Engaging the Gospel – Mark 10:2-16

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 10:2-16

Jesus proclaims the indissolubility of marriage

“God Himself is the author of marriage,” as the Catechism reminds us (paragraph 1603).

“Since God created [the human race] man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man” (1604).

Sadly, when sin came into the world, this harmony was disrupted: “as a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman” (1607). “To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help” of God’s grace. “Without His help, man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them in the beginning” (1608).

Jesus comes “to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin,” and thereby “He himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God…This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life” (1615).

To learn more about God’s design for the family, see Love Is Our Mission, a guide prepared for the recent World Meeting of Families. Also, for practical helps, visit www.foryourmarriage.org, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Advertisements

The Power of Prayer: Saints Monica & Augustine

St. Monica provides a powerful case study of the value of intercessory prayer.

This devout Catholic woman, who lived in Roman North Africa in the fourth century, was grievously worried about her son Augustine. Living in a persistent state of grave sin, fallen into an heretical cult, and still not baptized, Augustine was a totally wayward youth in danger of losing his soul.

Monica poured out her heart to God, praying, fasting and weeping for her son. She kept up her persistent intercession over many years, despite all of her prayers appearing to go in vain.

But in fact, they were not in vain. Augustine eventually experienced a life-changing conversion, a heart-rending repentance. Washed clean in the waters of baptism, he not only turned away from sin, but sought the perfection of the monastic life and ultimately became the bishop of Hippo. Augustine turned his prodigious intellectual gifts toward the study of theology, leaving us a priceless heritage through his writings, and ranking as one of the most influential doctors of the Church.

We celebrate his memorial on August 28, the anniversary of his passing from this earthly life. But the Church remembers that there may well have been no St. Augustine without the constant prayers of his mother. Therefore we fittingly celebrate the memorial of St. Monica on the day prior, August 27.

Aside from giving hope to all mothers whose children are going in the wrong direction, Monica also offers an example to wives enduring difficult marriages. Her husband, a pagan named Patricius, was the cause of much suffering. But he was softened by her prayers and her steadfast Christian witness, and converted shortly before his death.

Beyond just being an encouraging model for us to follow, Monica stands ready and willing to help us now with her intercession before the throne of God. All of us – in heaven, on earth, or undergoing purification in Purgatory – are united in the Mystical Body of Christ, able to share spiritual goods in the communion of saints. Let us boldly ask Monica, Augustine, and our patron saints to intercede for us.

For more, see St. Augustine’s Confessions (Book III, 11-12, and Book IX, 8-13), and Catechism paragraph 2683.

God’s Inspiring Plan for the Family

Today’s celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is a sign of the dignity of the family itself, and a call to live up to God’s inspiring plan for our own families.

Marriage and family life have profoundly theological dimensions, as St. John Paul II explains in Familiaris Consortio.

God Himself is the author of marriage: He created man and woman as complementary partners, designed for a matrimonial union, to cooperate with Him in the extraordinary gift of transmitting new life. Husband and wife therefore enjoy a “unique participation in the mystery of life and of the love of God Himself” (29).

Parents are to bring children up in the faith – a task so important that St. Thomas Aquinas “has no hesitation in comparing it with the ministry of priests” (38). The family thereby fulfills its vocation of being a “domestic church.”

The family is also “the first and fundamental school of social living,” with each member called to self-giving for the others (37).

“The essence and role of the family” is summed up by love: “the mission to guard, reveal, and communicate love,” as “a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride” (17).

And to the lonely, John Paul offers a special word: “No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone” (85).

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 22:1-14

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 22:1-14

The wedding feast in this parable symbolizes the kingdom of heaven, and at the same time, is evocative of the Church as the Bride of Christ.

“The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets,” who expressed “God’s covenant with Israel in the image of exclusive and faithful married love” (Catechism paragraphs 796, 1611).

This “nuptial covenant between God and His people Israel had prepared the way for the new and everlasting covenant” in Christ (1612).

As St. John Paul II observes, “It is not difficult to see in this wedding feast a reference to the Eucharist: the sacrament of the new and eternal covenant, the sacrament of the marriage of Christ and humanity in the Church” (September 18, 1991).

We are all called personally; no one is excluded from God’s universal invitation. But Jesus reveals that we in turn must respond appropriately. We too must enter with a “wedding garment,” as we learn from the unprepared guest in the parable.

JP II explains:

…in Israel’s world, on the occasion of great banquets, the clothes to be worn were made available to the guests in the banquet hall. This fact makes the meaning of that detail in Jesus’ parable even clearer: the responsibility not only of the person who rejects the invitation, but also of those who claim to attend without fulfilling the necessary conditions for being worthy of the banquet.

This is the case of those who maintain and profess that they are followers of Christ and members of the Church, without obtaining the ‘wedding garment’ of grace…

We must embrace this “garment” offered to us by God:

The parable emphasizes the responsibility that every guest has, whatever his or her origin, regarding the ‘yes’ which must be given to the Lord Who calls, and regarding the acceptance of His law, the total response to the demands of the Christian vocation…

December 11, 1991.

Question for reflection: How have I experienced God’s invitation to draw near to Him?

Honor the Gift of Sexuality

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 2331-2400:

  • The Sixth Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” reflects the profound meaning of human sexuality; far more than a mere satisfaction of appetites, sexuality is ordered to God’s plan for us – our vocation to love and communion.
  • God created human beings as male and female, emblematic of God’s own attributes in our different, but complementary, ways; inscribed in our very nature, this physical, moral, and spiritual complementarity is designed for the lifelong union of man and woman in marriage.
  • Our sexual identity as male or female is not to be denied, but integrated properly within our entire being; this wholesome integration is what we call “chastity,” which enables us to live our sexuality in a morally healthy way, whether as unmarried people living in continence, or as spouses in fidelity to each other.
  • All Christians are therefore called to chastity; both a grace from God and a moral virtue that we diligently strive for, chastity empowers us for self-mastery, helps to regulate our passions, and safeguards our personal integrity.
  • Chastity lays the groundwork for, and makes possible, the true gift of self that takes place in marriage; having given themselves to each other totally, exclusively, and irrevocably until death, husband and wife become one flesh; in this way their sexual union expresses their all-encompassing marital covenant.
  • God Himself designed this intimate communion of spouses as the means of transmitting new life; through the gift of the marital embrace, spouses participate in God’s own creativity by conceiving children; sexual union is also for the good of the spouses, but that can never be separated from openness to new life.
  • Children are thus gifts from God, the natural fulfillment of the spouses’ union, not optional accessories to one’s lifestyle; spouses can responsibly decide to regulate their fertility, but must do so by moral means (e.g., periodic continence in NFP), not by contraception, which denies the gift of self and fails to work with God.
  • Because sexuality has such an amazing purpose in God’s plan, any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful; adultery is a grave sin since it violates the marital bond, hurts the betrayed spouse, and can lead to the tragedy of divorce, a rejection of the covenant that is detrimental to both the family and society.
  • Fornication is similarly a lie, for it speaks the physical language of union without there actually being a covenant; prostitution and pornography are destructive of human dignity because they treat others as objects; masturbation and lust are sinful because they are disordered pursuits of sexual pleasure for its own sake.
  • Homosexual activity is wrong because it is inherently incompatible with God’s design for our sexual expression and with the transmission of life; our brothers and sisters with homosexual orientation are to be welcomed and supported to live out the baptismal call to chastity and holiness.

Live Your Faith

Our culture constantly propagandizes us about sex, as if it were just a recreational activity that we engage in whenever and however we please, without consequences.

But there is a deluge of evidence to the contrary: broken hearts, devastated families, an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases.

The truth is that sex is not a game; it is wrapped up in the mystery of the human person as created by God.

The Church teaches the full truth about sex, and however unpopular and countercultural it may be, only by honoring God’s gift in the way He intended can we find lasting happiness. If we have failed, the Lord is always eager to forgive us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Matrimony

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1601-66:

  • God is the author of marriage; by inscribing the complementarity of male and female into our very human nature, He created man and woman for each other, so that the two would become one flesh, in a lifetime partnership of mutual self-giving, for the procreation of children.
  • Faithful love between husband and wife mirrors the abiding love of God for His people; first developed by the Old Testament prophets, this imagery reached its fulfillment in Christ, Who weds Himself to the human race by becoming man, and invites us all to His eternal wedding feast in heaven.
  • It is deeply significant that Jesus’ first public miracle takes place at the wedding at Cana, symbolizing His active presence in the marriage of the faithful; thus the natural institution of marriage, known and celebrated by cultures from time immemorial, is elevated into a sacrament of Christian life.
  • The name matrimony derives from the Latin terms for the “state or condition of motherhood” — revealing that this sacrament is designed for the welcoming of new life, that the spouses may cooperate with God through openness to fertility, raising children in the faith, and forming a family that is a “domestic church.”
  • Christian marriage involves the total self-gift of each spouse to the other, in a covenant ratified by God; as a result, the marital bond, once freely entered into and consummated by baptized persons, cannot be dissolved; this is no man-made rule, for Christ Himself taught that marriage was to be a lifelong union of fidelity.
  • Because husband and wife are offering themselves to each other, the marriage celebration appropriately occurs during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when Christ gives Himself to us in the Eucharist.
  • This liturgical context illustrates that marriage is not strictly private, but rather a state of life – an order – in the Church; spouses correspondingly have duties and responsibilities to each other and to their children.
  • Mutual consent is absolutely necessary for the validity of marriage; if full consent is lacking on either part at the exchange of vows, they are not actually making a covenant, and there is no sacramental marriage between them; marriages can be annulled on this basis – not “divorce,” but finding that the marriage never existed.
  • As a sacrament, matrimony confers special grace upon the spouses; although they will experience the difficulties and trials of any relationship between flawed human beings, Christ imparts His grace to help them through the rough times, sustain their marital bond, and support their family life.
  • By striving to live out their marriage vows, spouses fulfill their vocation to follow Christ, accepting the crosses that come their way, for their mutual sanctification; husband and wife thereby become beacons of the covenant between Christ and His Church.

Live Your Faith

Marriage is not an arrangement of convenience for our own gratification, nor can it be arbitrarily redefined by legislative or judicial fiat.

The truth about marriage is much more challenging to us, but also a far nobler vision of what God wants for us.

He calls husband and wife to an exalted vocation, and equips them to fulfill it, if they would be open to His grace. While many will fall short of this ideal at one time or another, let us never forget that God is a party to our marriage.