worth living because even at our worst, we are his beloved.

That’s our Vision. Wait for it. It will have its time.

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