27th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
It is no secret that many people disagree with teachings of the Church. So while this is true generally, it is certainly true specifically when it comes to teachings about human sexuality and marriage. If you want to see a violent backlash, speak to someone about sexual morality who disagrees with these teachings. I have certainly had the experience where bitterness and anger from normally quite nice people comes out when we get to things like living together before marriage, contraception, homosexuality, abortion, etc. People can really go crazy when you talk about this stuff. But, of course, we have to talk about this stuff. Marriage is the foundation of society. As we hear in Genesis, it is not good for man to be alone. Marriage, therefore, is the building block of the whole human race. I don’t think it is alarmist to say that there is no teaching that is more important to society than that about sex and marriage.
But, this teaching is difficult to grasp and difficult to share. More often than not we rely simply on negative commands. Very often the best we can tell people is that Church says you cannot do this, that and the other thing. It is a big list of no’s, which doesn’t really work. So, I think there are basically 2 things we can take from this gospel today that can help us to both understand this teaching ourselves, and help us to present it to others.
First, this is not simply “the Church’s” teaching, as though human beings made it up. This comes from God himself. First, it comes from the very design of the human being. God is a communion of persons, and since we were made in God’s image and likeness we are made for communion. In the union of husband and wife, and only in this union, we find a place where the longing for communion can be satisfied. In the union of husband and wife 2 people give themselves to one another completely, totally, and faithfully, and when they give themselves to each other in this way, new life can result. It was God who created this blessed union. So everything we teach the world about sex and marriage does not come from us, it comes from God. Today we hear even more from Jesus. Someone once told me: your church really needs to change its stance on this stuff. How could we change the teaching when it is not ours? This stuff comes right from God.
Secondly, what does God really tell us? You can’t do this, that, and the other thing? No, Christ holds up for us not a list of no’s, but a beautiful goal. “For this reason a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two become one flesh.” If you wanted to know where all the hard moral teachings about sex and marriage come from, they all come from this one sentence. The two become one flesh. This union of husband and wife fulfills the deepest longing of the human heart. If you think of the whole list of “no” teachings, this powerful truth is underneath every one. Why is the Church against sex before marriage: you cannot unite bodily if you have not united in mind, soul, and heart. Why is the Church against contraception: you cannot hold back something as beautiful as your fertility if you are to be totally united. Why is the church against divorce and remarriage: if the two are united, neither can be united to another while their spouse is living. Why is the church against gay marriage: only the union of a man and woman is capable of bringing about new life. I could go on and on.
So this teaching comes from God and it not a list of don’ts; rather, this is a beautiful message that if we are going to fulfill that deep need for communion that we all have, we will only do so if we follow this beautiful truth. To be sure, this is a difficult teaching, a difficult goal to reach. But, it is Jesus who gives us the strength. Let us turn to Jesus in the Eucharist and ask him for the grace to live out this beautiful message: the two become one flesh.