15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Homily - C Cycle - 2003-2004
First Reading - Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Psalm - 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37
Second Reading - Colossians 1:15-20
Gospel - Luke 10:25-37
Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, 'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.' Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?" He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
This morning, I have been asked to preach on a topic that is one of the hottest and most emotionally-charged issues of our day and that is the issue of unions between two persons of the same sex. It affects all of us and the future of our country and the future of our civilization. In the coming days, the United States Senate will cast a historic vote on a proposed Constitutional Amendment to protect the traditional form of marriage between one man and one woman. I want to speak today with a particular deference to individuals who either struggle with same-sex attraction or who know people who do. We have to reach out in a spirit of compassion and charity to such persons and as a matter of justice, we need to reach out to such persons in a spirit of true compassion, based in the truth. A false compassion that allows immoral behavior to go unchecked serves no one well and this is part of the reason why this topic must be addressed.
Before proceeding any further, allow me to make two caveats: First, I know that there are many children here today and I want to protect their innocence, so from this point on, I will refer to the topic of alleged marriage between two persons of the same sex as GU, short for gay unions. In the spirit of tolerance and open-mindedness, I invite you to embrace what we as Catholics believe marriage is, as determined by God. I know that the notion of gay unions is emotionally-charged and I'm willing to bet that almost every adult here knows a person who struggles with same-sex attraction. For this reason, many don't want to come across as being discriminatory against persons they may work with or have other interaction. When we cannot afford the same rights to all persons, we sense that there's an injustice perpetrated. In the case of stopping gay unions, justice is actually served because God's law, including what He has to say about the nature of marriage, must be respected above all else.
Second, I realize that there are some persons who think that the Church should stay out of politics, thus not make any remarks about this issue. In other words, in the interests of separating Church and state, the Church should just stick to moral issues. This is an erroneous idea. By their nature, every human act that is a willed act - a voluntary act, whether it be abortion or contraception or attempting marriage with another person of the same sex is, by its very nature, a moral act precisely because the human person can will it - they can choose to do x or y. Yes, many of these issues have political manifestations and are discussed and debated in the political forum, but they are first and foremost moral issues. Hence, the Church has not only the duty, but the right to speak on these issues, including the idea of gay unions.
In order to address this idea properly, we turn to our first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses tells the Jews that the law of God is not remote or mysterious to them. Rather, it is in their hearts - they need only to carry it out. In other words, Moses recognizes that there is a natural law written into the heart of every human person that is given to them by God to know the proper ends of things. It is the law that instinctively tells us that murder and rape are wrong. It is the law that tells us that things have their proper use and that to use things for ends other than their intended use in unnatural. So, heterosexual orientation is normal; every other orientation is abnormal. In addition, the Catechism states that the vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they have come from God. Marriage is not merely a human institution. The differences in how cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes have viewed marriage should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics - that marriage is between man and woman for the sake of unitive love and the possibility of generating children. Thus, this idea is not private to Catholics or Christians - the natural law is accessible to all persons of all religions and cultures - be they Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics or atheists.
This past April, the National Catholic Register, a Catholic periodical faithful to the Magisterium, ran a very well-composed editorial on this issue. It stated that the debate over gay unions is all about the meaning of the word "marriage" and whether courts can change that meaning. Words really matter. Past attempts to redefine words have led to unspeakable human misery. Think back in the history of this country when white slave owners redefined the words, "private property" or when the communists and Nazis of the last century redefined the term, "human race." It took wars and great social upheavals to recover the true meaning of these words so that terms like, "all men are created equal" or "freedom" or "human rights" were respected. In Massachusetts, proponents of gay unions have effectively redefined "marriage." Traditionally, marriage has always meant the lifelong union of a man and woman for the purposes of building a family and mutually benefiting from a common life. The new definition of marriage in Massachusetts means that marriage is "a declaration by a person of their romantic sexual love for another person." Those who oppose this new definition, which allegedly "really doesn't harm anyone" are called homophobic. The Church has taught that the principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of gay unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is acceptable when giving such recognition would violate principles of justice. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation or gay unions that are not and cannot be marital are not opposed to justice. Rather, justice requires it.
Yet, there is a prevalent attitude out there, even among Catholics, that holds that gay unions don't hurt anyone. People will say, "Leave them alone...As long as it doesn't affect me, why shouldn't they have the right to marry, like everyone else?" This is a very prevalent attitude. here's the problem with it:
As we have already established, marriage, by its nature, is between one man and one woman. That is not merely a societal determination - marriage was given to us by God in the persons of Adam and Eve. If you haven't been able to tell, we do not have the right to redefine what God has already defined for us. Some argue that in the Old Testament, some Biblical heroes had many wives. While this may be true, we ought not to forget that these unions were based in a natural desire because the marital embrace between a man and woman is natural. Moreover, we turn to the New Testament and to our Lord's correction of this problem when he reminds the Jews that had practiced polygamy in the past and had allowed divorce that "in the beginning," meaning with Adam and Eve, it was not so. Jesus restores monogamy between one man and one woman in wedlock as the gold standard of what is natural and true and good. By contrast, relations between two persons of the same sex is not natural - it is intrinsically evil. Meanwhile, same-sex orientation is intrinsically disordered. To give the union of two persons of the same sex both social and legal standing only legitimizes an intrinsically disordered condition and intrinsically evil acts.
Thus gay union is not really marriage precisely because it does not fit the definition of what God has established marriage to be. All marital acts, by their nature, must be unitive and open to the possibility of children. Gay union cannot achieve either end. First, the alleged union cannot be unitive because there is no biological complimentarity between two persons of the same sex. Second, the couple can't produce a child. Thus, gay union is not really marriage - by its very nature, it can't be marriage. Thus, we cannot accept gay unions or civil unions or anything that gives social or economic or political standing to these unions.
Many are sympathetic to the idea of gay union because they think that gay union will not affect them or society at large. This is erroneous thinking. In June 2003, the Holy See stated that children who would be adopted by persons in gay union, would be subject to a form of violence because gay union creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Sooner or later, we would have a whole population of children who would be totally mixed-up about what marriage and sexuality really mean. It may be the case that we already do.
How did we get in this mess? In a sense, we should not be surprised at this phenomenon of gay union. Because we live in a contraceptive society that separates love making from life-giving, anything goes. It's also why pornography is a $9 billion industry and why abortion on demand is possible and why marital infidelity is at an all-time high. When marriage does not have to include the possibility of bearing children, gay union is a logical conclusion of the contraceptive mindset.
Here are some manifestations of the gay union phenomenon:
• In California, the state legislature passed a ruling last year that states that couples who adopt a child in California must sign a pledge stating that they will not try to sway their adopted child one way or another on the question of the traditional form of marriage vs. gay union. The ruling basically disqualifies all members of mainstream religious groups from adopting a child.
• In Old Town, Alexandria, there are more dogs that are registered with the city government than children. It's no coincidence that Old Town has one of the highest numbers of gay couples per capita in the DC area. Children cannot be born out of gay union, so these couples raise dogs as a substitute.
• In Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth II, last November, proposed the introduction of legislation to give recognition to gay unions.
The new definition of marriage as stated in Massachusetts is endlessly malleable because it is based on a theory of what the word "marriage" could or should be. The traditional definition is simple and strong, because it is shaped by a moral code, real experiences of men and women throughout the ages and it is recognized in a natural law written deep in the heart of every human person. The new definition does not discriminate against anyone and is then open to abuse. If marriage is redefined to mean whatever two person want it to mean, then other forms of supposed marriage could be recognized. For example:
1. temporary marriage could
be recognized - that is, marriage for as long as it is
2. bigamy and polygamy could be recognized.
3. marriage to non-humans is possible as well.
Finally, we should turn to Pope John Paul II and what he has said about all of this. The Pope has clearly stated that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of gay union. He adds that families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than to note with indifference. This is no time to take this issue sitting down. We cannot allow gay union to be given equal status as true marriage. As Catholics, we have the obligation to do what we can to uphold the traditional form of marriage and after Mass today, there will be persons outside to collect signatures on letters to Senators Allen and Warner to vote in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment. The challenge, is not for us to merely be opposed to gay union. We have to act on this mental opposition by taking the necessary means to ensure that the God-given definition of marriage is protected because doing so is one of the ways we remain faithful to the first and greatest commandment given to us in the Gospel - to love God with our whole heart, being, strength and mind. It has been said that in order for evil to triumph, all good men need do is stand idly by. My friends, silence and indifference cannot be our response to this crisis.
Let us pray for our civic leaders, that they will have the courage, insight and wisdom to protect what we already know is the only right position on this matter. We do well to pray for the conversion of those who would support and condone gay union. May those who suffer from same-sex attraction recognize their Cross and may their lives of celibate chastity be a living sacrifice of praise to God who designed marriage and who expects us to honor his law and walk in His ways.
Praised by Jesus Christ. Now and forever!
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