Here is my homily for Holy Trinity Sunday, Cycle B, May 27, 2018
Here is my homily for Holy Trinity Sunday, Cycle B, May 27, 2018
A few nights ago, well after our darling little three year old should have been asleep, she came running into our room crying hysterically. Something about her night light and a noise and now it wasn’t working.
Upon investigation, we found this:
Turns out, she was playing with a penny and placed it on the metal prongs of the plugged-in night light which caused the explosion, the noises, and the scariness. We are thankful that she is okay, and she cried over and over again that would, “never ever do that ever again.” We used the opportunity to reinforce why she isn’t supposed to be playing with coins in her bed (we’ve already had to explain the choking hazards), and why she should not play with her night-lights or outlets in general. The next step is taking her coins away completely, because discipline requires consequences for behavior. It is because we love her that we want to discipline her so that she remains safe.
I started thinking about this incident again when I was reading about the Wijngaards Statement to the UN, encouraging the Catholic Church to change its stance on contraception.
Back when Humanae Vitae was written, Pope Paul VI warned that if we went down the road of widespread acceptance of contraception, we would see in our culture a lowering of morality, increased infidelity, less respect for women, and government coercion of reproductive technologies. He, like a loving father, warned us that if we were going to play with pennies in an electrical outlet, we were going to get burnt.
But for the most part we didn’t listen, and now look around you. Religious groups are suing the government over the HHS mandate, some countries forcibly abort babies past the second child, the Ashley Madison leak revealed thousands of names of men being unfaithful for their wives, pornography is a billion dollar industry and fuels sex trafficking, and we all know someone affected by divorce or infidelity.
We are experiencing the consequences of our actions, and I think many in the younger generation are now desiring the safety of discipline. You can tell us “no” to contraception because we have experienced the devastating effects of divorce, pornography, rape, and infidelity in our own families. I think deep down, like children, we want to obey and be protected from the harmful effects of going against the plan God has for us.
A group of 500 scholars have come out with a statement (and signed by hundreds of more with doctorates) denouncing the Wijngaard position and affirming all the Popes’ teachings on the inseparable unitive and procreative meanings of sex, as well as the language of the body as self-gift in the marital act, and how contraception distorts that meaning. You can read the “Affirmation of the Church’s Teaching on the Gift of Sexuality” and read all the signatures here.
Now back to discipline. Some of the Church teachings can seem hard at times. I see couples wrestle with these hard teachings during marriage prep all the time. I have wrestled with them myself. Even disciples in the bible struggled with accepting hard teachings. And then I see my kids struggle to put their clothes away when I ask, or clean up the toys in the basement, and I know that we all struggle with accepting doing the hard things. Still, it’s good for us to learn to obey and learn the value of discipline. There is the fruit of joy in peaceful, loving families with faithful spouses and respect for all life. This fruit can only happen when we reject the rebellion of contraception and accept the sometimes-difficult way that is open to life.
“Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7-11
On Monday, the Vatican released what it calls a “relatio post disceptationem”—Latin for “report after debate” that has caused a tsunami of discussion and has sent the press into a feeding frenzy of speculation over “changes” in the Church’s teaching about gay marriage. I myself received many questions from people about what was going on, even people asking, “Is it true that the pope said he’d allow gay marriage?” The answer is an emphatic, “Absolutely not!” The Pope did no such thing! Let’s look at the document that caused the controversy:
The document is not a bull or an encyclical; it is a report. It merely summarizes ongoing discussions among top Catholic clergy, which are taking place as part of a two-week synod, or gathering of cardinals and bishops at Vatican City. George Weigel, who wrote the authoritative biography of St. John Paul II, had this to say about the document: “…it was an interim report on themes that had been raised in the previous ten days of debate and discussion at the synod. It had absolutely no legislative weight — synod documents are consultative, not legislative — and I am told by those who were there that various formulations in the report were seriously criticized in the synod debates. Moreover, the interim report will be chewed over in the ten synod language-based discussion groups — where, one suspects, further criticisms will be aired — before any final report is issued. To turn this kind of interim report into the virtual equivalent of a papal encyclical is ludicrous on its face.”
This document was merely the summary of discussions, kind of like minutes of a meeting, and is not authoritative in any way. As I read the document, I understood what the Holy Father was trying to say. It is a sad but true reality that there are many people – even in our churches on Sundays – that are not following all the teachings of the Church. This has been true since the time of Christ Himself. The moral teachings of the Church are absolute and neither can nor ever will change. For moral teachings to change would imply a change in the very nature of God, which is a metaphysical impossibility. But we are all sinners; none of us is a perfect follower of Christ. We are all sinners on the path to perfection. The Church is not a gathering of saints but of sinners trying to become saints. All of us are in need of conversion, and no one is beyond the call to salvation in Christ by adherence to all of the Church’s teachings. If sin precludes someone from coming to church and taking an active role in the life of the parish, then I cannot be a pastor, as I too commit sins and need to confess them. At the same time, there is a huge difference between embracing sinners and calling them to Christ and embracing their sins as acceptable behavior. What would Jesus do? Would he tell people, “Come back when you’re sinless and then I’ll accept you?” That’s what the Pharisees wanted Him to do. Instead, Jesus came to save sinners. He went after the lost, welcomed them, reassured them of His undying love for them, and then tried to bring them around to where He wanted them to be. He never told them it’s okay to continue to live in sin, as he told the woman caught in adultery, “I do not condemn you; go and sin no more”. What would Jesus have said to that woman if in fact she did continue to commit adultery? He would forgive her every time she repented, but He would constantly call her to leave her sin behind, reminding her that she’s only hurting herself by continuing to sin. He would never tell her, “Get away from me! Don’t come back until you’re sinless!”
I currently have in my parish (and have always had in every parish) people who are not validly married. I’m not happy that they’re invalidly married, but my job is not to judge them but to try to bring them into conformity with the mind of Christ and His call to them to holiness, and I have a much better chance of doing that by keeping them in the congregation and trying to bring them to where I want them to be rather than rejecting them and sending them away simply so I can present a “clean congregation” to the public. Many of these people do in fact have many talents and skills that have proved useful to the parish, and I am glad they are able to use their gifts to further the Gospel call to holiness, even for themselves. While they cannot receive Holy Communion and cannot hold certain positions that require one to be validly married, such as being Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, they still make a great contribution to our parish, and I’m hoping that their active involvement will increase their love for Christ and bring them to the point where they willingly choose to adjust their lifestyle so as to be consistent with Jesus’ call to holiness for them. It seems to me that this is what the Pope was saying, and I find that truly Christ-like and compassionate.
As for some of the comments made by a few bishops that seem a bit unorthodox or too lax, I’m sure that once the document reaches any level of authority any such comments will have been deleted. Open discussion among the bishops is vital for the true development of doctrine and discerning the call of the Holy Spirit. So let the debates continue – that’s what the synod is all about – but pray that the bishops will be led by the Holy Spirit in all their deliberations.
The link below is from a discussion in the State of Indiana House Judiciary Committee on defense of marriage. It is an excellent scientific, psychological, and legal defense of traditional marriage. It is professional, it does not insult those of different opinions, and gives a clear explanation of what those in favor of keeping the traditional marriage definition see as the dangers of altering the definition. I encourage everyone to view this carefully, even if – perhaps especially if – you are not in agreement with the traditional definition of marriage or are not sure. The link is to the blog of the Catholic Apologist Matt Fradd.
In a previous post I wrote that the legalization of gay marriage was just the tip of the iceberg, and I warned about what was waiting in the wings. Some people scoffed at my prediction. Well, my predictions are coming true!
An activist federal judge ruled on Friday that polygamy is now essentially legal in the United States. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups recklessly decided that reality TV stars Kody Brown and his four “wives” could not be prosecuted for polygamy, even though the Utah law against the practice is the strongest in the nation. So now, watch! State after state will start legalizing polygamy (including polyamory – three men and two women, for example – it’s the same thing!) and we will be branded as “polyamorophobes” because we oppose it.
I warned from the beginning that once the biblical standard of man-woman marriage was breached, there would be no logical place to stop. Though we as Catholics have been accused of exaggerating and scare-mongering, this ruling shows that we were right all along to sound the alarm. The next in line to be overturned will be bans against incest. After that, bestiality (zoophilia)! Just watch! Don’t believe me? No one believed me when I said polygamy would be accepted. Pandora’s Box is open! All the evils are now out and free! God save us! We obviously can’t leave it up to ourselves to know right from wrong! My biggest fear is that I’m being proven right far sooner than I ever imagined! Do you still think there was nothing wrong with legalizing gay marriage?????
Watching the news stories of people celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision to override certain elements of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which in effect legalizes gay marriage, I can’t escape the analogy of watching people celebrate as the Trojan horse is wheeled through the gates of Troy. While this ruling will be perceived as a great victory by some people because it validates their desires, there is a host of evils hiding within that, once they are out, I guarantee you people will regret tremendously, and will begin to rue the day the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds and had the audacity to redefine what constitutes a marriage. Same sex marriage is just the tip of the iceberg. What is waiting in the wings is terrifying. Observe the following:
Of course, some people will scoff at the idea that any of these perverse acts will ever be legalized. But the reality is that, given the language used to argue same sex marriage rights – “my civil rights”, “the right to love whomever I choose”, “as long as it’s not harming anyone else” – what foundation is left to prohibit these actions? It is completely eroded away, and it is only a matter of time before the tide of public opinion becomes less hostile to people with these desires and more compassionate and understanding of their “needs” and fights for their rights to marry their sister or their dog. Pandora’s Box has been opened wide!
What I find most interesting (or appalling) in all of this is what has happened to the definition of marriage. If we put all this together, what is society proposing as the new definition of marriage? It would appear to be something like this: “Marriage is a bond of love between one, two or more persons of either sex or with a non-human that may or may not be expressed sexually, that can be permanent if you want it to be or temporary – whichever you prefer. It may be a pledge of fidelity to another person, unless you don’t want mutual exclusivity, in which case you are free to love as many people as you wish.” In other words, “create whatever relationship you’d like and call it a marriage.”
Contrast this with the Christian understanding of marriage that has been the foundation of Western society. That view is that God created Woman from the side of Man to show that the two come from one flesh: This one “at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…that is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gen. 2:23-24). Add to that the Catholic understanding that in marriage, a man and woman who give themselves to each other sexually are uniting their love with the very love of God, who through them may bring a new life into the world, thereby drawing them into union with the very essence and nature of God and by that act receiving tremendous grace and leading their souls to heaven.
If this new contemporary definition of marriage is allowed to grow and mature, what will we have achieved? There are many legitimate needs that some people face in a society where they cannot enter into marriage with a member of the opposite sex, but they can be met in various other ways without loosely defining any relationship we wish as a marriage. My question is this: is the contemporary ambiguous redefinition of marriage worth throwing away the Christian view of marriage that we have held until now? Where is the improvement? Perhaps we need to discuss the very real possibility that God knew what He was doing when He instituted marriage as a sacred covenant between one man and one woman, and that any attempt on our part to address the legitimate needs of anyone who doesn’t fit this model, no matter how compassionate and understanding we are, will not be solved by redefining marriage to meet their personal desires.
The only hope we have left is for enough people to open their eyes to the reality of the direction in which we are headed and start to acknowledge once again that marriage must only be between one man and one woman. It’s time we lose the egos that have dared to tell God he’s wrong and that we’re going to correct his error. Perhaps we can still round up the evils and put them back in Pandora’s Box before it’s too late. God help us if we don’t!
Either marriage is heterosexual and monogamous or it is totally meaningless. We cannot have it both ways. Which do you prefer?
Please check out this blog. It is by one of my former students and altar boys, and is one of the best defenses of traditional marriage I have encountered. Great going, Matt!!!