Saturday, December 27, 2008

God's Idea of the Family (Sunday homily)

I remember hearing this first reading as a teenager…
One of things I didn’t understand
was just how hard my parents had to work.
Only as an adult did I realize what an ungrateful brat I was at times!
We always had plenty—yet we would complain
if we didn’t have the finest things—none of which we needed.

Now as a grown man, a pastor and spiritual father,
it’s my turn to provide for a household,
and to make decisions, and sometimes say "no,"
and have members of the family be unhappy about that.

Parents, no doubt you find it hard at times
to say "no" to your children?
It’s tempting to let them have what they ask for,
because maybe it buys a measure of peace?

I think of that because of another question the readings raise—
and this is a delicate issue—
it has to do with what used to be a Catholic idea of the family—
an idea that, honestly, is vanishing.

We Catholics used to be known for large families—
But now, families with four or five children are unusual,
and considered large.
Some—under their breath—say, "too large."

It is part of our Catholic Faith
that couples reject artificial means of planning families.
It is part of our Faith that God gave us a gift
that leads us to love someone in a special way,
and that giving life is intrinsically bound up with that gift of love,
and what God has put together—lovemaking and lifegiving—
we have no authority or right to separate.

But let’s be candid—most Catholics ignore
what the Church teaches about natural family planning.
Many think it’s optional, or not a major teaching.
I’m sorry to say that’s not so.
This is something that goes back to the beginning of the Church,
and it is rooted in the Bible and our Jewish origins.

And it’s important because it goes to the core of who we are:
made in the image and likeness of God.

As creative as we can be,
we can never make anything out of nothing.
But there is one moment we are most God-like:
when a couple comes together,
and cooperating with God, a new human being begins to exist!

But again, let’s be candid—this teaching seems out of step.

Many parents rightly say,
they find raising one, two or three children more than enough challenge,

they cannot imagine going further.

Understood—but whatever the challenge,
we always say that, don’t we?
Abraham and Sarah might have said the same thing:
leaving the only home they knew, going to a distant land,
and then believing they could be parents in their old age.

Don’t we say the same

when our older parents need more and more care;
when someone is in trouble, and we must come to their rescue.
My resources won’t stretch that far—and yet, somehow, they do.

Above all, we must confront a mindset that sees children—people!
as a burden, rather than a blessing.

That’s the drumbeat we’ve heard for decades:
from government and the media:
too many people—that’s the problem.

Guess what? Now our leaders are starting to admit,
maybe they were….wrong.

Leaders in Russia, Europe, Japan, yes, even China!,
and many other countries—are all coming to grips with a problem
they admit will be huge very soon: too few babies!

People ask: why don’t we have more children in school?
More people in our city—in our pews?
People fear for the future of Social Security.

Despite all this, this mindset—people are a burden—
still gets a lot of play, now in connection to the environment.

It is right to be good stewards of our environment,
yet we must confront this flawed thinking,
that sees only a mouth to be fed,
rather than a head and hands and heart
that can and will make the world better.

Think about it: in Abraham’s time, a man plowed his plot,
with the help of an ox, and maybe could feed his own family.

Today—thanks to the creativity God gave us,
a farmer uses a tractor, and electricity, and many other helps,
and plow vast acres of ground, and feeds a whole town of people.
But who invented the tractor and harnessed the electricity,
and all the other advances that spread food worldwide?

If this mindset—people are the problem—were true,
then why should God have even come to save us—
if we’re more trouble than we are worth?
Why, for that matter, even create us?

As Christians, we see a child,
born to a poor couple, in troubled times,
and we see not a burden—but our Savior!

Our Savior saw a human family,
so many squabbling, fighting children,
not as a burden, but those for whom he would give his life.
He gave his all—to his last breath—
that we might be born to eternal life.

Aren’t we glad that God never said—
I don’t want too many children?
Rather, in the Eucharist, he said:
"This is body…this is my blood…given for you."


Anonymous said...

I hope next year, starting the end of September, you see an explosion of babies at your parish. What a wonderful homily. It is so good to be able to at least read some because we never hear this.

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

Thank you for having the courage to preach this homily (and share it here), Father! God bless you. We families need encouragement like this.

Anonymous said...

'Kick butt & take names' with love homily Father - OUTSTANDING!

As I've said before - you ARE a great Dad!

Thanks for putting it out there!

Paolo Padrini said...

I'd like to offer this story on my application that brings the prayer on iPhone.
I believe that prayer is Christian and Catholic from spreading. You wonder why you can publish the news and if you can spread it to your friends on the blog.


fr. Paolo Padrini

Sacred texts: Vatican embraces iTunes prayer book
5 days ago
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is endorsing new technology that brings the book of daily prayers used by priests straight onto iPhones.
The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications is embracing the iBreviary, an iTunes application created by a technologically savvy Italian priest, the Rev. Paolo Padrini, and an Italian Web designer.
The application includes the Breviary prayer book — in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Latin and, in the near future, Portuguese and German. Another section includes the prayers of the daily Mass, and a third contains various other prayers.
After a free trial period in which the iBreviary was downloaded approximately 10,000 times in Italy, an official version was released earlier this month, Padrini said.
The application costs euro0.79 ($1.10), while upgrades will be free. Padrini's proceeds are going to charity.
Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications, praised the new application Monday, saying the Church "is learning to use the new technologies primarily as a tool or as a mean of evangelizing, as a way of being able to share its own message with the world."
Pope Benedict XVI, a classical music lover who was reportedly given an iPod in 2006, has sought to reach out to young people through new media. During last summer's World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, he sent out mobile phone text messages citing scripture to thousands of registered pilgrims — signed with the tagline "BXVI."

The Woman of the House said...

Beautiful, Father! The sad secret that these people don't know is that once you have four it actually gets easier. I'm expecting #5 and although mine are all 4 and under and I have a wonderfully supportive husband, I can see that it is getting easier. They entertain and look after each other. Terribly sad that people don't get to see and experience this. But, I guess that is the blessing of obedience... it might look like a horribly huge hurdle, but when you get there you realize how wonderfully smart God really is. Thank you for your witness Father.
God bless and Merry Christmas.

Jennifer said...

God bless you, Father, for having the courage to speak on the issue of contraception! In all my years as a Catholic, I have heard contraception mentioned in a homily exactly ONCE.

A blessed Merry Christmas to you!

Anonymous said...

Couples of childbearing age need to hear such sermons on a more or less regular basis.

One of the facts of life is that the window to have a large family is open for only a period of time, an obvious limitation that's often ignored by young couples. That twenty five to thirty years in a woman's life goes by pretty fast.

How cold it is to face one's twilight years with a life filled only with self inflicted sterility and bank accounts. How many such unfortunates would exchange all such things for children and grandchildren.

Thank you, Father Fox, for having the guts to say these things - you're a profitable servant!

Vicki aka Diva Mom said...

Bravo, Father!

I've yet to hear a homily on contraception. Heck, all I learned about NFP in my pre-cana was from a pamphlet we were handed. No discussion whatsoever.

Kudos to you for speaking THE TRUTH to your flock!