Oil and Wine

(Homily for Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

During the next few weeks you will be hearing a lot about the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). Basically it reaffirms the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.* The U.S. Senate will debate it this week and might vote as early as Wednesday. The best short statement I have read was by Fr. Richard Neuhaus. (He was a Lutheran minister who converted to the Catholic Church about fifteen years ago and is now a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.) This is what Fr. Neuhaus said:

The marriage amendment continues to gain steam and will likely play a significant part in the presidential campaign. A critical question is whether it can avoid being stigmatized as an anti-gay measure. That will depend in large part on whether the argument is successfully made that homosexual unions and other domestic arrangements fall into the category of friendships. Friendships can be healthy or not, but it is not the government’s business to certify or regulate friendships. By way of sharpest contrast, marriage has always and everywhere been recognized as a legitimate and necessary public concern. (While We Are At It)

It is important to make the distinction between marriage and friendship. We certainly hope that married couple are also friends, but marriage and friendship are not the same thing. A man might have several friends, but hopefully only one wife. Marriage involves a necessary exclusivity. Friends can always take others into the circle.

This reminds me of the famous story about Abraham Lincoln. He posed the question: “How many legs does a dog have?” The reply of course was four. Lincoln asked, “If we call the tail a leg, then how many legs does a dog have?” The reply: Five. “No,” Lincoln said, “Just because you call a tail a leg doesn’t make it so.”

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (and earlier in countries like Sweden and Norway) two men or two women to legally call their relationship a “marriage.” But just because you call it a marriage, doesn't make it. A person might shrug, “Who cares anyway?” If they want to say they are married, why should it matter to us. The problem is they not only want the right to call it a marriage, they want to legally obligate you and me to do the same. I don’t know about you, but I could never call the union of two men a marriage.

My reasons are more than just emotional. To confuse homosexual unions with marriage will obviously weaken marriage. It will also cast suspicion over friendship. But much more important: marriage is fundamental to society – and to the Church. We consider marriage so sacred that we number it as one of the seven sacraments. The union of husband and wife is a sacrament, a sign of the union between Christ and his bride the church. Friendship is one thing, but marriage is much more. It is important to call things by their proper names.

This does tie into our Gospel. We just heard the parable of the Good Samaritan. He was different from the priest and levite because he approached the wounded man and tried to find out what the other really needed. We live in a world of great indifference. Most people tend to say, “it’s none of my business,” or “it’s not my problem,” and to pass by on the other side. However, we are interconnected.



*The full text of the FMA states: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Fifteenth Sunday, Year C):

2016: Becoming a Disciple Week 6: Double Compassion
2013: Focus on Mission - Part Two
2010: Go and Do Likewise
2007: The Good Pagan and The Good Samaritan
2004: Oil and Wine Over His Wounds
2001: He Approached the Victim
1998: What Is Compassion?

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