Saturday, April 22, 2006

'Love is for life' (Sunday homily)

A few months ago,
our Holy Father, Pope Benedict,
issued his first encyclical, or letter.
He called it Deus Caritas Est—

“God is Love.”
And I want to talk about what he wrote.

Somehow, we’ve gotten the idea
that love is something soft and gooey.

But I would point out
we just commemorated Good Friday:
and there is nothing soft or easy

about the Cross.

What is love?
First, love is a relationship.

Pope Benedict reminds us,
“Being Christian is not the result
of an ethical choice or a lofty idea,
but the encounter with an event, a person…”
That is, Jesus Christ!

You and I have “encounters” all the time.
Walking, driving, at the store—

maybe friendly, or not.
The point is,

those aren’t real relationships, are they?
A real relationship is demanding.

Second, love is a commitment—
it’s a lot more than a feeling!
And this is where we discover the cost,
the sacrifice involved in love.

Every one of us, at some point,
makes a commitment,

or pays a price, because of love:

* A friend trusts you with a secret,
and you commit to keeping that secret;

* A teacher wakes up feeling awful,
but still comes to class.

* An employer keeps a business going,
even though he’s losing money.

* A woman takes vows as a nun;

a man as a priest.

* A man and woman tell each other,
“for better or for worse.”

Commitment—and eventually, sacrifice:
Love always involves this.

Too often our society tells us
that love is something that “happens” to us—
it comes, it goes—and when it goes, we move on.

Na, baby na!
Every city in America,

including Piqua, has poverty.
Did you know that most poor people

in our country
are single mothers or children?
There’s one price of broken commitments.

In our families,

many of our children
see their parents “moving on”
from each other to new relationships;
they see their parents use them,

their children,
as weapons against each other!

Yes, these things are complicated,
and we have compassion.

But let us acknowledge, as a society,
how much damage is done to children
because adults fail to love:
adults who fail to pay the price of commitment.

And I will point the finger my way:
some priests and bishops failed
to keep their commitments.

Grownups: there are so many ways
we’re failing to love genuinely.
I mentioned broken family life and poverty.

I would also highlight the many false values
coming through TV, music, the internet:
Look at what’s socially acceptable:
MTV, Abercrombie, Gangsta Rap.

They target and exploit young people;
But it is adults who produce it,

who profit from it.
It is adults who let it happen.

One result? Children are losing their innocence
at younger and younger ages!

And what do the adults do?
We give them pills and so-called “protection.”

But the promise of “protection” is false;
babies are still conceived by counterfeit love,
and often, destroyed by “choice”;

Even more, these “solutions” don’t protect
against the emptiness of being used,

of a broken heart.

Teenagers: do not let

our messed up, adult world
sell you a lot false ideas about what love is!

For one: love is not some vague feeling;
true love does not even exist

until it takes shape
in specific choices and commitments!

Look at the physical “grammar” of love.
The body is designed to love—
and that love, to be genuine,

is totally self-emptying;
that love, to be authentic,

lasts more than a moment;
it’s not solitary,

because it’s not about the self at all!

So, “I’ll love you tonight”

or “I’ll love you, if”—
That’s not love…at all!

And this physical “grammar” of love,
reaches beyond our physical reality—
it touches the very core of our being.
That’s its power!

So, the beauty and power

of these physical acts I’m talking about
only have meaning
with true love in them.
So, true love waits—
until ready for commitment and total self-gift.

So, this physical love

finds it meaning in marriage!
And because true love is other-oriented,
true love is fruitful.

So, the Church has always taught
that marital acts of love must always be open
to the possibility of new life.

True love does not need “protection”!
We can summarize all this in four words:
“Love . . . is . . . for . . . life! ”

Someone said to me:

Father, give us an “action item!”
OK: your action item is to share this message:
Love is for life!

True love is faithful—for life;
It is open to new life.
And true love waits—
until it is ready to commit—for life.

And parents, I know your job is hard.
Every year, I appreciate a little more
just what it cost my father, and my mother,
to keep their commitments to each other,
and to the children they brought into the world.

A lifetime of commitment: that’s love!
And just as I learned that

from watching my parents,
your children will learn it

from watching you!

So when we talk about love,

both beautiful, and costly,
How fitting that God revealed

the fullness of his love through the Cross!

Every decision Jesus made

led him to the Cross;
he had choices that could have spared him.
He could have used his power,

to dazzle or coerce;
He could have pandered to them,

or destroyed them;
or, he could simply have walked away!

But none of those would have been love!

The Cross is the inevitable price of love—
for God, and for us.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.
The mercy of God is wonderful

and powerful;
but it is not simplistic.

It is freely offered, an endless fountain,
flowing from the Cross!
It is powerful; it is life-changing!

But: because it is love, it is not soft and gooey;
It is costly; it is demanding.
It will change us.


Anonymous said...

Great sermon. One of your all time best.

Anonymous said...

Fr Fox,

It's a great sermon. Thanks for the action item - it's a good one - but hard to live by EVERY DAY.

I also want to thank you for having the guts to talk about this to your parish - that every marital act must be open to life. Without using the 'hot button' word contraception - you have preached the Good News and Truth, explained why, and done it in a way that more people can hear.

(Maybe you've done enough 'hot button' pushing in the last couple of days on your blog! :) )

You are the FRIST priest I have EVERY HEARD in a homily explain this. (I have only heard 2 other parish homilies that listed contraception as wrong - but as part of a list of things not to do.) We need more REAL MEN preaching ALL OF THE GOOD NEWS.

I am humbled and blessed to be able to read your homilies. Thanks for being a Godly man and holy priest.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,

As I read your Divine Mercy Sunday sermon, I had in mind a couple from my parish who divorced this year. They have left 2 beautiful children in their wake. How sad that these precious youngsters have to witness this broken committment. As a Husband and Daddy, I needed to read what you wrote. No, love isn't soft and cuddly or smooshy. It is hard work, but well worth the effort. My wife and I have been married now for 12 years. although I would change some of the things I've done and said over the years, I have never regretted making that lifetime comittment to her. My family is a gift to me from God. Thank you for reminding me of that.

Jim said...

Thank you for this wonderful homily!

I just discoverd your blog today. I will add you to my prayer list. God Bless.

Rachel said...

I'm so glad there are priests who preach on this topic-- what love really is, what it's meant to look like, in what context (marriage!) it should happen. "Love is for life" is a great way to sum up both the lifetime commitment and the openness to children. I also liked "true love does not even exist until it takes shape in specific choices and commitments"-- very true!