Monday, August 6, 2012

The Catholic Stance on the Definition of Marriage

Listen to the homily here.

18th Sunday Ordinary-B
Reading 1 Ex 16:2-4, 12-15 
Responsorial Psalm Ps 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54
Reading 2 Eph 4:17, 20-24
Gospel Jn 6:24-35

In today's Gospel story, thousands of people flocked to the place where Jesus was because they were hungry.  They had witnessed, or had heard about the event that took place in the part of the gospel that we read last week where Jesus had fed the 5000 men.  We don't know how many women and children there were but he fed a whole lot of people and they had their fill.  That food came from just a couple of fish and some loaves of bread.  Well, when they heard that Jesus had left, they tracked him down, they followed him, they found him and they showed up because they were hungry.  But Jesus pointed out to them rather quickly that they needed to strive for something more than food.  

This past Wednesday, thousands of people flocked to Chick-fil-A restaurants all around the country to eat lunch or dinner.  And they were hungry too.  Some of them were just hungry for chicken and they didn't know about the events that were taking place and so they were quite surprised to see the thousands of people who were showing up in the restaurants all over this country.  The rest may have been hungry for food as well but their greater hunger was to make a statement of support for the president of the company who had, in an interview, witnessed to his Christian faith and had openly spoken his support for the traditional definition of marriage as being one between one man and one woman.  Others were there as a statement of support for his right to speak his principals without suffering the persecution that arose from some segments of our society.

Now if you've been following this you know that a firestorm arose around the country as his statements and his position were taken to be by some, rather than pro-marriage, they were taken to be anti-gay.  Boycotts were called for, even a couple of mayors of some large cities had proclaimed that they would do whatever they could to prevent Chick-fil-A from expanding in their cities.  So Wednesdays events were to counter those boycotts as well as to express their support.

So I thought that in the midst of this controversy which is making national news, that today might be the right time, a good time, without all of the emotion and all of the words being slung, to clearly outline two things.  To have a teachable moment.  To really outline two things about this subject as they relate to our Catholic faith.  There's tons and tons of material out there.  You can read it, research yourself.  And hopefully very soon, this week, maybe even by the end of the day because he was here at an earlier mass, our webmaster will have posted links to the documents that I'm going to quote from today on our website.  And I just wanted to make this clear and concise which is why I'm up here today instead of down there and why I have notes.

First point, our US Bishops have made very clear that the Church's teaching is that marriage is, and must continue to be, defined as the union of one man and one woman.  This definition is not new.  This definition comes not from man, and not from government, it comes from God.  We see it in the beginning, the book of Genesis.  God created man in His image; in the divine image he created them; male and female he created them.  God blessed them saying to them: be fertile and multiply.  Fill the earth and subdue it.  In a pastoral letter the Unites States Conferences of Catholic Bishops that was issued in 2009 called Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan the Bishops state:
"We Bishops feel compelled to speak against all attempts to redefine marriage so that it would no longer be exclusively be the union of the man and the woman as God established and blessed it in the natural created order."
Further down they reiterate:
The Church has taught through the ages that marriage is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman.  This union once validly entered and consummated gives rise to a bond that cannot be dissolved by the will of the spouses.  Marriage thus created is a faithful privileged sphere of intimacy between the spouses that lasts until death. 
And so this profound, this beautiful document goes on and on to talk about the beauty of a sacramental marriage between a man and a woman.  I encourage you to read this pastoral letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.  And our Bishops have been very vocal recently about supporting this definition of marriage and opposing any effort to change the definition of marriage.  So that's point number one.

Point number two.  And I want to make this briefly but pointedly, is that this stance by the Church is not a hate filled action or statement against men and women who are gay.  That's what all the controversy was about in the Chic-fil-A event.  It's not an anti gay action.  There is no place in our faith or in our church for hatred or discrimination.  Period.  As Catholic Christians, we're called to listen and to embrace the words of the statement from a document entitled Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care for Homosexual Persons. And this was from the then Cardinal Ratzinger, better known now as Pope Benedict XVI.  He was, in 1986, when this was published, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  It says:
  "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action.  Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastor wherever it occurs"
So hateful actions against someone who is gay has no place in our lives.  Furthermore I think it's important to make this point and I would venture a guess that not many of you have ever heard this.  And I'm summarizing here some statements in Ministering to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination a document from our Bishops published in 2006 we know this: Being a homosexual is not a sin.  Being a homosexual is not a sin.  Entering into homosexual acts, that's a sin.  Just as entering into any intimate act of a man and a woman outside of the sacrament of marriage is a sin.

Therefore we, you and I, must help nurture our friendship with those who are gay.  We must nurture our friendship with God so that the virtue of chastity among all of us is both embraced and strengthened.

So please, I encourage you to be open to God's truth.  I encourage you to pray about this.  To embrace the Church's teachings about marriage.  To reject the worldly position that somehow embracing the traditional understanding of marriage, which has been that way since the very beginning, that somehow that's a hateful action against those who are homosexual.  And knowing that for some this may be a bit challenging, I think we should now look back at the Gospel story for help in understanding how we can accomplish the works of God.

How we can grow closer to the Lord so that there is no place in our hearts for straying from the truth or rejecting the Church's teachings.  So there's no place in our hearts for having hatred or malice.  Remember in the Gospel the people said to Jesus, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"  And His response to them was, "This is the work of God.  That you believe in the one He sent."  There is the bottom line.  To believe in Jesus Christ.  Because you know what?  Just like the people in the Gospel, whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or admit it or not, you and I are hungry for more than just chicken.  We're hungry for the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.  In our hearts.  Opening our hearts to God's message, opening our hearts to His Son, knowing the one He sent are so essential to us being the men and women that God calls us to be.  God, as we heard in that first reading, is the one who fed the Israelites in the desert with manna.  That same loving God sent His only son to be for us the Bread of Life.  Not just the food that feeds our worldly hunger, but the food that fills the God shaped vacuum that is within each one of us.  That God shaped vacuum that can only be satisfied and filled by the presence of Jesus Christ.  He is the food that gives life, eternal life to those who believe.  He is the food that overcomes hatred with love.  He is the food that brings us closer to Him so that we constantly seek His will and not the will of the world.

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