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
When the Supreme Court legalized marriage in all 50 states of the union this past summer I knew it would be inevitable that people would be asking whether or not they could attend the marriage of a same-sex couple. May we attend or should we politely bow out? Before we answer, let’s set a foundation.
By attending an event we implicitly show that we are giving approval to the event. Imagine, for example, if we were to show up at a celebration by the Ku Klux Klan. There would be no way we can claim that we were just showing up for the event but not approving of the Klan. Similarly, how could we show up for a marriage celebration that violates what we believe without giving tacit approval to the event? As a rule, therefore, those who oppose gay marriage should not attend a same-sex celebration. Naturally, there will be an awkwardness involved in turning down the invitation. Sometimes someone may feel that they are so close to someone, especially an immediate family member or very dear friends, that they feel it would harm the relationship by not attending. If that is the case, the only way we could attend without implicitly approving would be to clearly let the individuals know beforehand that our presence should in no way be interpreted as approving of what they are doing. I know that many people will find that a difficult thing to do, but sometimes in life we must do things that are awkward or difficult in order to remain faithful to our beliefs. Others may feel that they are judging the individuals by not showing up; in fact, that is precisely what the gay-rights community has been doing to us: making us believe that we are judging them by not approving of their activities. Nothing of that sort is taking place at all. Do not let individuals put you on the defensive and make it sound like you’re judging them. Actually, there is a breach of charity on their part if they should do that. Charity dictates that we should never deliberately place anyone in a situation where their presence would violate their beliefs, religious or otherwise. Would you invite an animal rights activist to attend the opening of a new fur salon and expect them to attend and be supportive? That would be uncharitable. Similarly, same-sex couples should not invite to their wedding someone they know does not approve of gay marriage. To do so would be insensitive on their part. Same-sex couples may have won the legal right to marry, but they must understand that not everyone approves of what they’re doing and for them to put anyone in a situation whereby they would be forcing them to choose between their relationship with them and their religious beliefs is unconscionable. I find that the onus is on a same- sex couple to be sensitive to other peoples’ feelings and not put them on the spot. If they worry that someone would be offended by not being invited, I would suggest adding a note with the invitation that says, “You are a very important person in my life and so I welcome you to take part in my celebration; however, I realize that this may cause awkwardness for you, and if you feel you cannot in good conscience attend I will understand.” Similarly, it would behoove a same-sex couple to understand if someone says, “listen, you’re very important to me and I love you but you know what you’re doing violates my religious beliefs and I cannot in good conscience celebrate with you.” If they are people of integrity, they will understand. If not, they are merely trying to use their marriage as a means to force you to accept their beliefs, even at the risk of violating your own, and that is wrong of them. They should not turn their celebration into a moral battleground. Let them celebrate with those who support them and understand that some cannot. So if you are invited to a same-sex ceremony, very politely inform the person that you cannot attend because it violates your religious beliefs and you’re sure they understand that and know you mean them no ill will. If you feel you absolutely must attend the event, make it clear to the person beforehand that under no circumstances should they interpret your attendance as approval of what they are doing.
Last week at our teen club meeting I asked a question of the teenagers, and I was a little surprised at the answers I got. I asked the question, “What is the purpose of the Church?” I got back a variety of comments such as to help people, to show people goodness, to teach the gospel, to show people to follow Jesus, but only eventually did I get the answer I was looking for: to lead people to heaven; to save souls. That is the purpose of the Church, and when I said it of course the kids agreed, but it wasn’t what they first thought, and it occurred to me that maybe that is the cause of many of the problems that we have today with people who either do not embrace the Church, do not follow it as fully as they should, or do not understand why we hold the positions we do. Because they don’t understand what the Church is all about, they don’t understand our insistence on certain teachings. This is not the first time that I’ve come across this.
Recently I had a phone conversation with a man who was rather angry because a layperson I invited to speak after Communion mentioned that gay marriage was wrong. He was furious with me because he thought that the Pope had allowed gay marriage when he said “Who am I to judge?” When I explained to him that that’s not exact at all what the Pope said he started giving me his diatribe of “Well, see this is why people don’t follow the Church any more. The Church insists on holding these unpopular opinions and the Church has to change and say what people want to hear if they want to get people to come. When I asked the man, “What is the purpose of the Church?” he couldn’t answer me. He actually said, “I don’t know!” I said to him, “So you really don’t know what the purpose of the Church is, yet you can be firm in telling me that the Church is wrong in teaching that gay marriage is not permissible.” He then just yelled some more insults at me and hung up. Don’t we need to know what the goal of the Church is before we can assert with force that the Church’s teaching is wrong? Sadly, many people have totally lost track of what we’re all about.
I recall a woman who once called me asking if I could do her wedding even though she needed an annulment. She told me she knew that technically she needed an annulment. I said to her, “No, truly you need an annulment.” “Well, Father,” she asked, “can’t you just marry me anyway without it? The way I look at it God just wants me to be happy and marrying this man will make me happy so, why won’t you do it?” I tried to explain to her that she had it all wrong, that God doesn’t just want us to be happy. Jesus didn’t have to suffer and die on the cross to help us figure out whatever is going to make you happy and then do it; that was Original Sin! In fact he’s called us to quite the opposite: not just to listen to what you think is right and what you feel is right but to listen to and follow what God teaches us. That was the whole temptation from Satan. God had warned Adam and Eve not to try to listen to their own hearts and heads and what they think is right, because they can be wrong, but God can’t. Basically God was saying, “I am God and you are not. I am all-knowing, you are not. If you follow your own heart and mind you can be wrong, but I can never be wrong. So do and follow all I tell you and your life will be perfect.” Of course, they didn’t listen to God, and when they decided to choose for themselves what was right and wrong instead of listening to God they destroyed Paradise. When I told the girl on the phone this she didn’t want to hear it and abruptly hung up the phone on me.
But that’s the problem we’re facing: in so many situations people somehow got the got the idea that the Church is here just to make people happy. No, the Church is here to show people the way through a fallen world to return to what we lost by Original Sin. It was the disobedience of Adam and Eve to the will of God that lost that unity – that Paradise – that we once had. Christ, by his obedience to the Father even unto death, reversed the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and now, when we are obedient to him we allow him to lead us to union with him – which is what “going to heaven” means – to be one with God. Our beliefs are not arbitrary and they are not decided by vote or opinion but by the truth revealed to us by God and preserved through the Church, what we call the Deposit of Faith.” Just because the majority of people don’t agree with it does not make it all of a sudden wrong, or because now a majority of people accept it doesn’t automatically make it in fact a means to union with God.
If you want to have a healthy body, you know that you can’t eat junk food. Well, imagine if people were to say “We like junk food; therefore, we think we should be allowed to eat all the junk food we want!” Nutritionists are simply going to tell you you’re wrong, that junk food doesn’t make you healthy. They tell you you have to severely limit your intake of it, perhaps even avoid it all together. You don’t like it. You want to be able to eat all the junk food you want and still be healthy, but your opinion or desire doesn’t change the fact that junk food is not healthy. Even if nutritionists should decide to appease people and tell them, “Okay. Since you believe there’s nothing wrong with junk food and a majority of you feel that way, then we’ll now declare that junk food is good for you,” does that now make junk food healthy? Your opinion can’t change the truth. In just the same way, when God reveals that something such as gay marriage, contraception, abortion, whatever it may be, is not healthy for your soul and does not lead us into union with him, all the opinion to the contrary doesn’t change the truth that these activities do not make us healthy but are harmful to that union with God, which is the definition of a sin.
Moral teachings tell us what leads us to union with God (salvation) and what harms that union (sin). If we were to say that something that was once revealed as a moral absolute has now changed, that what was once sinful is now holy, that would imply that God had changed, and that’s a metaphysical impossibility! We know that drinking rat poison would kill us. For rat poison to now be good for us there would have to be a complete metabolic change in the very structure and essence of the human body. If 96% of people now believe rat poison is okay and we should now be allowed to drink it, that doesn’t change the fact. Opinions don’t change truth.
And so, my brothers and sisters, if you feel concerned or confused about what the Church teaches and don’t understand one thing or another, remember that the purpose of the Church is not to be a social club. Our purpose is not to try to win in as many people as we can by promising anything that will make people join us. Our purpose is to save souls, and the only way we do that is by teaching the truth, by pointing out what is sinful and calling people to avoid sin and embrace what is holy. No opinion, no changes in popular acceptance of an idea can ever change that. To do the work of the Church means simply to preach the Gospel of Jesus, the good news that calls us away from sin and to union with him, and nothing else. Lies destroy and kill. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly. That life is only found in obedience to the truth, the truth that will set us free.
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.
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?