Thursday, October 11, 2012

In the Beginning - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily Notes

This morning our Lord speaks to us about marriage and family. And Jesus has taught us also about divorce. Now, I know that there are some with us today who are divorced or who have been divorced in the past. And instead of putting my foot in my mouth, let me just say this: if you are divorced and if you feel condemned by Jesus today or if you have questions about your situation and what the Church teaches, why don’t you come and see Monsignor or me? Let’s do that. Because I know that this is not an easy teaching for you to swallow. And Monsignor and I are here to help. So, let’s do that: give us a call and let’s meet. I think you’ll be refreshed by what you will hear when we sit down together.

Jesus calls us this morning to contemplate the beginning—the beginning of all things, and in particular, the creation of man and woman. Why does He do this? Because those who are challenging Him today are arguing from the past—but from a past that is not far enough back. They say that Moses allowed for divorce. Jesus says, ok, but we need to go further back in time: to the beginning. And in the beginning, before Adam and Eve sinned, things were a little different. Actually, things were fundamentally different before the first sin: before the first sin, our hearts weren’t hard. Jesus, then, by calling us back to the very very beginning calls us back to the time when man’s heart was not hard, when man knew clearly and well the plan of God. And this is why he calls His audience to the beginning too: their hearts had also grown hard.
So Jesus says, “From the beginning of creation… God made them male and female.” My question is: “why?” Why did God bring into being two forms of our species? And why did he make their union the very means by which He could issue forth His new creation? And why, having made them both in His own image, did he make them complimentary? This is what Jesus wants us to ponder this morning: to ponder our very creation, to ask the deeper questions about His plan, and about what that means for us who are created in His image and likeness, and also as male and female.
            To speak about God’s image and likeness, we must know who God is. And you all know that He is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—a communion of persons whose very life is love. Simply, God is Family. He is the first family; the Source of all families, the bond of communion. This means that we, who are made in His image, are made for communion—and that our families are an image of family. If we are to be a family, it is because God is Family first. And so, if we want to be a family, shouldn’t we have God at the center of our family?
            But what else is God? We know that He is love. But this love is not fluffy love or love like a candy bar. It is not selfish love or love that wavers. God’s love “bears all things… endures all things…” God’s love is powerful. *The Cross* When we see the love that newlyweds have, we see passionate, self-giving love. But that is the image. God is the source. This means that God is in His very Being ecstatic, passionate, life-giving, powerful, selfless love. This is why He creates in the first place: to share this love. Love necessarily pours itself out as gift.
            This all said, why did God create man and woman to be united in marriage and to have their union be the means by which love and life—His very image—would increase? Perhaps His plan all along is to have marriage point beyond itself. Have you ever thought about this? That God made marriage for a purpose? On one level, marriage is to bond the couple together, to bring forth life…  But on a whole-nother level, marriage is to draw the man and woman into the very ecstasy of heaven. Human marriage is meant to be a foretaste and a means by which God draws the man and woman into communion with Himself—to know Him and to love Him.
            This means too that the very person, made in God’s image, reveals to us the mystery of God. The body itself points us to heaven and to God, for the body reveals that we are made for communion, that we participate in the bearing of life, and that we can offer ourselves as gift—as images of God, who said: “This is my body, given for you.”
            Marriage and Family and Male and Female—they are made to point us beyond ourselves.

            And that’s all well and good, but we all know that marriage can be messy. It is not easy. We find that we’re often battling—battling with our spouse, battling with our own interior desires. (This is why, after St. Paul describes marriage in Ephesians 5, he then speaks about the Spiritual Armor and the Spiritual Battle in Ephesians 6). We often lose sight of where marriage is supposed to point us. We turn marriage in on itself and we think marriage is an end in itself instead of a means to something greater. We can do the same thing to the person and to the body. And when that happens, we’re no longer loving. We’re using.
            The opposite of love is not anger, says Pope John Paul II (because anger bespeaks a love betrayed or disappointed or hurt. One can still love and be angry). The opposite of love is use. When we use somebody, we don’t love them. We are turning them into an object for our self-gratification. That is not love; that’s selfishness.
            Lust is a form of use. Lust peers at the body, longs for its consumption, and when used, lust discards the rest. The problem with lust, then, is not that it sees too much. The problem with lust is that it sees too little: it doesn’t see the God which the person images. Lust distorts the image and obscures the heavenly vision. Lust says, “This body: this is your heaven.” Lust turns the body into an idol, when the body is really an icon. Lust destroys the icon. It is iconoclasm.
            Let me back up for a moment. There is a difference between the temptation of lust and the sin of lust. Here’s the difference: when a thought enters into your mind, you have an opportunity to show it the door or to let it sit down for a while. We sin when we don’t show the temptation the door.
            Now, Jesus comes to us today and bring us back to the beginning because, in the beginning it was not so. There was no lust. Adam and Eve could look upon one another and see God in each other clearly. This is why they were “naked and without shame.” They did not experience shame because they had pure sight; and so they had no need to protect themselves from the eyes of use.
            Jesus comes to us today to offer us pure hearts again; for, “Blessed are the pure of heart. They shall see God.” He wants to enter into our marriages and families; He wants to enter into our hearts so that we will stop using others; He wants us to see His plan so that we can practice being a gift to others, instead of consuming others. This self-mastery is called chastity.

            But this is doubly tough in a world were the distortion is normal. All men and women experience the temptations that I have described above. It can also be said that some experience these temptations such that they are attracted to a member of the same sex. I say this to all our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, to all who struggle with lust or use or same-sex attraction: in the beginning, it was not so. We are all called to contemplate the beginning and to pray to be open to God’s plan for marriage and for man and woman. This is why Jesus speaks to the disciples today: in their hardness of heart, they had made normal something that was not in His plan. And, in doing so, they had made themselves slaves to their desires.
            My friends, we are not called to be slaves to our self-seeking desires. Our hearts are meant for more. They point to something greater: to God and to heaven. But if we normalize lust or abuse or same-sex attraction, we lose that vision and we become slaves again.

            This is why I am most concerned about past legislation in recent times that has sought to redefine marriage and family according not to God’s plan, but to certain politicians’ whims. It concerns me even more that this legislation that fundamentally disregards God’s plan should be passed off to us and couched in terms of equality and “rights” of law. What great damage this does to our families and to our hearts and to our children! The right of law has no right to redefine the laws of God!
            In a democracy, the duty to protect the laws of God fall to us. There is no king on our structure of government. We rule in his stead; our vote takes his voice. And so, if we should let marriage and family be destroyed—and it has suffered a lot in recent decades (and I dare say it is close to crumbling)—then its destruction should not be the fault of someone in Washington. It would be our own.
            This is why “responsible citizenship is a virtue and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do. … Our focus is not on party affiliation, ideology, economics… as important as such issues are. Rather, we focus on what protects or threatens human life and dignity.”
            God is Family. We are made in his image. It is no hyperbole to say that God is under attack as family is attacked too. And I’m not surprised: because it was like that too in the beginning….

Almost paradise /
We're knocking on heaven's door /
Almost paradise / 
How could we ask for more? /
I swear that I can see forever in your eyes / 

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