33rd Sunday in OT (November 13, 2016)

33rd Sunday in OT (November 13, 2016)

Last week in the Gospel we heard Jesus say that in the coming age, people “neither marry nor are given in marriage.”  There will be no longer be the need for that because there will no longer be the need to continue to produce new generations of people; the fruitfulness of that age will be a full participation in the fruitfulness of God.  Today we hear again about this coming age, though perhaps in more frightful terms.  Still, all of this points to this higher realm, with the Christ at the center.  Yet while this coming age/this higher realm is to impact our lives here and now, it’s certainly easy to get bogged down in the earthly realm; and this realm can be messy.  And the messiness of this life can affect how we see our relationship with the living God and with one another.

Today, as part of our Jubilee Year of Mercy, we’re asked by the bishop to look at the challenging situation of individuals and families impacted by same-sex attraction.  As the Catechism teaches, persons who experience homosexual attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” [CCC 2358]  And to further our goals of compassion and welcome, we must seek a deeper understanding both of the experience of those who have been impacted by same-sex attraction and of the Church’s Good News about sex and chastity. 

Now, there are many secular cultural values in our society today that conflict with our Christian understanding of the human person and relationships—from our overall over-sexualized cultural landscape, to separating out three beautiful gifts that were made to exist together (marriage, sex, and children), to the belief that in order to really love someone you have to love all their actions or else you hate them.  “Love is love” is a common refrain in our society today. By this it is meant: all love is equal and all love is the same. But authentic love is much richer and broader than this! We know that the love between parents and children is a unique kind of love, which is itself different than a unique kind of love shared by friends.  These loves in turn are different from the unique kind of love shared by a husband and a wife.  To say that “love is love”—that all love is the same—is to deny the vibrancy of the different kinds of love that all reflect, each in their own way, God who is love. 

And there is a complementarity to love. The love of a man complements the love of a woman. The love of husband and wife complements the love of a priest or religious. Their love complements the love of the chaste single person, which complements the chaste love of the widow or widower.  Persons with same-sex attractions are, of course, called to a life of love. Even if they do not share in the unique love experienced and expressed between a husband and a wife, they are called to experience and express other kinds of chaste love, which are also paths to joy and fullness of life.

Our culture today is certainly not supportive of talk of chastity, but chastity is about loving well according to one’s state in life.  We are all made to love and be loved.  Every Christian, regardless of their state in life (married, single, celibate, widowed), regardless of their age, regardless of their attractions, and regardless of their past—everyone is called to the chastity proper to their vocation. Individuals who experience same-sex attraction are called to the same chastity alongside their brothers and sisters who experience heterosexual attraction. We are all called to love well, and in doing so to find the deepest meaning and joy of our lives. [Cf. CCC 2359] 

And of course, individuals and families who are impacted by same-sex attraction have a right to be loved.  They are to be affirmed in their dignity and identity as brothers and sisters in Christ.  They must know, through our words and actions, that regardless of what they do or have done, no matter what is going on in their lives, they are loved unconditionally. We are called neither to condemn persons nor to condone sin; but to love persons back into the love of Christ and His Church. 

A part of life’s journey for every Christian is the Cross. Individuals and families who are impacted by same-sex attraction experience a variety of crosses unique to their circumstances. Like all Christians, they are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter. [CCC 2358]  Yet, it is the Christian duty not only to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily and follow Christ (Lk 9:23) but also, like Simon of Cyrene (Mk 15:21) to assist others as they struggle to carry their cross. This is especially true of our brother and sisters in Christ who have been impacted by same-sex attraction and have often felt abandoned or rejected by the very members of the Church who are called to love them with authentic mercy and compassion. In mercy and charity, we help one another carry our crosses and accompany one another through the messiness of life as members of the Body of Christ, as we move toward that Kingdom where Christ will be all in all.