Sunday, May 26, 2019

Marriage & family are all about the journey to heavenly peace (Sunday homily)

As you may know, each Sunday of Easter 
I have been talking about one of the seven sacraments, 
because they are the primary way the power of the Resurrection, 
the new life of Christ, is poured into our lives.

This week we’re going to talk about the sacrament of marriage.
Meanwhile, the main thing the readings talk about is peace.
No doubt some of you are scratching your head, wondering,
What in the world does peace have to do with marriage and family life?

But of course, they really are all bound up together,
Because peace isn’t something that merely happens.
Whether in families, or between neighbors, or among nations,
Peace comes along a hard path, and even a long journey,
And usually with conflict most of the way along.

What’s more, I submit that Christian marriage 
shows us how such peace is achieved on every level.

Let’s recall exactly what a sacrament is:
an outward sign, instituted by Jesus Christ, to give grace; 
that is, God’s power, God’s own life, pour into our lives.

So marriage – like all sacraments – is a sign. 
This may seem obvious, but: when you talk about a sign,
there is what the sign is made of;
the message that the sign communicates: what it tells you; 
And third, where the sign takes you. 

With marriage, the sign itself is the man and the woman 
choosing each other for a specific purpose: to make a family. 

Meanwhile, what the sign of marriage tells us – the message – 
is who Christ is, and how he loves his Church.
Remember, Jesus calls himself the Bridegroom, and we are his Bride.

And that brings us to the journey of marriage and family life:
It is all about human frailty and conflict;
At the same time, it is how we become the best versions of ourselves.
It’s a bumpy and painful ride, but the outcome is peace.
Not merely an absence of conflict, but the fullness of God’s own life. 

Marriage, let us be clear, wasn’t invented by the Church.
It derives from human nature itself; 
so every culture, every society, every religion, has marriage. 
In its most basic form, marriage is seeking a mate.

So marriage is about one very specific expression of love.
That specific love is about mating, and therefore, family.
It’s all bound up together. That is why it’s man plus woman.
What about two men or two women? 
Of course they can love each other, that’s fine!

But what they cannot do is be mates. They can’t be true spouses.
And this is revealed by the obvious fact that
two men or two women cannot make a family together.
This is not my opinion; this is not even a religious dogma.
It is simply a fact of science.

Where does this leave those with attractions to the same sex? 
Maybe someone here, or someone we know and care for?
The answer is, not everyone has a vocation to marriage.
I say that irrespective of orientation.
Many men and women enter marriage with each other, only to discover, 
to their sorrow, that one or the other isn’t cut out for it.

But everyone does have a vocation to love:
And by that I mean, a call from God 
to be truly giving and generous in our lives, no matter our state in life. 
Sometimes the truth we face about ourselves can be hard,
But evading or pretending is not the answer;
Living the truth may be harder, but it leads us to God.

How did we get so mixed up about this?
Because, as a society, we long ago started lying to ourselves 
about what sex really is for.

We preferred to believe that it is for self-fulfillment, 
so a life-long commitment is optional;
along the way, we also told ourselves the lie 
that sex can be separated from making children.

Normalizing contraception was critical to this whole misadventure, 
because so long as children are in the picture, even as a possibility,
then the man and the woman cannot really escape the call
to die to self, and precisely by doing so, to transcend themselves.

And really, that’s what mating and family are:
a capacity given us by God, to be more than we are,
resulting in a child, a “me” who is not me.
A parent calls this child “mine,” yet the child is all her own;
Someone who will go further, and rise higher.
And isn’t that the greatest dream of every father and mother?

So: people get frustrated at the Catholic Church 
for refusing to revisit or change her teaching 
that the marital act must always, always be open to the gift of life;
thereby excluding all forms of artificial birth control. But this is why.

Such a change would mean denying a truth 
that is both at the center of family life, 
and at the center of our Christian Faith:
In dying to self, new life is born.
If you take away the Cross, where is the Resurrection?

The way to peace that the readings present in different ways, 
is what powers family life along the bumpy road to heaven:
You and I die to ourselves, to our own pride and certainties.
Jesus Christ must be king; no one and nothing else will do.
The Holy Spirit must be the navigator. 
The Father is the home we are going to.

Day by day, families ride along together; somehow it works.
And it’s the same for the whole Church of Christ. 
You and I are on the way to that heavenly Jerusalem!
It’s a rough ride, but the Holy Spirit will get us there:
Jesus promised!

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