Wild Grapes are all Around Us!

By Fr. Stephen V. Hamilton,

In Scripture the vineyard is always an image for the gathering of God’s People. As the Prophet Isaiah himself says, the vineyard is Israel. Later, upon Israel’s failure to recognize and accept Jesus as the awaited Messiah, the vineyard is the Church as the fulfillment of the gathering of God’s People, open to anyone who will produce the fruit of the kingdom. By faith and baptism we are called to be members of Jesus’ Body and we are called to belong to the only Church he himself established: the Catholic Church.

But we are not called to belong to the vineyard of the Church for the purpose of our own praises or to simply be members, as if in a club. Rather, taking the plain lesson of the Scriptures, we are called to belong to Jesus and to his Church in order to produce the fruit of God’s Kingdom.

The obvious question for us then is:

Will we produce the fruit of God’s kingdom?

Will we be a crop of “wild grapes” or will we produce the fruit of holiness and virtue that are signs that we are the cultivated and beloved vintage of God’s kingdom?

Two recent pictures I came across in the news serve as images to me that our world has us surrounded by wild grapes, bad fruit. The first is a picture from some mass protest. A man associated with an organization promoting the abandonment of Christianity is pictured. The organization claims Christianity and false beliefs about Jesus (things like Jesus is God) are responsible for many of the world’s problems. The kicker is this: the man is holding a sign reading “If Jesus returns, kill him again.” Let that sink in. “If Jesus returns, kill him again.”

The second picture is from one of the recent hurricanes whose force ripped ships loose from their moorings. I think the image of a boat ripped from its anchor, tossed about, and causing untold damage as it thrashes and beats against everything in its vicinity is an apt image of our world at this time. Christians and historic Christian lands have abandoned the true faith. In other cases, the label “Christian” remains but the substance is not the Gospel but rather a nonsensical, irrational “tolerance” that betrays the real point: that nothing is really so true as to stake your life on it, except of course for anything that it is fashionable to tolerate. And the wild grapes are wider than the abandonment of Christianity. Other religions and even non-religious people seem to have lost the ability to reason and have become unhinged from the foundation of truth, tossed about like a boat torn from its anchor.

So Many Wild Grapes!

Radical extremist Islam has a well-documented trail of blood demonstrating its violence. Yet it is not uncommon to find that secular elites can’t bring themselves to admit that, at the very least, this does present a problem for the whole of Islam that it must address in an authoritative way if it can be permitted for even a second to be called the religion of peace. The wild grapes of our world don’t stop with throwing off the moorings of Jesus, the Bible, and the Church. They even throw off clear undeniable facts in order to self-define and self-identify who and what they are, who they are with, who they marry and more. Most children learn from an early age and certainly by sixth grade science class that the reproductive system bespeaks the truth of male and female relationships. Not anymore. And there goes marriage too. Now not even the body gets to speak with any finality because despite the truth of genetic make-up modern man can claim to be the other sex and even alter his physical truth. But of course, it’s people like you and me who are the unscientific ones, believing all sorts of crazy fantasy. The irony is actually deeper than the intellectual force of these unhinged arguments.

What Must Catholics Do?

Wild grapes are all around us. We are foolish if we think we can sit back and be generally nice and they won’t overtake us and choke us off like wild vines always do against choice vines. So, let me ask again: Will we produce the fruit of God’s kingdom? The world needs disciples, and the Lord requires disciples, to be witnesses of truth and to produce the fruit of God’s kingdom. This is sorely needed in our time. There are many necessary responses to the crises of our time. I don’t pretend to know them all and I can’t overload you with many of them. But I do want to highlight one that has power and one that has historically been our uniquely Catholic response. It is invoking daily the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary who brought Truth in the flesh to this world, her Son Jesus Christ! October is a month typically dedicated to one particularly strong and valuable spiritual practice – a spiritual weapon even – the Holy Rosary. October is dedicated to the Rosary because of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), which is itself directly related to the memorial of how navies from Christian empires defeated invading Islam at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Since the Christian navies were largely outnumbered by the Islamic navies the Pope called upon all of Christian Europe to pray the Rosary for success in the battle. The Christian victory was considered miraculous and attributed to Mary’s intercession. The pope then established an annual feast day called Our Lady of Victory, which later has come to be called the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. In our modern age we can tend to forget that we are in battle. Most definitely we must be clear that each disciple is in personal spiritual battle to produce the fruit of God’s kingdom and to deny Satan and his kingdom. But we are also in a battle external to ourselves. A battle for culture. A battle for the meaning of human sexuality, marriage, and the family. The Rosary is a weapon we would be foolish to ignore. It will change you personally. It will also impact the world around us in ways we cannot foresee.

I am not giving strong direction to learn and pray the Rosary as if it is the only prayer a Catholic should say. There are many ways to pray and we each need to pray in various ways. But I am saying that we should not ignore the Rosary. If prayed as it is intended, it is a type of meditation and it places us before the mystery of God’s saving plan for us, even as it invokes the Blessed Mother for our needs. In the 1950s Pope Pius XII released a document promoting the recitation of the Holy Rosary. But the title of that document might surprise you. The document on praying the Rosary is called Ingruentium Malorum, which in Latin means “In the face of approaching evils.” Pius XII’s description of the conflicts, the bloodshed, and the attempts to undermine the faith even of children in the 50s might make you think the document was written today. In this 100th anniversary year of Mary’s appearance at Fatima we cannot express surprise that one of the visionaries reported that the final battle between Satan and the Church would be over marriage and family life. But Mary, being the fulfillment of the woman in Genesis who crushes the serpent’s head, is a powerful intercessor in this battle.

We Should Pick Up Our Rosaries.

Pick up a pamphlet from church that teaches its recitation. Go online for resources to learn how to pray it. Use it at home in your family. Pray at least some part of it even if you can’t keep small children’s attention for the whole Rosary. From personal experience I can tell you that if you have a drive of at least about 14 miles (that’s from Edmond to the Cathedral, by the way!), you have time to get a Rosary in. Do not leave this weapon sheathed and dull. The Rosary will change you. It will aid your personal battles. It will help you produce the fruits of God’s kingdom. And, in so doing, it will help you be a valuable part in the battle for the soul of our world.

Shocking! A Pornography Homily

Fr. Hamilton, Apologizes to Parishioners for Failing to Address Pornography Epidemic

Action Item: At Fr. Hamilton’s encouragement, please read this article with your son.  Statistics show your son is already exposed or needs the positive reinforcement from his parents to grow in virtue.  As Father said, “It is serious sin that needs to be confessed immediately, and especially before coming forward to receive Holy Communion.” Don’t be afraid, take courage.  Your son’s salvation is at stake.

Action Item #2: Your priest has full permission to use this homily as his own without crediting Fr. Hamilton.  Please go and encourage your pastor to give this homily.  Father Hamilton has received many thank you’s for this courageous homily.

By Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton,
Sollemnitas Corpus Christi
Dt. 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; Jn. 6:51-58
18 June 2017 (Father’s Day)

Stop Pornography

Pornography, it becomes enslaving.

I want to begin today with a brief prayer. If you are so inclined you can close your eyes and ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that You would cover us, our families, and all of our possessions with Your love and the power of Your Most Precious Blood. Bind and drive out from among us any spirits who are opposed to Your Kingdom. Soften our hearts and heal our wounds so that we may receive Your Word today. Surround all of us with Your heavenly Angels, Saints, the strong arms of St. Joseph, and the mantle of Our Blessed Mother. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Consider this hypothetical situation: What if we all knew that some defect in the water pipes of this church was resulting in harmful exposure to a high percentage of parishioners and running the high likelihood of serious physical health risks and even death… and we did nothing? We said nothing. I take it you would think that is crazy and irresponsible. You might even sue or demand the Pastor and other parish staff be replaced. We have basically that very situation, but in the area of spiritual health. And most people hear almost nothing about it from pulpits. Little is said or done to battle the crisis which is at epidemic proportions.

Today I want to discuss a topic that impacts many men and women across many age categories. While the impact is broad, it does seem true that this spiritual health risk seems to have a more significant hold on men and boys. Since the male susceptibility to this challenge is so high I am intentionally using Father’s Day to treat this topic and to call men in particular to battle, to better health of soul, and to better fulfill the role of protector for their family. Of course, I want to be sensitive to younger ears among us, but at the same time it could be irresponsible for me to be vague. Thus, I am going to speak this word one time so that no one can doubt what I am treating today, but after that I will use other language so as to limit exposure to younger ears. I think it is necessary to speak on the topic of the pervasive presence and use of pornography in our society.

All indications are that this is a widespread problem in our society, made ever more broad by easy access and free content through the internet. I have made some general reference to this topic in other homilies but this is, I believe, the first time in eighteen years as a priest that I have given this topic direct focus. Thus, I first want to apologize to you on this Father’s Day for failing to devote attention to this earlier in a clear, courageous, and manly way as your spiritual father. That is a failure and a weakness on my part because I should have been more resolved to protect my flock, just as you dads must do for yourself and for your families. Today that failure ends.

The statistics are alarming.

  • Studies indicate that 73% of kids are exposed to explicit material before the age of 18. 42% of kids first view it before the age of 13.
  • The average age of first exposure to explicit images on the internet is 11 years old.
  • The largest consumers of this material on the internet are kids ages 12 to 17.
  • 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women say they are regular users of this material.
  • And with access to the digital world on our smartphones it is alarming that 1 in 5 mobile phone searches is for explicit material.

At younger and younger ages kids are spending significant amounts of time online daily. One study found that nearly 70% of kids ages 2 to 5 can operate a computer mouse, but only 11% can tie their own shoes.1 Together with this, studies show that only 1/3 of parents set up parental controls and monitor their children’s online activity. In addition, 41% of American teens agree that their parents have no idea what they are doing online.2  No one is immune from this invasion and the problem exists in Christian homes as it does in other homes. I don’t want to be misunderstood as if the problem doesn’t exist among girls and women too. However, boys and men fall prey to this at significantly higher rates. In all categories of statistics measuring things like type of content viewed, age of first exposure, and frequency of use, boys and men outpace girls and women by large percentage margins. One study indicated that the strongest predictor of use of explicit material is simply being male.

One of the realities of this topic is that a person, through no fault of his or her own, can be exposed to this material quite innocently. A misspelled word in a search engine can lead to exposure and that can place a hook in a person. If we aren’t careful first exposure develops into repeated curiosity and that develops into habitual use that impedes healthy human development and spiritual development. First exposure happened easily enough when I was a kid, but we must admit that with the dawn of the internet it happens much more easily and frequently now, and it comes directly into your home. First exposure to explicit material now happens in the room next door where your child is on the computer, tablet, or smartphone.

It Cannot Be Ignored

This is a matter that cannot be ignored in the parish, in your family life, or in each person’s examination of conscience. We can’t be silent while souls are being ensnared and the risk of hell increases. Use of this explicit material makes its users spiritually crippled and deadened. It is serious sin that needs to be confessed immediately, and especially before coming forward to receive Holy Communion. It becomes enslaving. It negatively impacts personal discipline, dating, marriage, and even the ability of a young person to trust a call from God to priesthood or to a religious vocation.

I hope I don’t cause rash judgment or awkward situations here, but given the statistics on use of explicit material: Parents, you should likely just assume that your child has been exposed, and that your middle school and high school aged child may already have a habit of use. You must speak with them. You must first treat this issue in your own life with serious resolve. You must take measures to control and eliminate the entry points for this material into your home. Use internet locks and filters and even have everyone in the house turn in all cellular and internet devices each evening where they remain locked in the parents’ bedroom until morning. Men, dear brothers in the faith: You especially need to take such measures to protect yourselves, your wives, and your children. We need to live courageously this aspect of fatherhood as protector in our homes.

Don’t Be Shamed

As the spiritual father here I want to set the tone for our response to this moral epidemic by saying that in the spiritual family of this parish, no one is permitted to shame anyone else about this struggle. The devil knows what he is doing in trafficking this filth. Anyone who is struggling needs to know they are loved, they are supported, and that they are called to true and authentic human relationships. Jesus gives us the example from the woman caught in adultery who easily could have been shamed. Instead, he says: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (Jn. 8:11). So, in this parish, I am opening this topic for conversation and I am asking you to continue it in your home and with your family. Opening this to conversation can allow healing to take place.

This is because in talking openly and honestly we will draw each other, spouses and children, into more authentic relationships that, together with confession, prayer, struggle, and acts of penance, will result in lessening the grip of false virtual “relationships”. Anyone struggling needs to be prudent, but opening this matter – not to everyone – but to a trusted friend can offer accountability in the battle. I want you to know that there are in fact people who do not use explicit material. The battle is possible. Victory is already with Christ Jesus. And others in this parish will be ready to stand with you as you engage in battle. It is time to reject the devil’s message that tells you to keep this matter hidden. Kept hidden in the darkness, he increases his power over you. In the light, he flees.

Furthermore, we are also going to confess this matter with humility and honesty each and every time there is a fall and a sin. God is ready to meet you in this struggle and He is already loving you as you hear this invitation to confession. He loves you and He wants you to have a deeper relationship with Him. In the bulletin this weekend there are some resources grouped together to go along with this topic. You can follow the links provided and get more information and resources for help in the battle for purity. Remember too that my homilies are recorded and available as a podcast on the parish website (http://www.stmonica-edmond.org/_blog/podcast). The text is also posted on the website (http://www.stmonica-edmond.org/_blog/Homilies_and_Remarks). It may be helpful to listen to this message again or to pass it along to others you know. As spiritual father I want to give some clear directions. These directions can be followed by anyone, but on this Father’s Day I want to issue a special call to the men of our parish to engage in this battle and to step up with fellow brothers to be evermore the protectors and the spiritual heads of our families that we are called to be.

  • Therefore, I want every man in this parish to learn how to pray the Rosary to invoke Mary in this battle. She brought us her Son who crushed the serpent’s head. Her intercession is powerful. Resources to learn the Rosary can be found through the parish office or online. Pray it in your home with your family. I would like more and more men to volunteer to lead the Rosary before the start of each weekend Mass.
  • Reverent worship is a weapon in the battle and so, in addition to faithful attention at Holy Mass, I ask each of you to sign up for a Holy Hour of Adoration in our chapel, or to share an hour with your family, or with another friend. Come receive blessing in the Lord’s Real Presence and train your eyes to look upon the Holy One in our midst.
  • Men, I encourage you to invoke St. Joseph in this battle and to ask his help to see in him a great example of what it means to be a man of faith, a man of strength, and a man of purity in the family.
  • Don’t forget the value of using Sacred Scripture, taking on practices like fasting, and using blessed objects like Holy Water or religious medals.
  • Finally, make regular use of confession and take the steps necessary to find an accountability partner.

On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we celebrate our faith that in holiness and purity Jesus gives us His true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity as the food for our journey to salvation. In this battle for purity where easy temptation offers the ability to be a consumer of someone else’s body, we need to respond by preparing ourselves to consume Jesus’ flesh with always greater reverence so that we remain in him. Jesus shows us the characteristic of sacrificial love, which is part of human love and the meaning of the human body. “This is my Body.” We hear those words of Jesus at each and every Holy Mass. May they be our constant reminder to say “no” to those whose flesh is exposed for profit and instead to submit ourselves to the flesh of Jesus Christ that saves us!

1. Smith, J.R. 2011, January. Kids are learning computer skills before life skills. AVG Official Blogs, http://blogs.avg.com/uncategorized/kids-learning-computer-skills-before-life-skills/.
2. Symantec, 2008, February 13. Parents, get a clue! Norton Online Living Report reveals what your cyber-savvy children know that you don’t. http://www.symantec.com/about/news/release/article. jsp?prid=20080213_01.
3. Gustavo Mesch, “Social bonds and Internet pornographic exposure among adolescents.” Journal of Adolescence 32 (2009): 601-618.

The Synod: A Real Church Soap Opera

Know the Truth:  Be Prepared for a Confusing and Bumpy Ride

by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton,

The readings speak quite clearly about foundational matters of marriage. This is providential because today begins the Synod of Bishops in Rome focusing on the
“Vocation and the Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Modern World.” The readings are providential because they present some of the most authoritative and authentic foundations for our belief about marriage.

This foundation is important because of concerns and spin floating in the air from last year’s preparatory meeting of the Synod of Bishops. At last year’s meeting, as discussion points, some proposals were made that are not consistent with Catholic doctrine. The media and lobbying forces outside of the Church began their campaign hoping to change three doctrines of the Church:

  1. That remarriage after divorce (without an annulment) would change,
  2. That people in such situations might be admitted to receive Holy Communion,
  3. That there even might be some positive evaluation of same-sex marriages.

A serious problem is also that some high-ranking churchmen have made remarks in some cases simply vague and, in others, directly contrary to Church teaching. Add to that some reasonable signs of manipulating the outcome of the Synod by bishops in charge of running it and we had a real Church soap opera on our hands. This has resulted in a charged environment as this Ordinary Synod gets underway and runs for the next three weeks. I expect that forces outside the Church, and some inside, will make the next few weeks a confusing and bumpy ride.

Church Doctrine Cannot Change

We should be prepared. However, I do not lose hope and nor should you. Our hope is solid because it is anchored in Christ and because the Church cannot change fundamental teaching expressed in settled doctrine. To add clarity: It’s not just that the Church may not; it’s not should not; it’s not that the Church isn’t likely, but rather that she cannot change settled doctrine. She has no authority to change it. And it does not matter what color the churchman’s cassock is: black, violet, scarlet red, and even white: Settled doctrine cannot be changed. Period.
Today’s readings remind us why doctrine on marriage is so firm: We hear from Sacred Scripture, God’s Word, and still more specifically from Jesus himself in the
gospel. What Jesus says is teaching from God, the divine Master. His Church and any true disciple can only accept what the Master says and follow it. Where we don’t like or understand a given doctrine, our dislike in no way proves the doctrine needs to be changed or that it can be overlooked in some circumstances. No, where we don’t like or understand a given doctrine it is us, you and I, who need to reform and embrace the life giving teaching that keeps our souls with the Good Shepherd and keeps us on the path to Heaven. With all that being said, as the Synod unfolds, we may be disappointed at the confusion but we should still remain calm even if things look more like a Barnum & Bailey Church Circus.

 

Synods, because they promote open discussion, are messy things. Discussion doesn’t mean the impossible will happen. To view things positively, perhaps the confusion that is in the air is just the spark we each need to know the Scriptures and Church teaching better so that we can respond to Pope Francis’ call to go out and engage the world, even the margins, with the saving joy of the gospel!

 

Clarifying Divorce and Remarriage

With God’s Word instructing us about marriage, I’ll comment briefly on only three things that are in the air these days with the Synod. Remarriage: Marriage and divorce are always public matters. They are not hidden and they affect the common good. Jesus teaches that it was hardness of heart that led Moses to permit divorce. But Jesus calls us to circumcise our hearts. He teaches us God’s mind from the beginning. Marriage models in human form, in a sacramental form, the commitment, the fidelity, and the life-giving love of God Himself. Marriage is a sacrament of Jesus’ love for the Church. Thus, since God’s love is permanent, faithful, and life-giving, so spouses must model that by understanding their covenant to be:

  1. A permanent, life-long commitment;
  2. One that requires their fidelity;
  3. One that is open to children and does not impede their conception.

Yes, history proves that relationships experience difficulties and suffering, and some even end in divorce. But can the first marriage be overlooked and a new marriage entered into? Jesus says no. In fact, so clear is his teaching that he says to divorce and marry another is equivalent to adultery. The Church always seeks to accompany those who have experienced divorce and to aid those who have chosen to marry without an annulment. But we must be clear that equating remarriage after divorce with adultery tells us how serious this is. Where a previous marriage exists, it simply is not possible to presume a new marriage is morally acceptable.

What about the matter of reception of Holy Communion?

Reception of Holy Communion – for every Catholic – requires the person to first be living a communion with Jesus in three key areas: (1) Living a communion by sacramental life; (2) By believing the truth of the Church’s faith; and (3) by living a communion reflected in one’s moral choices. To remarry after divorce (without an annulment) fails to observe communion with Jesus in at least two of those areas: in the moral life and in the sacramental life. Since marriage is always a public matter, when a person marries without an annulment, it is not possible to receive Holy Communion without also compromising Jesus’ clear teaching that such a situation is equivalent to adultery.

Annulments:

The Church takes seriously the divine teaching of Jesus and she also desires to offer pastoral help to those who find themselves having experienced divorce and who may desire to enter a new marriage. For this reason, the Church developed the annulment process. That process is a judicial process that aims to learn the truth about a failed marriage. Was that marriage valid as God designed it to be? If so, then no new marriage can be accepted. Was that marriage defective from the beginning in some significant way that strikes at the very constitution of what God revealed marriage to be? If so, then, after careful study the Church declares that she believes the marriage to be null. Such declaration means there was not an indissoluble marriage, because in fact, a true marriage did not exist. When such a declaration of nullity has been granted then a person is free to marry in the Church.

To be clear about this matter: Divorce itself is not the problem that prevents someone from taking Holy Communion. Rather, it is remarriage after a divorce when an annulment has not been granted that presents the moral problem. If a person has remarried and does not have an annulment then it is necessary to refrain from coming forward for Holy Communion and to engage in an annulment process in the hopes that the Church can find cause for an annulment. Priests assist people in this situation all the time. If this is your situation, I urge you to contact your priests and to refrain from Holy Communion until an annulment can be granted.

Mercy is not Equivalent to Tolerance

Finally, you will hear some suggest that the Church should tolerate remarriage without annulment due to an appeal to mercy. The Church is sympathetic to those in difficult situations. Many good people and good disciples face these difficulties, sometimes for no fault of their own. However, mercy is not simply equivalent to tolerance. If mercy is only tolerance then it really is indulgence and license. Mercy and truth always go together. In fact, as we approach the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy it would be good to be clear about what mercy is. The fullest image of mercy is that (pointing to crucifix). There we see the truth of what sin is and what sin does. Sin separates us from God. And there we also see the depths of God’s mercy. Namely, he dies for us so that we would choose not to go on living in sin, but rather choose to avoid those things that jeopardize our souls. Furthermore, he makes it possible for us to embrace his teaching – even difficult teaching – as a saving remedy that keeps us living in communion with the one who loves us and who saves us. Some suggest this false mercy, this tolerance, is the solution for the remarried because in history you find some cases where the Church went along with divorce and remarriage. But why might we find some instances of this? Because the Church had the challenge of bringing the gospel and its moral commands to places where Christianity had not existed.

There were social and political pressures that prevented the Church from succeeding in some situations where remarriage had taken place. But while isolated and complicated cases of remarriage can be found where the Church even accepted the less than ideal situation, the Church did this as she gradually formed the culture and shifted the expectations to the permanence and the indissolubility of marriage in accord with divine teaching. Thus, the doctrine of indissolubility advanced and progressed in a proper way. Just as Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in today’s gospel, the society was gradually transformed away from solutions based on hardness of heart in favor of what Jesus reveals about the true and full nature of marriage. It is false to hold that the challenges of the past are signs that the Church had a softer stance that can now be recuperated. Such suggestions would be going in reverse, rather than moving forward from the hardness of the human heart to the fullness of what Jesus taught.

All of these things give us a glimpse of the hard work of the Church to proclaim the gospel where it is not always welcome. This is hard work the Church did in ages past. It is clearly hard work she must continue to do today. And it begins in your heart and in mine. May we have the grace to embrace what is required to remain in the truth of Christ!

The Art of Being Christ Like Toward Persons with Same-Sex Attraction

“The Sexual Revolution is Bearing its Rotten Fruit.”

by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton, S.T.L.,

“The Sexual Revolution is Bearing its Rotten Fruit.”

God has created this world. Since it bears the marks of the Divine Artist creation is basically good. The basic goodness of creation remains true even when creatures possessing freedom (like angels and men) choose to sin and choose to live apart from the natural design of the Creator. And when sin entered in and brought death and condemnation the Divine Artist entered the very work of His hands by taking on our flesh in the Incarnation. In Jesus Christ, God has entered this world. He has entered this world to bring Good News. And since God Himself has seen fit to do this, we must view our life with God as a gift that is given not just for ourselves, but for others. For those whose vocation is to be disciples in the secular world (that’s you and I), we must view our faith as a call to engage this world as missionaries with Good News, just as God Himself has done!

Christian Attitude Toward Persons with Same-Sex Attraction

With this brief summary of salvation history and this summary of the call of Christian disciples as a background, I want to comment on the recent narrow decision of the United States Supreme Court alleging a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. As with all difficult topics I want first to speak words of friendship, respect, mercy, and authentic love to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. It is the teaching of Christ, and therefore the teaching of his obedient Church, that homosexual activity is immoral. It is immoral because it is not consistent with the Natural Law as reflected in the design of nature and the design of sexual reproduction made by God. It is immoral because, no matter how deeply same-sex attractions may be felt, such activity is not consistent with true human flourishing and the promotion of the common good.

The very constitution of our bodies reveals we are not made for homosexual activity. Furthermore, homosexual activity by its very nature ends with itself. It does not radiate outward as heterosexual activity is supposed to do and thus homosexual activity does not create society or promote its common good. That being said, we Christians are called to support and respect with authentic love the struggles and legitimate aspirations of our friends who have same-sex attraction. Anymore, many of us know someone who identifies as gay among our family, friends, or acquaintances. They need our love. And we need to love them in the name of Jesus. Authentic Christianity, while being crystal clear about the immorality of homosexual actions, does not simply collapse same-sex attractions or inclinations into the same category as homosexual actions. Thus, the fact of someone’s same-sex attractions does not make that person any more a sinner than the rest of us. It does present such persons with unique and sensitive struggles. So, we need to aid our friends who struggle with this. A person’s sexual attractions and desires are very strong movements within a person. By virtue of being so pervasive or comprehensive within the person, such attractions feel “normal” or “natural” to the person. This is likely also the case even if those attractions aren’t healthy or in accord with the Natural Law, as in the case with same-sex attractions.

A person’s sexual identity, even when that identity is somehow faulty, is very strong and deeply pervasive for that person. Perhaps that can give us extra cause to have compassion for those who experience same-sex attractions and who must deal frequently, perhaps daily, with deep feelings within themselves that, if acted upon, would lead to unholy and immoral expression. A disciple of Jesus should not support crass or unjust attitudes toward those with such struggles. If a person with same sex attractions is honestly struggling to heal and to lead a chaste life then we should have utmost respect for him or her. They fit in among us just like the rest of us sinners who had better be honestly struggling to lead lives consistent with Jesus’ gospel.

The Nature of Marriage Cannot Be Changed by Mankind

The recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), however erroneous, while it may establish man-made law, does not in fact change what marriage itself is. The decisions of judges, politicians, or voters cannot change what marriage is by its very nature. Man’s law did not make or establish marriage because marriage was well in place from God’s making it. It predates governments. A judge could decide that some law permits that an apple is now an orange, but that does not in fact make it so. Marriage is still what is has always been. It cannot be changed by man’s willing it. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the decisions of a court cannot change the moral law. Years ago the Court decided that abortion was legal. But that
does not make it moral. Abortion never has been, is not now, and never will be moral. The same is true with homosexual activity and gay marriage. What we have in the SCOTUS decision is, quite frankly, the legalization of self-delusion. It is delusional to claim that marriage and sexual relations are a constitutional right of self-determination and that the persons are interchangeable: a man and a woman, or two women, or two men. That is not what marriage is. Courts could indicate that a free American has a Constitutional right to hold his breath underwater for three hours… but that doesn’t make it work and it doesn’t mean that there won’t be moral and physical consequences.

Signs of Societal Decay

We have become a society that has lost the ability to reason, to think. We have the faculty to do it but it has become in us like an unused muscle. Many people now base most decisions on feelings and allow most thought processes to be governed by feelings. As such we grasp on to precious little information, often devoid of facts based in reality, and we easily jump to conclusions that are not sound and that rest on the shifty surface of a relativistic morality and a standard that is purely personal, changing with each individual. Many people arrive at conclusions based more on gut reactions or on a certain sentimentality that obscures the truth where we suspect it might make someone feel badly. This way of arriving at conclusions is going to plunge us headlong into still further moral and societal decay.

Another aspect of this tragic decision rests on the fact that law serves society as a type of teacher. Law literally legitimizes things. That’s the root of ‘legitimate,’ the Latin ‘legis,’ for ‘law.’ And for many people, they easily jump from legally legitimate to morally legitimate. I grieve for the many souls who are wounded or weakened by a struggle with same-sex attraction and who may now more easily enter homosexual relationships and even simulate marriage because they long for acceptance or a feeling of “normality.” This law is not a service to them. It promotes the error of thinking that what is legal is automatically moral. And this law teaches the youngest among us the lie that marriage can be something it is not. This will impact us for generations.

Christian Hope

Righteous anger is appropriate in response to the SCOTUS decision. I am angered that our country is literally standing in defiance to God, mocking how He established marriage as a covenantal sign of His life and love for us, and creating an idol in place of true marriage. We deserve His wrath. He will likely let us taste the consequences of this action. Furthermore, I am angered for how this decision will mislead countless millions of souls and place them in serious risk of Hell. True love doesn’t win where we are complicit or silent as people run to embrace very grave sin. But, as Christians, we cannot remain in fear, sadness, or despair. Disciples of Jesus have an irreplaceable hope founded on God’s presence among us in this world. It is easy to think that God is present when things seem to be going well. Good things and good times seem like blessings. Yet, when we no longer feel such confidence, that does not mean God is absent. Recall that God is with us in the storms. Jesus is in that boat tossed about by furious waves. He is our anchor. He warned us that struggle, false charges, and persecution would come. But he added that he is with us through the Holy Spirit who will instruct us how to be his witnesses. That God is with us changes everything and it gives hope. How so? Because Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death, the world, and the devil. We must never forget this!

The Reality of Societal Landscape

Fr. Stephen V. Hamilton

The path to today has been paved for many decades now. The sexual revolution is bearing its rotten fruit. One key moment when marriage became warped was the development and wide spread use of artificial contraception. With contraception marriage then became more exclusively about the adults and less about children. In the affirmation of so-called gay marriage we are now seeing the consequences of just how much marriage can be NOT about children. We need to be sober in admitting that those supporting gay marriage have defeated us in the mechanisms of society. They have the money and the megaphone on their side. They are the establishment forces of government, media, lobbyists, entertainment, and education. Meanwhile the Church and her members have been asleep. We who have Good News have been silent for too long. We have been more like Israel in the Bible who, as it interacted with other peoples and kingdoms, didn’t want to stand out as God’s unique people, but wanted to fit in and to appear as everyone else. We Christians have done the same. We are supposed to be in the world as its soul and leavening agent. But we are not supposed to be of the world. We have largely forgotten that. We think the prediction of rejection, division, persecution, and martyrdom because of faith in Christ is some religious story or some apostolic nostalgia. NO! It is the mark of a disciple in every age because a disciple must embrace the Cross. We are long past the notion that persecution won’t be coming our way. We are now moving full throttle toward it.

I have zero confidence in the thinly veiled lies of our authorities who promise that people who object to gay marriage because of moral convictions will be respected. First of all, there are already plenty of accounts of Christian business owners being fined and driven out of business for refusing to participate in gay weddings. And if that weren’t enough proof, and with all due respect to the Office of the Presidency, the lighting up of the White House as a rainbow the night the Supreme Court decision became public was a juvenile stunt that gives me no confidence in promises of tolerance. That was not the act of people with a measured hand or with respect for others.

Christians have not been the light and the salt we are called to be. In fact, the vast majority of Christians have, knowingly or not, adopted some or all of the values promoted by the sexual revolution. Christians are just as guilty of pre-marital sex, rampant cohabitation before marriage, divorce and re-marriage (without annulment), use of pornography, and almost universal use of contraception. And Christians have even supported homosexual activity. Added to that has been the spiritual malpractice of shepherds and leaders among Christians who have remained silent or ambiguous in the face of all of this. Such silence came from bishops, priests, and deacons but also from catechists, school teachers, and parents and grandparents who also occupy roles of evangelizing the souls entrusted to them.

Curious Victory for Christians

It may take time – sometimes a painfully long time – but people who choose ungodly ways often find themselves coming to a moment of truth. In such moments, Jesus and his Gospel are seen with new power and attraction. People long for fulfillment. The things of this world won’t provide that. We are called to serve as the counter sign. But we ourselves must be convinced of the gospel and the fulfillment that comes from Jesus. The gospel cannot just be words on a page; it must be written in our lives. We are called to be the living pages of Jesus’ gospel. Oddly enough, as disturbing as the SCOTUS decision is, there may be a significant victory for Christians. In time this decision may wake more of us up.  Remember the Prophet Amos was chased away because his message from God was inconvenient to the king. To be a disciple of Jesus is to speak words that call each person away from sin and towards God. And this message puts one in opposition to the powers that be.

In the gospel Jesus summons the apostles and sends them out with the mandate of his authority. This mandate remains in the Church and it is a service to the world that needs to hear Jesus’ voice and his teaching. Notice the type of radical dedication Jesus expects of the apostles as they carry his message: “take nothing for the journey but a walking stick.” This gives us a lesson too. As disciples we are called to proclaim Jesus to others. We need a radical dedication to Jesus and his message. We cannot be dependent on anything but Jesus alone. We will not find security by dependence upon money or power or acclaim or popularity or by fitting in with the prevailing thought of our times. We will not find security by dependence on government entity or the whim of popular opinion. Only Jesus can be our focus.

While the SCOTUS decision is troubling perhaps what is good is that we can finally get a wake up call to see how much society has abandoned moral foundations. Our curious victory, as I am calling it, is that we now have an invitation to be who we are supposed to be. We have a golden opportunity to be more countercultural: namely, to be called apart for God and called to challenge our world to return to godly order. This is nothing new in Christian history. In fact, our time to share the gospel – the New Evangelization – is looking more and more like the original time of evangelization when the Church faced and converted the Roman Empire. Even though it required the shedding of blood, it was a victory for Jesus, much like his own passage from death to the victory of the resurrection.

When you want to focus on despair, remember instead that in the face of fierce opposition, the first Christians went out with confidence and joy because Jesus and his gospel were their only treasures. St. Paul could be filled with confidence and joy even as he soberly accounted the vast number of his hardships for Jesus. He went to places like Corinth – known for sexual debauchery of all kinds – and he proclaimed the Good News that we are temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19) whose very bodies are meant to honor God. Our world needs us to fulfill our mission as disciples of Jesus. Jesus has already won the ultimate victory. No matter how many little victories or defeats must still transpire in this life – the final victory of the Cross and resurrection is already established. We have work to do. Every time you see a rainbow flag you have a reminder of that. Fear not! With the Archangel Gabriel we say: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk. 1:37). And with St. Paul: “If God is for us, who is against us? …  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:31, 35, 37-39).

 

Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton, S.T.L.
Vocations Director
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

The Mass has been Largely Stripped of Mystery

“It is a sad truth that in many places the Mass has
become something akin to a show or entertainment.”

by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton, S.T.L.:

There is a value to mystery in human life. We naturally enjoy it as kids: telling tales and stories; kids love Easter egg hunts. But somehow as we age we treat these things as just games, even though most of us still enjoy watching children enjoy such things. Mystery sparks creativity and artistry. Mystery is also a value in the life of faith. After all, we walk by faith and not by sight (cf. 2 Cor. 5:7). Mystery means we do not delude ourselves into thinking that we first fully understand God and then we follow Him. We do not delude ourselves into thinking that obedience is authentic when we act as if God’s ways must first be submitted to our judgment. No, it is we who are under judgment, not God. Obedience is not obedience where we think God’s ways must first be understood by us.

The Mystery of Parables

Jesus teaches in parables. Parables engage the hearer differently than does the communication of mere facts as teaching. Parables cause the hearer to wrestle and to search and to learn more later after the parable is concluded. Parables begin to feed the heart and the mind, but they leave one hungry and thirsty enough that you keep searching and wrestling. This is because parables permit and engage mystery. The gospel says, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.” Was Jesus wanting to leave people in the dark? Why do the disciples get to hear everything explained clearly, but the average listener does not? Are those who are average listeners at a disadvantage when it comes to salvation? Is saving teaching being kept from them, from us?

God desires all men to be saved (cf. 1 Tm. 2:4). The Father sent His Son on that very mission. Thus, we need to reject at the start any notion that somehow God came and has withheld teaching that is necessary for our salvation. In ancient times, cults sprung up that would claim secret knowledge for only the insiders, knowledge that would mean the average person was on the outside, lacking in gifts of grace and lacking even in salvation. The Church has always rejected such ideas. It is true that the gospels show that Jesus spoke in parables and explained things plainly only to his most intimate band. Furthermore, we must recall, that even while speaking in parables, Jesus was in fact revealing, not hiding, the saving truths of God’s kingdom. Whatever may have remained hidden in parables was soon to be revealed.

 

The Catholic Church Proclaims Clearly What We Need to be Saved

Once the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, Jesus’ closest followers, the ones charged with teaching in his Name, received the gifts they needed to proclaim with clarity, conviction, and power the truths mankind needs to be saved. Thus, we need not labor under any false idea that somehow Jesus hides saving truth from his hearers or from us now centuries later. No, the apostolic Church went out – and still goes out – to proclaim clearly what we need to be saved. The Catholic Church has always held an appreciation both for intellect, the use of the mind, and for mystery, the humble admission that we cannot and will not understand all things of the universe and certainly not all things of God.

To be clear, our intellect is a gift from God mirroring His own intellect, and where our intellect can plumb the depths of the world around us and the revealed truths of salvation then, yes, we should seek to understand these things as best we can. In so doing, we honor our Creator who gave us this gift and who has made us in His image and likeness. However, we must also avoid the arrogance that acts as if we can understand everything, or that acts as if we are owed an explanation of all things, or that expects that the ways of God must first makes full sense to us before we will step forward and follow into His kingdom. Ours is a religion of the head, but not before it is a religion of the heart, for it is the love of God for us that has first established all we believe and seek to understand. Mystery is good for us. It is part of a natural and full human life. It engages our higher powers of thought, creativity, and artistry.  Furthermore, mystery is part and parcel of being a person of faith. All the more, in a world that makes the error of thinking it must understand and control everything before it believes, we need to be comfortable with mystery. In fact, our permission of mystery in life can be a great service to draw others to an authentic faith.

 

2 Vital Ways Mystery Needs to be Put into Practice

There are two areas where mystery is important and needs to be appreciated in Christian life. The first is in our individual prayer. I hope you have had experience where God has done something unexpected in prayer. You come to prayer with things on your mind. You say prayers. You come before the Lord in adoration. You wait in silence. And some inspiration comes to you that you did not initiate and that you can only explain as a true religious experience. This is mystery. You can’t explain it rationally, but it is real. And it is perhaps most notable when the way God moves surprises you and answers your prayers in a way you did not foresee. In fact, His answer may often not be what you were asking, but the answer shows you a deeper need and a deeper request that you weren’t necessarily aware was even there. I find this type of experience with mystery most especially when I use the Scriptures to pray and when I observe silence in prayer. The Scriptures are God’s word, His communication to us. Those words are rich in meaning. And they have meaning beyond the literal written word on the page. Silence trains us to withstand distraction and to listen to how God speaks. Silence gives God room to act in ways that are deeper than we may expect. This is mystery and we need to cultivate an appreciation for mystery in prayer. Prayer is not simply saying my prayers and checking them off a list, as if prayer is only my activity. Rather, prayer is an encounter with God. We need to give Him silence and room to act.

 

The Mass has been Largely Stripped of Mystery

Finally, mystery needs to be cultivated in our corporate, public worship, the Sacred Liturgy, most especially in the Holy Mass. The Holy Mass is supposed to communicate mystery. We come to the Holy Mass to encounter God and His love. But we do not understand all of His ways nor can we anticipate all that His grace will do for us here when we listen to His word, when we worship reverently, and when we receive the Holy Eucharist worthily. In an entirely unique way the Sacred Liturgy immerses us in mystery to encounter God. One of the challenges resulting from the exercise of certain options in the Holy Mass these past several decades is that the Holy Mass has been largely stripped of mystery. Mass almost exclusively in the language of the people and
Mass said facing the people has created an expectation of the Mass that is not consistent with our history. The expectation is that we must understand everything going on if it is to be of value. Certainly, the Church doesn’t think this and never intended to communicate this. But you see this negative development frequently.

 

The Sad Truth. . .

It is a sad truth that in many places the Mass has become something akin to a show or entertainment. Decisions made in planning the Mass tend to show an excessive emphasis on what makes sense to us, what we can understand and appreciate. In this we are robbed of the proper place of mystery. I try mightily not to succumb to such pressures, which can be quite a challenge when the very set up of the sanctuary lends itself easily to considering the Mass as a stage where the priest faces out and gives a performance.  In the face of this trend we must always seek to connect ourselves to what is beyond us, to our large liturgical history and practice, and ultimately we must seek to connect ourselves to God Himself who is the only reason for our common gatherings. It is He Who is addressed and Who is our focus when we worship at Holy Mass.

Mystery engages us and leaves us hungry for more. In this, we employ our gifts to seek the Lord ever more. God does not overwhelm us. Rather, He seeks to draw us to Him by love. Mystery permits this. Jesus employed the mystery of parables to reveal God’s kingdom. We need not fear that he is hiding salvation from us. Rather, in faith, we should permit mystery in life and in faith. It engages our higher powers. And in prayer and at Holy Mass, mystery sets the stage for a personal encounter with God that we cannot fully comprehend but that should inspire us to seek Him always more.

Communion with God Requires Obedience to His Ways

by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton,

Communion with God requires obedience to His ways and follow the voice revealed to us in His Church.  Fr. Stephen Hamilton

Let us never take for granted that the Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ. We should never take this for granted because the Holy Eucharist is the greatest treasure Christ left to his Church, for it is his resurrected living flesh, his Real Presence by which, when we consume it worthily, we participate in his gift of salvation leading to eternal life. This gift is no mere bread and wine and so it should never be treated as mere bread and wine. No, what comes to us from the sacred altar is Jesus’ presence, and it is our nourishment on the journey to heaven.

Communion Requires Obedience

Let us recall that, after God gave His people the first Passover and Exodus, God established a new covenant with His people on Mt. Sinai, giving them all His words and ordinances. After the people twice promise to do all that the Lord God has said, Moses sprinkles the people with blood from an animal sacrifice. This blood of the covenant symbolizes God’s desire to make His people members of his own family, his “blood” relations. But the reading shows us that it is not only simply by being sprinkled with blood that makes a person a member of God’s covenant. Rather, to belong to God’s family also requires that a person live in communion with God’s commands.  Communion requires obedience.
During the Last Supper we hear Jesus speak words especially over the chalice that borrow heavily from Moses’ words. Jesus says his Body is food and that the chalice is the Blood of the covenant shed for many. While Moses’ words were symbolic, Jesus transforms the Passover to a new and higher reality.  God has truly entered a communion with us by taking on our flesh. He calls us to truly be his flesh and blood relatives, by a sacred communion with this true Body and Blood in Holy Communion. This is the new covenant Christ established with his people. And the Old Testament lesson remains true for us: Communion with God requires obedience to His ways. Our family membership with Christ must first be marked by our agreement to do all he says, to keep his teachings, to follow his voice revealed to us in his Church.  First being in communion with Christ by our keeping of his teaching, then we are eligible to come forward to receive Holy Communion, then we enter an even deeper communion with God in the flesh.
And when, like the people of the Old Covenant, we sin and fail to live as we ought, we must be purified again, cleansed, as we heard in Hebrews, “from dead works to worship the living God.” Here we have God among us. He is with us in the gift he transforms from ordinary bread and wine to become his Real Presence, his Body and here by returning to the Father his greatest gift to us: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But our covenant must also be reflected in how we live each moment of each day. Our covenant membership in God’s family requires our obedience to Christian moral living. With our consciences cleansed, we come here to call upon the name of the Lord. With awe for the Holy Eucharist, may we live our faith well as a clear sign to others and a pledge to God that we desire nothing but life in his family.
The Scriptural pattern shows us that by word and by sacrifice a covenant family is established with God. This is the meaning of the ordinances of which Moses spoke in the first reading along with the altar and the sprinkling of the blood of sacrificial animals.  The gospel shows us Jesus establishing a new covenant, this time not by animals but the very sacrifice of God Himself. This new covenant sacrifice was brought to completion in the sacrifice of the Cross by which the disciples came to see with new eyes what Jesus meant by saying: “This is my body; this is my blood.” The word of promise followed by sacrifice creates covenantal family.

 

The Relationship between the Eucharist and Marriage

And so, as we reflect on the Body and Blood of Jesus, I want to draw a connection between Jesus’ New Covenant established by word and by his sacrifice to the covenant established by a man and a woman in Holy Matrimony. By the exchange of their vows, especially within Holy Mass, a husband and wife rest their own commitment upon the total self-gift of Jesus. It is Jesus who is the solid foundation of the covenant a Catholic makes by marrying in the Catholic Church. And how is that covenant between spouses established? This is an important lesson for all who live the vocation of holy matrimony. The covenant of holy matrimony is established by word and by sacrifice. The vows spouses make are the public proclamation before God and His people that from that day forward they belong exclusively to one another and to no one else. These vows are the words that initiate a covenant family. But never forget what must follow those words: sacrifice. I hope no one will think I am trying to be provocative, but in a real way, pure conjugal love, open to the transmission of life as God’s gift, will be a most intimate sacrifice by which spouses speak of the totality of their gift of self to one another. By this love spouses speak in their own proper vocation the words of Jesus: This is my body, given up for you.  That intimate gift of self belongs within marriage and it must be the pinnacle of the many daily sacrifices, small and large, that spouses make for one another.

 

When your words, your deeds, and your bodies speak of sacrifice your love will grow to become more like that of Jesus. In this you will find lasting joy as you journey in this life toward fullness of life with the family of God in heaven. Communion with God and full life in His covenant family requires obedience to His word and to His sacrifice. For each Christian, no matter his age or his vocation, the Holy Eucharist is the pledge from God Himself that He is never far from us. He awaits us to come visit Him in adoration. He desires us to live our family membership worthily so that we may receive Him with reverence in Holy Communion. He becomes present on the sacred altar to be worshiped at Holy Mass. He remains with us so that we are strengthened to draw others into deeper commitment to the covenant family in the Body and Blood of Christ.

Hatred of Gays Has No Place Christian Life

“Is Love Genderless Thing?”

by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton,

 

Fr. Stephen V. Hamilton

Fr. Stephen V. Hamilton

Psalm 23 tells us of the work of the Lord who shepherds us.  And it gives us insight also into the work of shepherds who continue the work of Jesus in ministry.  The psalm told us this about the shepherd: “Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.  He guides me in right paths.”  Scripture indicates repeatedly that sheep need a shepherd.  They wander.  They get lost.  They venture into danger and places that are not good for them.  A shepherd is needed to lead to “right paths.”  Scripture and Jesus himself use this imagery to describe the guidance our souls need to stay on the right path leading to Heaven.  This is a challenge for modern ears.  We sort of find it endearing that we are sheep of a flock.  But that attitude can rapidly change when a shepherd actually calls us away from the wrong paths that are celebrated in secular society.  In other words, the shepherd is usually appreciated when he calls himself a shepherd.  But he might meet resistance when he actually shepherds.

 

“Gay Marriage,”  How Did We Get Here?

With this in mind, I am going to venture into a difficult topic.  I want to speak about the development four weeks ago that same-sex marriage is now legal in Oklahoma.  More precisely, what I hope to focus our thoughts on is NOT gay marriage itself but rather the deeper question of how we got here, how we arrived at this day.  Anytime I speak on a difficult or charged topic I always find it necessary to state clearly that it is not my intention, it is not in my heart, to offend, but to be a shepherd guiding into right paths.  By the time I conclude I hope you will see that my remarks are directed to everyone and not only to those who identify with same-sex attraction.  It is important to state here: We must always show compassion to those who identify with same-sex attraction.  The self-righteousness that would shun or shame such persons is not of God.  The empty moralizing that would make a person’s dignity dependent upon a heterosexual orientation is not what the Church teaches.  We do not condone homosexual actions but we must always exercise patience and understanding to help carry the burdens of those who need our support in a struggle over sexual orientation.  Hatred directed toward a person who identifies as gay has no place in the life of the Christian.  If we do not walk with such persons, if we shun them, in what sense can we claim to be Christ’s Body?!

 

Love is a Genderless Thing.

The day after same-sex marriage became legal in our State the Oklahoman ran an article in which a prominent metro-area Protestant pastor was quoted saying, “Love is a genderless thing.  Love is the same whether a man marries a woman, or a man marries a man, or a woman marries a woman.  It is the same” (Oklahoman, “At church ceremony, 14 couples recite vows,” 7 October 2014, page 3A).  Reading that quote I found myself asking, Is that true?  In what sense is love genderless?

That statement is true IF we are speaking of God.  The First Letter of St. John says, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8).  God is complete being itself.  He is not limited to one gender.  We use personal pronouns for God, but we do not in any way mean that God is male or female.  The pastor’s words seem to make sense then.  But was he speaking of the reality of God when he said, “Love is a genderless thing?”  No!

Next, try to imagine ‘love’ as a thing in and of itself.  In other words try to imagine the reality expressed by the word ‘love.’  The concept of ‘love’ is without gender.  Consider love of a family member or love of one’s country.  The reality being expressed by the word ‘love’ does not itself have a gender.  The pastor’s words seem to make sense then.  But was he speaking of the concept of love as a thing in and of itself when he said, “Love is a genderless thing?”  No!

Let’s remember: The pastor was speaking specifically about the context of marriage when he uttered that remark.  So, I am left to ask: What can “love is a genderless thing” possibly mean when we are discussing the incarnate, in-the-flesh love between human beings who are, in fact, embodied as a gender – male and female?  Can such a statement possibly be true when used in the context of that union whose very purpose is to bring two bodies together?

 

Gender Influences Your Whole Life

Consider your own gender.  My being male influences my whole being.  Everything I do is in some sense influenced by being male.  In that sense, it can reasonably be said of the things I do that “A male person did that.”  Gender is not strictly compartmentalized from the rest of the aspects of my life; rather, it influences my whole life.  Gender influences our whole being and is part of how we live and move and express ourselves through our body.  And when we speak of sexuality and sexual activity, how much more clearly is gender involved?  When a human being loves, and especially loves another person, that is an embodied act of the whole person.  Now, that love does not have to be genitally sexual, but it is in fact engendered because it is a human being, male or female, who loves.  Christianity believes a truth that secular society rejects, namely, that the body is important.  What we do in it, and with it, and through it matters.  It matters for life on earth.  It matters for our judgment and for eternity.  St. Paul writes: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10).  Jesus’ Resurrection – in the Body! – shows us the body’s value.  The body is not some meaningless vehicle, tossed away once our life on earth ends.  It wasn’t so for Jesus.  And it isn’t for us.  Jesus took the resurrected Body into heavenly life.  After death, our resurrection will mean our souls are reunited with our bodies such that we enjoy transformed bodily life in Heaven or suffer loss through bodily life in Hell.  We will experience heaven or hell in the body.  That’s our faith in resurrection.

 

How did Gender get Separated from Love?

So, how did we arrive at a point in society when a patently false statement like that pastor’s can be uttered and seemingly accepted?  How did gender get separated from love?  How did the power of gender to generate life become separated from love?  Remember the context here is marriage.  So, if sexual love in marriage doesn’t require gender then it has no meaningful connection to the natural design for procreation and for the generation of human life.  If sexual love has no meaningful or necessary connection to procreation, then what remains for love between two human beings?  What remains is purely physical gratification and whatever mutual support the partners decide to settle for.  If love is nothing more than physical gratification of two people then truly gender doesn’t matter.  But, I ask you, is THAT what love is in a human sexual context?  Is that what love is in your marriage?  I don’t think so.  And since marriage is precisely the context, then the pastor’s words are absolutely false.  Furthermore, the words are morally dangerous since a pastor guided people down wrong paths.  His words are shown to be false by observing the Natural Law, that is the order visible in creation and the order clearly present in sexual love, which shows it to be made for the mutual complementarity of the genders, male and female.  His words are shown to be morally dangerous because, among many reasons, they contradict scriptural teaching that what we do in the body matters both for our flourishing here and for our salvation.

 

Contraception, Let’s not be Naïve Here.

All of this falsehood has been allowed to spread because heterosexual love has been willfully stripped of its meaningful and necessary connection to procreation.  The prevalent use of contraception has made it possible to separate the intrinsic order of human sexual love.  Let’s not be naïve here.  Contraception hides under labels of ‘responsibility,’ and ‘safe,’ and ‘protection.’  But, in fact, what it is primarily about is separating what God joined together in sexual love to be shared by the two genders.  God joined in sexual love the good of spousal unity (or bonding) and the good of procreation (or babies).  I think we need to admit what has happened in society here.  Those advocating same-sex relations and same-sex marriage are in some sense reflecting what they see in the practices that are so prevalent among heterosexual couples.

It’s as if they are saying to heterosexuals, “Well, if you can opt whenever you want for a sterile love, one not connected to the baby-making power of the genders, then why can’t we opt for that too?  If you can opt whenever you want only for the gratification part of love, then why can’t we opt for that too?”

 

The World Needs the Witness of Your Total Self-giving Love

And here is where I hope you hear that my words are not primarily about those in same-sex relations or marriage.  Rather, my words are more for heterosexuals in marriage.  The world needs you to resist the disorder that is introduced into human sexual love when contraception is practiced.  Sexual love is disordered when its God-designed meaning to bond the spouses and to generate babies is willfully separated by contraception or other means.  And so to you who are called to live a holy vocation in Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony I say: the world needs the witness of your total self-giving love.  The world needs your witness of trust in God’s design for love that is expressed when heterosexual love is lived in a fully human way to bond you to your spouse and to bond you to a son or a daughter who embodies your love.  And so the right path I want to shepherd you along today is to recognize the desperate need the Lord has for you to live your marital love in a fruitful way.

 

The Spiritual Malpractice of Shepherds

                For many of you there have been sins in the past.  You may have been swept up in the contraceptive message of society and in what I will call the spiritual malpractice of shepherds who remained silent or who gave false advice.  If that is the case, then repent.  Have no fear!  The Lord loves us and heals us in his mercy in the confessional.  If your fertile years are past and you feel guilty about past decisions.  Then help the next generation.  Offer sacrifice and penance for yourself and for them.  Be an apostle for the full meaning of marital love and speak to your children and to your grandchildren, to anyone who will listen, and call them to a meaningful expression of human love that respects the order established by God.  If you are still in your fertile years, learn Natural Family Planning and reverence God’s place in your marital love.  If you are young and looking ahead to marriage, then practice discipline in chastity now, and recognize that when you marry you need to be ready to have babies.  If you aren’t ready for babies then you aren’t ready for marriage.  You who are called to live an engendered love are the hope to return society to our moorings of respect for spousal love that will help all people truly flourish.  Come Lord Jesus, shepherd us in right paths!

 

Slight editing.

 

by Fr. Stephen V. Hamilton