Monday, March 25, 2013

"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me..."

At Mass yesterday, Palm Sunday, we heard St. Luke's version of the Passion of our Lord.  In that Gospel reading Jesus says to the women on the way to Calvary: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, 'Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.'" 

Throughout the vast majority of biblical time, a woman was considered blessed who had many children, and the barren were considered cursed.  From that mindset, it must have sounded very strange to the women of Jerusalem to hear our Blessed Lord's prediction of a cultural flip-flop of such epic proportions.  And I can't help but wonder if those days the Lord predicted have arrived.  We certainly have some of the cultural signs.

"Blessed are the barren," is the mindset of the culture that has itself sterilized.  "Planned Barrenhood" is the name of the chapter on sterilization in Patrick Coffin's book, Sex Au Natural.  If you are looking for a current and concise treatment of Humanae Vitae 45 years out, I highly recommend it.

It makes me wonder what kind of despair we are headed toward as a culture when spouses have good functioning bodily organs mutilated in order to reduce the sexual act to mere pleasure, thus taking the risk of using each other as objects of said pleasure.  As counter-cultural Christians, we have the task of supporting those spouses who are heroically generous by today's standards in being open to life. What a holy vocation to which they have responded! 

The Lord predicted in the next sentence, the people of that future culture would "say to the mountains, 'Fall upon us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'"  We Christians also have the task of showing the culture that life is worth living.  There is no need to despair. 

What about the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed?  There is no shortage of products on the drugstore shelves to keep wombs from bearing, once again increasing the risk of using another person as an object.  In our culture, there is also no shortage of attention payed to breasts.  And culturally, they aint talking about nursing as the Lord predicted.  All we have to do is turn on morning radio or evening television to get a small glimpse of corrupt cultural breast humor.  Then there are the immodest magazines in the supermarket checkout lanes lending to cultural immodesty once again objectifying the human body.  What are they telling adolescent girls on how they should dress?  Dare we even mention the rampant pornography industry?  This blog would go on and on.

I think it's time for heroic Catholicism.  Lukewarm will not get it done but only make the problems worse.  It's time for the faithful to combat these issues with everything we've got.  Only then will the dignity of the human body be restored and life promoted.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Missed Opportunities for Senator Portman

United States Senator Rob Portman from Ohio missed at least two opportunities in my estimation.  He could have taught us about marriage, and he could have loved his son.  The senator, upon learning that his son is gay flip-flopped his stance on gay "marriage" as a legislator.  Marriage is a very real, physical thing.  It is not some imaginary, made up state in which we pretend to be.  The male and female bodies fit together.  That's marriage!  In Christian traditions, after consent between spouses is exchanged, the marriage must be consummated by their bodies fitting together.  The bolt and nut from the hardware store are in a marriage of sorts, be it one of much less importance.  The electrical cord and wall outlet coupled together could be said to be in a sort of physical marriage.  The bolt and bolt can never marry.
Natural Law reasoning shows us that as the male and female human bodies fit together, two very important things happen on a biological level.  Bonding hormones are activated to bond the couple for life, and new life can be transmitted.  Attempting to separate the bonding from the transmission of new life is taking the huge chance of using the body of another.  Using the body or body parts of another for one's own gratification goes against Natural Law reasoning and is therefore not in the best interest of the other.  Many people who feel they are "in love" are actually using the other.  This is especially prominent in sexual relationships outside of marriage where there is not a full self-giving of one to the other for the good of the other that is open to new life, whether they are straight or gay.
I'm sure this was a very emotional time for the senator, but I'm afraid he made his flip-flop based on that emotion rather than on intellect.  We should be careful making decisions based on emotion rather than intellect lest they bring on other problems.  Certainly, the senator wants to show compassion for his son, which is a good thing.  But sometimes, we can misplace our compassion.
The culture at large tells people with same-sex attraction that they have two possibilities: repress it, or embrace it flamboyantly "coming out of the closet" as they say.  Natural Law reasoning shows us that neither of these two are good or healthy options. 
We human beings are much more than our sexuality.  We are complex, wise creatures made in God's image with an intellect and a will, which set us apart from all other creatures.  Repressing anything is never a good idea.  Continued repression eventually leads to explosion.  Since we have been created so beautifully, with the ability to reason, will, and heal, we should deal with issues rather than repress them.  Sweeping things under the rug is another good analogy.  Eventually, you trip over the lump.
Flamboyantly embracing one's same-sex attraction is unhealthy because the dignity of the human person demands more.  "It's who you are." is the mantra uttered by the culture.  The truth is, it's not who you are.  We human beings are much more than our sexuality.  And one's sexual urge is not his or her identity.  The father of a family does not go around identifying himself as a heterosexual.  His heterosexuality is not "who he is", only part of who he is.  He is much more that than his sexuality and way much more that his sexual urges toward his wife.  His sexual urges are not his identity, nor should it be so for a person with same-sex attraction.
Natural Law reasoning shows us there is a third option that is also embraced by the Catholic Church. One should acknowledge the same-sex attraction and get the support of loving people to help the person with same-sex attraction live a chaste life.
Chaste?  Isn't that the same as repression?  No.  Repression always says "no".  But chastity is saying "yes" to one's sexuality in the context of one's state in life.  All human beings are called to live in chastity in accord with our state in life.  Married people live in chastity by saying yes to sex as a married couple.  They are open to life.  They are open to union with each other, and the full self-giving and receiving of each other.  They don't invite others into the marital union.  They don't invite other things into the marital union that would block or thwart the full self-giving of one spouse to another, or the transmission of new life.  Those who have promised celibacy or vowed chastity say yes to sex as celibates.  We live our lives as sexual people male and female, interacting with all other persons as they are male and female.  Celibate chastity points to the next life to which all of us are called to be united to God for eternity.
This third option is counter-cultural because it takes some sacrifice.  But the loving option always does.  We must define the often misused word "love".  As a person acknowledges his or her same-sex attraction, it is important to get support from loving people.  To love someone is to will the good of that person.  All parents, including Senator Portman are called to will the good of their children.  Can it ever be good that one person uses the body of another person for sexual gratification?  No, not in a marriage, straight, gay or any kind of relationship.  Our dignity as human persons demands that we never use another or allow another to use us.  Statistically, those in the gay lifestyle have a shorter live expectancy.  Biology and Natural Law show us the lifestyle is dangerous for the human body.
I would ask the senator to reorient his misplaced compassion for his son and to will his ultimate good.  I would ask the senator to flip-flop back to supporting real physical marriage instead of an imaginary pretend version of it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Laetare Sunday

In our readings today, we notice a parallel of several contrasts: light vs. darkness; life vs. death; day vs. night. We also notice John’s Gospel has a teardrop thrust to it. God swoops down into our lives and calls us to follow him in the upswing.  And we notice this happens to the blind man in the Gospel. Jesus comes into his world, swoops down and invites him to follow.  When we look at our own lives, we notice the same thing.  God swoops down into our world and invites us to follow Him.

In the Gospel, we see the development of one man’s faith unfolding.  The chapter is framed on both ends by Jesus talking about sin and blindness.  In the beginning he tells His disciples that blindness is not a result of sin, but reveals God’s work.  At the end, he points out the sin of the Pharisees remains because they choose to be blind to God’s work.

Notice as the story unfolds, the man’s faith is on a continual increase.  As his faith in Jesus grows, the Pharisees become more and more dejected.  They seem to be on the decrease.  At first, the blind man does not hesitate when Jesus tells him to wash.  How often do we hesitate before acting on what is right?  Then the man, who was cured of his blindness, acknowledges Jesus as a prophet.  Hearing the passage with faith, we realize this is a gross understatement.  His faith is contrasted with the refusal of the Pharisees to believe.  When the Pharisees accuse the man of being a disciple of Jesus, he does not deny it.  This shows increasing faith.  They say: We do not know where this one if from.  The man’s faith continues to unfold as he reminds the Pharisees that we can’t do anything remarkable without God.  He is confessing that Jesus is from God.  In their refusal to believe, the Pharisees get frustrated and throw him out.  Finally, he says, I do believe, and he worships him.  We see his faith deepen in this short encounter. Lent is a time for us to deepen our faith as well.

Today is Laetare Sunday.  We acknowledge we are half way through Lent.  It’s time to rejoice in our destination ahead.  We get caught up in the austerities of Lent. So we may have to remind ourselves of our joyful and glorious goal.  Our short term goal is the celebration of Easter.  Our long term goal is eternal life in Heaven.  All of our focus should be there.  This is a nice half way reminder that we gave up some of the distractions of this world in order to remind ourselves of what is truly important: the goal of eternal life.  How well am I doing in this time of grace?  Do I acknowledge it as a gift and an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord?  It is time to nourish our faith. As Christians we are called to actually live what we believe in our everyday lives.  How am I answering the Lord’s call to holiness? All of us are called to holiness, the universal vocation. How am I living out my particular vocation which is a gift from God? Are we authentically living as husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, single people, students?

Notice how our first reading illustrates that we do not think as God thinks or judge as God judges.  David did not seem qualified, but he was the one.  God knew his heart.  Even though David was a sinner, he stayed close to the Lord.  We get tempted to make excuses like they did in the time of David: I’m too young.  I’m too old.  I’m a sinner.  It’s time to stop making excuses and start letting God use us as his instruments in the world.  We have the opportunity to ask ourselves: How am I benefitting society in my job?  How am I using my talents God has given me?