27th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Preached October 7, 2018; St. Peter Catholic Church, The Dalles, Oregon
Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God made man he has the authority to abrogate the permission that his servant Moses gave for divorce on account of the hardness of human hearts. So in today’s Gospel we hear Jesus restoring the original plan of God’s creation.
From the beginning of creation God created them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
That union of the two in one flesh receives also from God the blessing of fertility from which children come. So it is no accident that people bring little children to Jesus immediately after his prohibition of divorce.
God willed that children be brought into the world through the loving union of husband and wife and that they be cared for by the same father and mother who gave them life, who are joined together in a lifetime union. This was God’s plan from the beginning of creation. That means that marriage lies at the foundation of what it means to be human, it is essential to human well-being, and belongs to the heart of the ecology of human life. This reality, this truth of human ecology, is what is most attacked and threatened in the world today.
In light of this same truth of marriage we can affirm, as though it should not already be obvious, that divorce harms children. Indeed, every sin against marriage harms children. That means all sexual activity apart from the marriage harms children.
That also means that false teaching about human sexuality also harms children.
That means that the virtue of chastity is an indispensable part of ‘good character’ of those traits that make someone to be truly a ‘good person’. It does not matter if someone is otherwise a nice person, possessed of the virtues of amicability and sociability, if he lacks the virtue of chastity he lacks the whole of virtue, he is not virtuous person. He might not be a murderer or a thief, but he is not a ‘good person’.
The virtue of chastity? What is that? To put the matter simply the virtue of chastity governs the human sexual instinct for the sake of a higher good such as the good of marriage and family or the good of the kingdom of heaven.
Every sin against chastity is inherently selfish because it chooses an individual’s private sexual pleasure ahead of such great goods that are necessary for the well- being of every human community, every nation, and the whole of humanity. The selfishness of sins against chastity is made most manifest today in what has become
the effective demand that all human society be reordered to accommodate the perversions of transgenderism and sodomy. Reordering social life about a supposed ‘right’ to all manner of sexual sins is a radical disorder, a grave evil in human life; it is the sin of Sodom that cries to heaven for vengeance. (cf. CCC 1867, Gen 18:20, Jude v.7)
Today I am not going to say much more about sins against chastity; instead I want to speak about different attitudes towards sin in general and sexual sins in particular.
First there is the truly pharisaical attitude. The pharisaical attitude condemns the sin and writes off the sinner. The pharisaical attitude basically says, “You are sinner; you are lost; it is your own fault and I won’t life a finger to help you; you can go to hell for all I care.” Further, the ‘Pharisee’ gains for himself a sense of superiority over the sinner. He will say, “I am not one of those ignorant, craven, base people.” Finally, the pharisaical attitude enters into hypocrisy when the ‘Pharisee’ makes an exemption for himself, at least in part, from the law. So the Pharisee might condemn adultery but judge that nevertheless he is allowed to indulge himself with the maid.
Then there is the attitude of Jesus himself who not only prohibits divorce, but declares that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart. (Mt 5:28) And he also said, Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8) Jesus’ teaching is not, finally, a condemnation, but a call. He sets a high standard because he has created us for something great. His standard is the only standard in which we can achieve true happiness, the only standard that accords with our deepest desires for love. The standard is high, but Jesus also promises us the help we need to attain to the standard. So he says, If you, then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (Lk 11:13) So Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery, Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more. (Jn 8:11) He is not giving the woman an impossible task, because he will be with her to strengthen and guide her through the gift of his Holy Spirit. For this he shed his Blood, for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We can see the same contrast between Jesus’ attitude and the pharisaical attitude in the contrast between the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of Satan, the accuser.
After Satan leads someone into sin, he then turns and throws the sin in the face of the sinner and whispers in his ear: “See, you are no good. You are worthless. God does not love you. How could he love a loser like you? He will never forgive you. Now that you have started on this path you may as well keep going, because there is no way back.”
The Holy Spirit also makes a person to become aware of his sins, but in a wholly different manner. (cf. Jn 16:8-11) The Holy Spirit reveals the sin as a failure of love, an offense against the goodness of God, and ingratitude to Jesus Christ who shed his blood for us. At the same time, by leading us to the Cross of Jesus Christ, the Holy
Spirit leads us to the hope of forgiveness. He reminds us of how Jesus forgave the repentant thief from the Cross, (cf. Lk 23:42-43) how he prayed, Father forgive them for they know not what they do, (Lk 23:34) and that it was indeed for the forgiveness of sins that he shed his Blood, a truth of which we are reminded at the heart of every Mass. (cf. Mt 28:28, words of consecration) Finally, the Holy Spirit reminds us of how Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, shows them the wounds in hands and his side, says Peace be with you, and gives them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins in the confessional. (Jn 20:19-23)
By yielding to temptation, the sinner inevitably sells himself cheap, putting himself into the power of Satan. Jesus buys us back – he redeems us – at the cost of his own Precious Blood, which reveals our true worth before God.
The attitude then of the true disciple of Jesus begins with his own experience of receiving God’s mercy, the forgiveness of his own sins, and then learns to mirror the attitude of Jesus himself. Unless he is a priest the disciple cannot actually forgive sins or communicate the grace of the Holy Spirit, but he can walk with the sinner, the person who is still trapped in his sin, with compassion and understanding. He can bear witness to the holiness of life to which Jesus calls us. He can invite the sinner to repentance, promising him the mercy of God. He can tell the sinner, “You don’t have to live like that. You are capable, with God’s grace, of better than that.
Though I too am a sinner I will do my best to help you.”
In one sense we are all sinners and indeed more so than we are aware. Just last Sunday in the Psalm we prayed, Who can detect failings? Cleanse me from my unknown faults. (Ps 19:13) Actually, because of the culture of the sexual revolution many have become altogether blind to most sexual sins; those sins have become ‘unknown faults’ that leave many in grave peril.
In another sense we speak of sinners as those who are in a state of mortal sin, or who habitually fall back into mortal sin. Here we can distinguish between the weak and the wanton. Last Sunday also we prayed in the Psalm, From wanton sin especially restrain your servant; let it not rule over me. (Ps 19:14)
Towards the weak we must show understanding and compassion and we must welcome even their faltering steps towards conversion.
On the other hand, we must oppose the wanton as we oppose sin itself, until they recognize their weakness.
So, for example, we must show compassion to anyone who struggles with same-sex attraction (and maybe even falls), but when it comes to the community of sin that is identified by the letters LGBTQ and a rainbow flag, this is nothing but the pride of Sodom. We must oppose the pride of our modern day Sodom. We must oppose the pride of Sodom first with strong minds, determination, and prayer, so as to learn how to oppose the pride of Sodom in word and action.
We must oppose the pride of Sodom wherever it is found, whether it is displayed in a parade in Portland or even in a Catholic Church. We must oppose the pride of Sodom even if it means standing against the combined might of the Fortune 500 companies, professional sports, and Hollywood, all of which give their support to the new Sodom. We must oppose the pride of Sodom even when it is defended by bishops and cardinals. Not even the Pope has the right to command us to submit to the pride of Sodom.
We must oppose the sin of Sodom because it seeks to destroy the fundamental truth of God’s creation, but we cannot oppose the sin of Sodom without the virtue of chastity, which enables us to live according to the truth of marriage. We cannot live the virtue of chastity without the cleansing mercy of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot oppose the sin of Sodom unless we take up our cross and follow Jesus Christ, ready to give up our life, like him and for him.
We must recognize that we are engaged in a spiritual battle against spiritual enemies and we need spiritual weapons. Above all we must take up and learn to use well that great spiritual weapon that has been given to us in these times, the rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.