Monday, August 02, 2010

18th Sunday - homily

God matters.

Almost every year since I’ve been ordained, I’ve gotten together with classmates from high school for a class Mass. It’s a great tradition that I especially enjoy: being my old friends in the context of the Eucharist. Last week, only a few guys came down to the Newman Center chapel, but we had a beautiful Mass. Then, we went to Georgetown for dinner and some, ahem, refreshments (a little trip down Memory Lane!). While we were enjoying our meal, one of my buddies asked if “snip-snip” (vasectomy) was ok in the eyes of the Church. I replied, “Snip-snip? No-no”. Of course, they peppered me with questions and comments for the rest of dinner.

I defended and explained the Church’s teaching on procreation, that each couple needs to be open to life. Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the recommended method of the Church. A big part of NFP is prayer and being open to God’s Will. When I brought up these points, they seemed to either get lost in the conversation or were not that significant. These are good men who want to be good Catholics, but they were focused mainly on earthly matters. There was a definite disconnect between us. They were telling me that the Church needs to “get with the times” and not be so “out of touch”.

The disconnect happened specifically with one of them later in the night when he dropped me off at the rectory. He wanted to know more about the Church’s teaching and asked some good questions. He raised the question of what is the difference between a couple who uses NFP only to avoid pregnancy and a couple who uses artificial contraception. Good question. I told him that they were both forms of contraception; one is natural and the other is artificial. But, I pointed out that NFP involves much more; it involves prayer. One of the key aspects of NFP is being open to God’s Will. Whatever His answer is each month is what the couple is to do. If the answer is ‘no’ to having a child, then that’s God’s Will. The answer might change. The key is to be open to life…open to love…open to God’s Will. Again, this point seemed to get lost in the conversation. He was focusing on the practical, logistical, earthly matters only. Again, a disconnect between him and me.

These conversations got me thinking. Do these guys really pray? My friends might represent a large number of Catholics. They are good people who are generous and want to be good Catholics. But, there seems to be a disconnect with the and the Church. One of the reasons for this is prayer. Do Catholics really pray? I don’t mean just saying grace at meals or saying rote prayers. I mean getting down on our knees and entering into conversation with God. I mean getting to know God and the Church. I mean what St. Paul writes in the second reading: “think about what is above”.

At the heart of the Church is prayer. For 2000 years, the Church has spent time getting to know God and what He has revealed to us. It is focused on what matters to God. It focuses on the supernatural and the natural. The disconnect between Catholics and the Church might come when the supernatural is brought into the natural. This is what happened with my friends. This is what happens with regards to the Eucharist. 70% of Catholics believe the Eucharist is only a symbol. To them, it’s only bread and wine. It’s only about the natural. It’s only an earthly reality. But, the Church has always believed that something supernatural takes place at Mass – that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. One might give the same response to this teaching as it does with family planning: ‘give me a break…where does the Church come off teaching this?’ With the Eucharist, it’s because Jesus says so: “this is my body”.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel that we are to become “rich with what matters to God”. The Church helps us to become rich with what matters to God…with the supernatural. These matters are important! God matters. These are not just nice things to focus on or do, they are necessary for everyday life. How do we become rich with what matters to God? We get to know God in prayer. We get to know the Church and what it teaches. The saying is that “millions of people hate the Catholic Church for what they think it is. Less than a hundred hate it for what it actually is”. Catholics need to know what the Church teaches and why it teaches it. We need to know that the authority of the Church to teach on God matters like contraception is the same authority as Christ himself.

Finally, we have an example of someone who has grown rich in what matters to God. Anne Wein will be receiving the sacrament of Confirmation as an adult in a few minutes. She has been meeting with me every week the past several months getting to know God and the Church better. She has become more familiar with Church teaching and has entered into prayer. For those who say they don’t have time to do this, please know that Anne has done all of this while working full-time and planning her upcoming wedding! She will now receive the fullness of the faith she received at Baptism and the great treasure of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

When we grow rich in what matters to God, we receive real treasure. Earthly things only are vanity, as we hear in the first reading. The things that matter to God bring us true happiness and fulfillment. They are real and they matter! They are the real treasures in life.


Anonymous said...

It's easy to say that NFP requires discerning God's will each month. Some people have a very hard time finding God's will at any point in their lives, much less each month. It only happens for a select few.

Cammie Novara said...

"It’s a great tradition that I especially enjoy: being my old friends in the context of the Eucharist." I can really relate to that in every way possible.