Two Approaches to Sexual Morality

(Homily for Twentieth Ordinary Sunday, Year B)

the times are evil. (Eph 5:16)

A few days ago I was seated at a table with a five-year-old girl. Across the way was a young man with dyed hair, flamboyant clothes and an earring. The girl leaned over and informed me, “He is a… (she used the slang word for homosexual)”

I shushed her and redirected the conversation. Later I told her mom about the incident. The mom admitted that, until she was 16, she did not know there was such a thing as a homosexual.

Parents need wisdom to guide their children. On one hand, we do not want children to look down on any other person. At the same time we want them to know that some things are right and others are wrong. It does not require an advanced degree in theology to know the difference. In the area of sexual morality the Anglicans expressed it succinctly in their 1998 Lambeth Conference:

The teaching of Scripture upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.

What Jesus teaches is clear, but extremely demanding. Because we have such a hard time living it, we are tempted to cut a few corners for ourselves and others. Today there are two different approaches which not only divide Christians from the world, but also divide Christian from Christian. A twenty-five cent piece can illustrate the difference.

For their commemorative quarter, Alabama has chosen its most famous citizen – Helen Keller. Deaf and blind from infancy, her parents did not expect much from her and tolerated almost any behavior. At mealtime they allowed her to walk around the table and grab whatever she desired. They hired a woman named Annie Sullivan to care for her. However, Miss Sullivan gave them a surprise. When the girl reached toward her plate, Annie grabbed her hand. The parents were shocked, but Annie calmly asked them to leave the room. A hand-to-hand fight ensued. The parents listened to the noise and when they finally opened the door, they saw food and plates strewn everywhere, but Helen was seated at the table, a plate in front of her and a fork in her hand.

With great patience Annie inititated the process of teaching Helen sign language. For months the girl saw no connection between the objects she touched and what her teacher traced in her hand. Then, in a moment of crystal, pure inspiration, Annie presses the sign-language word for water into Helen's palm as fountain water rushes over it. By a supreme effort Helen forms the syllable, “Wa.” Thus began a career of discovery which inspired millions.

Helen Keller inspires us because we recognize that in some way we are deaf and blind. We do not see and hear the other person. Nor do we know our own true self. Above all we do not see and hear God.

Like millions of other people, we can resign ourselves to that state and set about grasping whatever we can. But deep down we know we are meant for something better. Even worldly folks eventually do or say things which show they know the truth about sex. Maybe it's the nervous laughter that exposes their sophisticated front. Or the inevitable throw-away line: “Of course, it isn't the sexual part which really matters.” (Do you hear what you are saying?)

Jesus places before us an extremely high standard. He knows we will act like we don't understand, that we will have relapses and dead-ends - and will make every attempt to readjust his teaching. Nevertheless, the resulting isolation, resentment and sadness may eventually lead us to ask if he knows something we do not. It often comes as a last resort, but if we accept his challenge, he will give an intimacy we never dreamed of - his very Body and Blood. By that strength alone can we become what he means us to be.

For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.

************

Versión Castellana

From Archives (20th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):

2015: Dimensions of the Eucharist Week 4: Fission
2012: What We Must Do
2009: Unless You Eat
2006: What is a Body?
2003: Two Approaches to Sexual Morality
2000: The Jews Quarreled Among Themselves

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Letter from Cardinal George (Responding to Chicago Sun-Times article: “Pope Launches Global Campaign against Gays.”)

"I was in Hell." (From a gay Episcopalian turned Orthodox)

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