17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 28, 2019
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.”
What more wonderful promise does Jesus make in all of Sacred Scripture?
In it we are completely disarmed by the generosity of God.
But at the same time,
we know that Jesus expects us to ask for things that are good for us:
“If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give…
to those who ask Him?”
We don’t always know what’s good for us,
but Jesus, who made us, always knows.
And He knows that each one of us is created for and are in fundamental need
of really only two things:
two gifts which our whole Christian faith revolves around:
the gifts of Life and Love.
Today’s 2nd reading St. Paul tells us that Christ
“brought you to life along with him”
Elsewhere in Scripture St. John tells us:
“God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
that God sent His only Son into the world,
so that we might live through Him.”
Life and love, go hand in hand in the mystery of being a Christian
–and really in the mystery of being human.
In fact we find this in the very first chapter of the Bible:
the story of the creation of man, in the book of Genesis.
In that story we find that God creates man not because He needs to
but because, this God who is love,
in whom living and loving are the same thing,
this God does not need to do anything,
but naturally wants to share His life and love.
So out of His life of love He generously gives life to us,
a life that receives God’s love and lives to return that love.
Genesis tells us “God created man in His own image:
male and female He created them.”
This one creature–Man–in his very being, is created sexually as two,
and this difference shows that in his very being
he is created to live and love with another
–and to do so most sublimely in the context of their sexual identities
as male and female, as partners in marriage.
But this is a very different view of things than the world has.
For the world we live in,
marriage is often reduced to whatever people want it to be
–a concept of marriage created by men in their own image.
A very different view of what marriage is,
and so, a very different view of the meaning of sexuality.
So for example, today civil marriages
can be legally terminated by the simple decision of a judge.
And two men or two woman can be civilly “married.”
Quiet different from the teaching of Jesus Himself in Matthew Chapter 19:
“from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female‘ …
they are no longer two but one flesh…
what God has joined together, no man can separate.”
And we see a culture that sees sexuality as a matter of
an absolute individualistic right to self-satisfaction
–not as a generous mutual self-gift of life and love.
We live in a world that in many ways would make
the people of Sodom and Gomorrah blush.
51 years ago tomorrow, on July 29, 1968, Pope Paul VI
wrote a very short but also very historical letter
reiterating the Church’s ancient understanding of
the essential integration and unity
of human life and love in marriage and sexuality
The letter was called “Humanae Vitae“: “On Human Life.”
In Humanae Vitae Pope Paul called us to go back to Genesis Chapter 1.
He reminded us that married people are called to share life and love
generously in the image of God
–living this love in very human ways.
Sometimes this is in very ordinary ways,
such as living together in the same house.
But sometimes its in a very special way:
a most concrete, dramatic, intense, and wonderfully joyful way,
in human physical sexual intimacy:
a human act which is a sacramental expression
of the generous life-giving quality of God’s love,
and the love-giving quality of God’s life
found in the very creation of man described in Genesis.
This is what acts of sexual intimacy are intrinsically designed to mean
–and anything less is a corruption of this meaning:
an insult to the dignity of the human person, spouses, children,
and God Himself.
So that St. Pope Paul VI repeated what the Church has always taught,
that it is always morally wrong to intentionally separate
the life giving meaning of human sexual intimacy
from its love giving meaning.
So that any direct and intentional attempt
to render procreation impossible in the conjugal act
is absolutely contrary
to the divine meaning of human love and human life,
and to the eternal and unchanging will of God.
In short, contraception is always a grave sin.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us:
“What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?”
What husband or wife among you would give your spouse
an act of only false intimacy and selfish sterility
when they ask you to give yourself completely
in an act of true love that is directed or open to
bearing the fruit of new life!
This is a very hard concept to accept,
especially surrounded by a world with a very different view of sexuality.
But if the world has clearly taken a contra-Christian approach
to the meaning of marriage
in its acceptance of divorce, adultery, and even homosexuality,
perhaps we can see that it has also gone very wrong
in its understanding of the fundamental meaning of sex itself.
I know so many people struggle with this–its so different.
For many of you this represents an immediate and intensely personal struggle
–a struggle with what you’ve been told by the world
and also a struggle with what your own passions.
Struggle, if you must, but keep trying, or begin today,
to think, pray and study about
what the Church really has to say and offer in its beautiful teaching
on the mystery of human life and love.
And don’t be discouraged or feel overwhelmed
by what seems to be the impossibility of fulfilling its demands.
Take to heart the wonderful words of Jesus in today’s Gospel:
“ask and you will receive; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Be persistent in your pursuit of the truth,
and beg the Lord, for whom nothing is impossible:
to understand His teaching,
and to give you the generosity necessary
to sacrifice personal pride or desires
to live in His love and conform to His eternal will.
Begin today, and persevere, and He will give you what you need
to understand and live the divine mystery of human love and human life.