Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Christ and 'Same-Sex Marriages'

Continuing from yesterday’s post, the starting point in understanding the Catholic Church is Jesus Christ. All of the Church’s doctrines, liturgical practices, service, and disciplines are based in the life and teachings of Christ. So, really, I should have started this little series with “Christ and ‘Same-Sex Marriages’”. We need, then, to understand Christ’s teachings on same-sex marriage in order to understand the Church’s teaching. Many people will point to the Gospel only when referring to what Jesus taught and they have done so in the past few days with this issue. But, that significantly short-changes who our Lord is and all that He has revealed to us. Christ teaches us throughout Scripture from Genesis through Revelation. Why do we believe this?

In the Gospel of John, Christ is referred to as “the Word”. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:1-2, 14). So, Christ is the Word of God. When we speak of the Bible as the Word of God, we are speaking of Christ. Christ is the one speaking to us throughout all of Scripture. The Catechism emphasizes this in #102: “Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word…’You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers’ (St. Augustine)”.

It is the Word who resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers. It is the Word who resounds in the mouth of the author of Genesis, “God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; make and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). This is Christ teaching us that every person – no matter what their sexual orientation is – is created in the image and likeness of God. This is the most important point to make about the Church’s teaching on the issue of sexual orientation, in my opinion. Our sexuality does not define us. We are first and foremost children of God made in His image and likeness.

So, the Word reveals to us who we are in Genesis. Then, He reveals to us how we are to live as children of God. He resounds in the mouth of the author of Exodus when He reveals the Commandments which are reminders of right and wrong to us who already bear the natural law in our hearts. Specific to the issue of homosexual relations, He resounds in the mouth of the author of Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination” (Lev 18:22). He resounds in the mouth of St. Paul and reminds us that this (or any) moral law doesn’t change: “"For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.” ( Rom 1:26-28)

Certainly, Christ’s teachings in the Gospel have primacy because “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”. His teachings in the Gospel* take on a deeper meaning by fulfilling his teachings of the Old Testament. Specifically regarding marriage, the Lord fulfills the teaching of marriage that is found in Genesis. He reaffirms what we have read “from the beginning” that marriage is between a man and a woman, and the “two shall become one flesh” in marriage. He thus includes marriage as part of the New Covenant and raises marriage to the level of a sacrament when He says, “what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mt 19). One person said recently that yes, Jesus taught that marriage is between a man and a woman, but He didn’t say that it wasn’t between a woman and a woman or a man and a man. Well, He has already condemned sexual acts between persons of the same sex in Leviticus 19 (and 20, too). Reason tells us that if God condemns homosexual acts, then He condemns homosexual marriage. Also, Christ didn’t have to say what marriage wasn’t because He declared what it WAS. It’s understood that marriage can’t be anything other than between a man and a woman because He reveals it so.

It would be like if He said that the sky was blue. He didn’t have to say it wasn’t red, green, yellow, orange, etc. He would already have said that it was BLUE! Or, if He said that 2+2=4 but didn’t say it wasn’t 3 or 5 or whatever. We would know that it’s 4 and so can’t be 3 or 5 or whatever. And, then when we went to do mathematics, we would see that this is the truth and is the basis for doing so much in math or the sciences. If we redefined what 2+2 is, then so much of mathematics and science gets seriously distorted and doesn’t work. When we look at what marriage is (as defined in yesterday's post), we see that the truth is that it is between a man and a woman and that it is the fabric of our society. If we redefine what marriage is, then so much of our society will get seriously distorted and won't work.

Finally, some people will say Jesus is all about love and not condemnation. Christ is all about love…He is love! He loves every person and creature who has ever been created through Him. And, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). Christ saves through love and faith. Part of that love through which he saves is the condemnation of sin. Christ loves sinners but condemns sin. He does this throughout Scripture. If Christ is love and Christ condemns sin, then love condemns sin. It is an act of love, then, to condemn sin. It is an act of love to say to someone, “please don’t do that, it will hurt you”. God essentially does this when He gives us the Ten Commandments and the Law. He is like a parent who tells his children not to touch a hot stove because it will burn and hurt them. Love means wanting what’s best for the other. Sometimes, it means telling the other that what they are doing or trying to do (sin) will hurt them.

If Christ didn’t love or want to save us, He would have basically said, “do whatever you want” (which is the mantra of relativism). But, because He loves us, He tells us throughout history what we should and shouldn’t do. Some people in His lifetime didn’t like to be told what to do, so they crucified Him. The same thing is happening today with His Bride, the Church. The Church continues the teachings of Christ. She continues to speak Truth in love. She continues to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do. Many people today (is this like 1st century A.D. as some have argued?) don’t like to be told what to do, so they crucify the Church every day. Our Lord promised that this would happen in John’s Gospel: “ If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (Jn 15:18-20)


*In addition, His teachings through the authors of the New Testament are a reflection on how the Gospel fulfills the Old Testament and how they apply to His Church. For 2000 years, He has provided understanding of His teachings through the “theology” of the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (theology means in Greek “the Word of God”). The Spirit is the interpreter of Scripture (CCC, #113) and so He helps the Church to interpret the teachings of Christ (the Spirit also inspired the sacred authors of the Bible).

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