Saturday, July 18, 2015

NFP Awareness - Sunday Homily

“They were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Jesus easily slips into this role because he is the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd is always kind and supportive. And a good shepherd brings members of the flock to the truth when they get off course. This is what Jesus did for people in his time. Then there are countless times when he tries to get the Pharisees back on track when their ideas take them off course.

We just heard in our first reading from Jeremiah: Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture… Who are the bad shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock? Anyone who goes against Christ and the teachings of the Church he founded.

Our modern day culture misleads and scatters the flock in countless ways. Pope Francis calls it a throw-away culture. Pope Saint John Paul II called it a culture of death. The culture of death has many symptoms. 
In order to fight against some of the symptoms of the culture of death, the Church gives us Natural Family Planning Awareness Week in the week ahead. The culture of death promotes things like artificial contraception or sterilization as a “fix” to the “problem” of fertility. The Church reminds of that those things are beneath our dignity. We are beautifully, wonderfully made in God’s image. We are made for more. Our bodies need understanding, not chemicals and alterations to healthy organs that function as they should.

Does a good shepherd ignore these so he doesn’t have to unpack the difficult issues? Or does a good shepherd point out the problems with artificial contraception destroying families? Woe to me the shepherd if I mislead the flock. Sure, NFP isn’t for everyone. But we all need to know about it so we can share it with people who are misled by the lies of the culture. Yes contraception is a problem because it’s unhealthy for the human body, but it’s especially problematic because of the harm it can do to relationships.
We are made for lasting relationships.

Simple biology shows us the conjugal embrace has two meanings, procreative and unitive. It’s procreative because it’s God’s way of bringing new human life into the world. And it’s unitive because it’s God’s way of bonding a man and woman in married love for the rest of their lives. Powerful bonding hormones are activated. People who are open to both the unitive and procreative meanings of the conjugal embrace are presumably giving themselves fully to each other. Ideally, there is a full self-giving for the benefit of the other.
Sounds like love, doesn’t it… Nothing is held back, not even one’s fertility.

When a barrier is placed in the way, there is no longer a full self-giving. Now something is held back. We would never say to a spouse, “I love you except for your fertility.  Hold back that part of you. I’m not interested in all of you.” So we shouldn’t say it in our actions either.

So we see that diminishing the procreative meaning can easily diminish the unitive meaning of the conjugal embrace as well. Imposing barriers in this most intimate of settings can quite often manifest itself in emotional ways too. If the physical barriers are in the way, it becomes easier to put up emotional barriers or communication barriers as well.

As human beings, we are designed to have a very powerful unitive bond, but we can do things to diminish it. The worst thing about contraception and sterilization is that they reject God’s design and his plan for our happiness. Furthermore the contraceptive mentality feeds the despair of the culture that life is not worth living. But life is worth living.

NFP or Natural Family Planning keeps the unitive and procreative meanings of the conjugal embrace intact while effectively helping married couples space children if they need to for grave reasons. NFP is more effective than contraception but without the destructive side-effects. And it has proven to enhance marital love rather than diminish it. It forces the husband and wife to communicate, thus building their relationship, rather than taking the risk of using the other for selfish reasons.

47 years ago Pope Paul VI predicted what would happen if the use of contraception became widespread. He was correct on every prediction. Divorce rates would increase. They have: from 6% in 1960 to more than 50% now. Disrespect of women would increase. Men would become more irresponsible. Marital infidelity would increase. There would be a general lowering of morality.

As Christians, we are called to trust completely in the Lord. If we look around, we see that those who seem open to his plan for their lives also seem to be the happiest. Our culture tells us that one way will bring happiness. But Christ proves that his way of self-giving love is what really brings happiness and lasting joy.

Those with little regard of Natural Law reasoning or morality are forcing upon the American people a contraceptive mentality. Our own federal government, which has coercive power over its citizens, is forcing almost all employers to literally buy into the contraceptive mentality that destroys families, the building blocks of society.

Just this past week, the Little Sisters of the Poor lost a court case that says they have to provide these things and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. The sisters are not allowed to live out the convictions of their faith.

NFP Awareness Week is not about condemnation. It’s an invitation for us to learn God’s plan for authentic happiness. It’s an invitation to learn what the Church teaches and why. Then we can bring the good news of the Gospel of Life to the world. We all know people who need to learn it as well. Let’s have the courage to trust in the Lord and invite others to the happiness that only He can bring.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Supreme Court and Marriage

A while back, I wrote this post when Senator Portman flip-flopped on "gay marriage":
Most of it still seems relevant, saving me from having to rewrite essentially the same thing.

With last week's Supreme Court decision, there is much hysteria over the issue. I am glad I am not on facebook. As people of faith, we are likely looking forward to a future of much persecution. Also in front of us, is much work. As people of faith, all the baptized should become well versed in what the Church teaches but especially WHY the Church teaches what she does. It is up to us, with God's help to bring the culture to conversion.

With that in mind, I will add one thing at this time.  Sins are called sins because they are bad for me. God, Church, and grandma do not just declare certain actions to be wrong or sinful arbitrarily. Fornication and sodomy are bad for the human person, body and soul. I heard an interesting statistic the other day that men living the gay lifestyle have an 8,000% higher risk of rectal cancer. Reproductive organs are designed to be coupled with the reproductive organs of a person of the opposite sex. They are not designed for other organs such as those of the digestive system. If we use our cell phones to drive nails into the wall, we will get some nails in place but we will soon be shopping for a new cell phone. Problems with fornication are not as obvious but affect us on a much deeper level. In my Sunday homily, I pointed out that the desire of some to legalize "gay marriage" is a symptom of a much larger problem.

The reason governments began to regulate marriage in the first place is because they realize that new citizens come from this union of husband and wife, and this family setting is the building block of a stable society. Some in government positions seem to have forgotten this. Children have enough issues already. Raising children is difficult enough already. The last thing we need to do is add another layer of confusion. The bishops state this well in the links provided below. Because of the contraceptive mentality, thus rendering the marital act sterile, governmental focus on marriage has shifted to affection and companionship as if they were its essence. These things are effects of marriage but certainly not the essence that we find in the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage at its core.

This is a link to a statement from the USCCB on the issue.

This is a link to a statement from the Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Media bias against pro-lifers

Matt Swaim pointed this out earlier this week on the Son Rise Morning Show.
The pro-life community around the world mourns the loss of Dr. John C. Willke. The press release from Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, and the story from National Right to Life show Dr. Willke to be a joy-filled and courageous leader whose life's work could be summed up in a single word: love.
If you get your news from the mainstream media, you will likely get a warped view of this loving, courageous pro-lifer. The story the Associated Press ran at the passing of Dr. Willke shows an obvious bias against the pro-life movement. Instead of "pro-life" they use "anti-abortion" which is no big deal. But already in the first sentence of the story they misrepresent Dr. Willke with a half-truth of something he said back in 1999. He did not say "women can resist conception from a sexual assault" as if it is something that can be controlled consciously. The story continues with some facts about his life and some nice quotes. Then by the 10th sentence it once again brings up the quote from 1999, which is a blatant misrepresentation, and continues it for several more paragraphs. It is obvious to me that the agenda of the AP is to paint Dr. Willke as a quack who had weird ideas. I remember, in the early 2000s, reading about studies showing that in instances of extreme trauma, like the assault of rape, women conceived less frequently than in normal consensual instances as a subconscious defense mechanism. The AP tries to make it sound like Dr. Willke was saying the woman could turn fertility off or on like a switch consciously, which was not the case at all. The only person the AP story quotes in regard to medicine is a pro-abortion person who is not even a doctor. Of course her agenda is to characterize every pro-lifer as a kook. It seems to me the AP is trying to tarnish the legacy and smear the reputation of this pro-life pioneer who asked: "Can't we love them both?"

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Filthy Shades of Grey

The Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati, sent an email to all his priests asking us to inform our congregations of the "destructive message of this movie and to highlight the beauty of God's design for loving relationships between a husband and wife in the bond of marriage."

Since the evil one cannot create anything, in his frustration and hate for God the Creator, he uses God's created beauty and corrupts it into vehicles for evil. In this case, Hollywood is using the feast day of Saint Valentine, who exemplified Christian virtue and died a martyr's death for it, the ultimate act of love, as the occasion to offer the world a medium to take it further away from virtue and further from true self-giving love.

The Archbishop points out: "The story line is presented as a romance; however, the underlying theme is that bondage, dominance, and sadomasochism are normal and pleasurable. In the story line, a young Miss Steele is urged to sign a contract becoming a sex slave and agreeing to an abusive and degrading relationship. This movie is in direct contrast to the Christian message of God's design for self-giving and self-sacrificing love, marriage and sexual intimacy. The movie is a direct assault on Christian marriage and on the moral and spiritual strength of God's people."

He has not said it, but if I am connecting the dots correctly, it seems to me that a person who hears the Archbishop's teaching on this matter and still goes to see this movie commits a grave sin.

On a similar note, every year at this time, companies like "Pure Romance" ratchet up their advertising. What a misnomer! There is nothing pure about it. Plus, a real man interested in true romance will be willing to lay down his life for his bride rather than use her body for his own gratification. Otherwise he is no better than a selfish boy in a candy store.

Thank you Archbishop! I am blessed to have you as my spiritual father.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Culture of Death

Some may try to argue that a culture of death does not even exist. It most certainly does. If human lives can be taken for the convenience of another, the culture of death remains. I found this article very informative. I remember a few years ago, the House voted to end tax-payer funding of Planned Parenthood, but the Senate failed to do so. I pray this vote comes up again sooner than later to end it. Until then, we are all complicit.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Wedding Garment - Sunday Homily

St. Augustine says that the wedding garment is the response to the commandment to love God and neighbor. It is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a genuine faith.

He contrasts this love with a much lesser love. It’s amazing to see that people were distracted from God in Augustine’s time just as they are now. He died in the year 430. That’s over 1500 years ago. You’ll be amazed at just how similar people 1500 years ago were to us now. Augustine says the love of the wedding garment is not the love for play actors. Just like now many are obsessed with what actors in Hollywood are up to. That’s why People magazine exists. He says the love of the wedding garment is not love for their favorite charioteers and huntsmen. That’s just like now. Sometimes we overemphasize sports. Sports are good things. Our ability to play them is God’s gift. So sports can be played in a way that gives Him the glory but that’s not always the case. When I was in Honduras one summer, I could tell the priest kept preaching about soccer. I couldn’t understand all the Spanish but I kept hearing that word futbol. He said some of the men there will neglect their families and get all wrapped up in watching soccer.

Very often, we hear our Lord refer to Heaven as the eternal wedding feast. It’s actually His most favorite analogy. God wants to be married to us, in a sense. He wants to be closer to us than a husband is to his wife. At a wedding feast, we have a bride and groom. A marriage of bride and groom has taken place. In Heaven, a marriage is taking place: The marriage of Christ the groom with His bride the Church, That’s us!

God calls all of us to the wedding feast. In fact, God is calling and reaching out to us nonstop. That’s the topic of the Lord’s parable in today’s Gospel. We respond by keeping on our wedding garment. In the parable, the guest without the wedding garment is probably a Christian who loses his zeal and becomes complacent. This is the character who concerns us.

Upon arrival at a wedding feast, each person is issued a wedding garment. If a guest would have the nerve to take off the garment during the wedding feast, this would be a huge insult to the bride and groom. It would show that the guest is not interested in their marriage and is just along for the ride, maybe to get the free prime rib. Even though the guy insults the king by taking off the wedding garment, notice how the king continues to reach out to him. He even calls him “friend.” But in his stubbornness, he refuses to respond. The New American Bible says that the wedding garment is the repentance, change of heart and mind, that is the condition for entrance into the kingdom. And it must be continued by a life of good deeds.

We know that God is the giver of all good gifts. This includes the things we enjoy. One of these gifts is our freedom. This freedom or free will that God gives us is awesome. But in that freedom, we are also free to reject God. And it’s sad that so many of us reject Him.

Just by noticing the beauty of creation, we should enjoy the certain hope that the next life is going to be even more awesome than this one. But in our freedom some of us choose the things of this world and reject the hope of the next. We become satisfied with the status quo.

Even though we have the tendency to reject God because of our fallen nature, He will always continue to provide for us the most bountiful feast of his Son. We just have to choose it. We just have to keep on our wedding garment. We have to show God that we are still interested in a relationship with Him.

Sometimes we become complacent like the guy without the wedding garment. We may be tempted to think that as long as we show up at Sunday Mass we’re OK. But the Lord calls us to go deeper in our relationship with Him. He calls us to trust Him completely.

At a recent archdiocesan conference, I heard a talk by Author Sherry Weddell. She recently wrote a book called Forming Intentional Disciples. A disciple is a learner, a pupil, a follower of a certain teacher. The one we follow of course is Jesus. An intentional disciple makes a conscious commitment to follow Jesus in the midst of His Church as an obedient disciple and to reorder one’s life accordingly. That’s what it means to keep on the wedding garment. Sherry walked us through the levels of commitment to reach this ideal. The vast majority of people get scared and disengaged on the way. We get scared, distracted by the world and take off the wedding garment.

The wedding garment keeps us genuine. It keeps us from putting our faith in the Sunday Mass compartment. The love of God permeates every aspect of our lives. As Christians we put our faith into everything we do, not just Sunday Mass. We put our faith into our jobs, our families, how we deal with others in society.

The wedding garment shows that we are 100% aligned with God. When we respond, He gives us the grace we need to keep the wedding garment on. It’s good to enjoy the abundance of God’s creation. Like the fine foods and choice wines that Isaiah mentions in the first reading. We should be a happy and joyful people. We have been redeemed and we should act like it. And St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians that we just heard: Abundance or hunger does not matter. We are still called to remain faithful. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. We should rejoice in knowing that we can do all things in God who has strengthened us.

I don’t know what the wedding garment looks like, but people will notice when we have it on because of our joyful witness. And God brings us to the feast to enjoy rich foods and choice wines for all eternity.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reflection on Matthew 22:1-14

I didn't like the bulletin insert from a certain publishing company's website, so I took a crack at writing a quick one myself:

From the way things unfolded in history, we can see what the Lord was teaching in the parable of the wedding feast. First, St. Matthew tells us Jesus is speaking to the chief priests and the elders. He is inviting them to conversion. Of course, the king in the parable represents God. He dispatches servants to summon the invited guests. From history, we know the servants represent the Prophets and the invited guests were God's chosen people, the Jews. The Lord's parable would have cut to the heart of the chief priests because they know that their own ancestors killed the Prophets. And Jesus is showing them that the Jews are largely not responding. In the parable, the king sends his servants to invite "whomever you find." This means that not only the Jews are invited, but the Gentiles are too. Jesus sent his disciples to the whole world--Jews and Gentiles--with the Good News of salvation. God invites, but we must respond. All guests are given a wedding garment when they come into the feast. The refusal to put it on illustrates a refusal to respond fully to the invitation of the host and is an insult to the host. In his infinite mercy, God continues to reach out to us like the king reached out to the man without the wedding garment with the words: "my friend" in the midst of insult. Still he refused to respond. How can we respond to God's love today?