Holy Order – God’s Plan for Marriage and Eternal Life – My Homily for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

If I were to give a title for my homily today I would call it “Holy Order.”  What I mean by that is that everything that God created has an order.  Everything is arranged in such a way that it has a purpose, an end.  In the natural world we see that animals and plants are made to grow and live and die to help others grow and live.  Now the natural end of plants and animals is death, but when God created mankind he gave us something more, He gave us a supernatural end, life eternal in heaven.  God has revealed us this through Jesus Christ.  Jesus himself told us, “I came that they might have life and have it to the full.”[1]  So everything that God created for mankind is meant to help us live fully and reach that end, eternal life in heaven.  But often this goes wrong in our world because of human sinfulness.  The book of Wisdom today captures this dynamic succinctly.  The author of the book of Wisdom reminds us that God did not create death.  He is referring to a spiritual death, an alienation from God, rather than just a physical death, because our own experience tells us that all things die eventually, and it would be contradictory to say God didn’t create natural death when all things naturally die.  That means then for the person who has no sin, natural death is not a problem, just look at the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Her “death” is referred to as the dormition of Mary or the falling asleep of Mary, after which she was assumed into Heaven.  She had no sin and had no fear of natural death; rather she fell asleep and entered eternal life.  This is what God desires for us, but as we can see very clearly in our world today, sin exists, and so too spiritual death that it causes.  The book of Wisdom goes on to clarify this truth.  The author tells us that God created man to be imperishable, a reference to the end or goal of mankind, that God created us for, eternal life, but that spiritual death entered the world through the envy of the devil.  This is the death that God did not create, but sin did.  This spiritual death, this alienation and separation from God, prevents humanity from reaching eternal life that God created us for.  This whole passage in Wisdom echoes the book of Genesis, where envy was what Satan used to tempt Adam and Eve to desire to be like Gods themselves and choose what is good and evil rather than trusting and following God’s own created order of things.

This is unfortunately also very common in our culture today, and Satan is active in our world today tempting many to reject God as Father and to choose for themselves what is good and evil.  This is a very dangerous place to be.  I’m sure many of you have heard that on Friday the Supreme Court ruled that Same-Sex marriages must be recognized in all 50 states in the court case called Obergefell v. Hodges.  For those advocating for gay marriage this was a win for “love.”  They are saying that it doesn’t matter who you love as long as you love.  But their definition of love and marriage is not what God intended it to be.  Authentic self-sacrificial love does not need marriage to be real; Jesus himself exemplified this.  On Friday our supreme court redefined marriage in a political/legal sense and this is not a win for “love” but rather it is actually the opposite.
Now let’s back up a minute to see the big picture here.  God created man to be imperishable, to have life to the full, and so He gave us means of attaining that end, i.e. the sacraments.  Marriage is one of those gifts that God gave us to reach eternal life.  But marriage as it was intended to be: between one man and one woman.  Marriage serves to unite a couple and produce life in children.  Let me repeat that, these two aspects of marriage are essential to what marriage is: marriage is unitive and procreative.  It unites a man and a woman and produces life.  As such, it is a symbol of the love that Christ has for the Church.  Both in marriage and in Christ’s love for the Church, there is a complete self-gift in each person and this is entirely life giving.   A man gives of himself completely to his wife and she in turn receives him and gives completely of herself to him; this complementarity of the sexes is part of the nature of marriage itself and is incredibly beautiful.  It is only in the sexual difference between a man and a woman that they are able to “speak” the language of love.  This union of love is life giving, resulting in children who are enriched by having both a father and mother.  As a great symbol, marital love points to Jesus Christ who gave himself completely to the Church, to us, in his death on the cross, which gives spiritual life to all of us in our salvation.  Marriage, then, as it was created to be, is a model of the love of God who gave his only Son to redeem the world and give eternal life.   It leads mankind to the end that God intended for us, namely, eternal life.
As a result, marriage cannot be any other way because in any other form it will lack part of its essence and cease to model Christ’s love for the Church.  Gay marriage, by its nature, lacks part of the essential elements of what God intended marriage to be.  It lacks the complementarity of the sexes and also loses the ability to be life giving.  No child can ever be born of such a union, and therefore this kind of marriage cannot be life giving and ceases to be a symbol of Christ’s love to His Church.  Only marriage between one man and one woman can achieve this.
Today our culture is confused through a process thas been happening for quite some time.  Our culture has rejected God as the creator of life and has determined that it, not God, can choose what is good and evil, just as Satan tempted Eve in the garden.  Without God then the only meaning of things is what mankind makes them to be.  Our culture has determined that it can make marriage mean whatever it wants; marriage as defined by law is now no longer a way of attaining eternal life, but is an arbitrary definition in our political system.  And this is by no means the first time this has happened in our culture.  The same thing happened when contraception became common use and was no longer considered wrong, and when abortion became legal in the Roe v. Wade court decision.  Obergefell v. Hodges is the Roe v. Wade of our age for marriage.  And we, as Catholics, must hold strong to the Truth that God gave us.  That marriage is between one man and one woman and cannot be any other way.
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t address the victims of this redefinition.  I want to address briefly those persons who this redefinition of marriage was supposed to help, those who struggle with same-sex attraction.  Our culture wants to suggest that gay marriage is their path to happiness and life.  But since gay marriage isn’t life giving and doesn’t lead to eternal life, it leads neither to authentic happiness nor life.  Persons who struggle with same-sex attraction are led to eternal life the way we all are, through the sacraments as given by God and not by our culture’s redefinition of them.  Those persons who struggle with same-sex attraction have the same struggle that we all have, resisting our sinful humanity to draw closer to God.  Same-sex attraction itself is not sinful, but acting on it is, exactly as heterosexual attraction is not sinful, but acting on it outside of marriage is.  So we are all fundamentally in the same boat; we are all sinners together in need of growing in the virtue of chastity to journey towards eternal life.
Some of you may know someone who struggles with same-sex attraction.  It is important to approach them and accept them, as we would approach any person.  Each and every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God regardless of what cross we are asked to bear.  We must also love them authentically in a way the culture does not.  That does not mean stand by and let them do things that are destructive, but that means speaking to them about the truth of their dignity as persons and call to live chastely (as we all are called to live as well).  No one is served with a lie, authentic love tells only the truth.
And so my friends, as we continue with our Eucharist today, I invite you to pray earnestly for our confused culture, pray that the envy that Satan has used to corrupt it be overcome by the grace of Jesus Christ.  Pray for those who embrace the gay marriage culture as a way of life.  Hold fast to the Truth of marriage as given to us by God our creator.  Love everyone authentically by proclaiming the truth in love.  Let us pray for one another as we journey along the narrow path, rejected by our culture, to our God given end, eternal life.

[1]John 10:10 ESV

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