Bottom line: We need spiritual fathers - and spiritual mothers: followers of Christ who enter the Ocean of Mercy. And in this time of crisis, we need holy marriages - mothers and fathers who place themselves under the Divine Mercy.
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter - also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. The theme of my homily is "Divine Mercy in a time of crisis." The greatest crisis we face regards marriage and family.
A sign of this crisis is the movement to redefine marriage. It's a small part of this breakdown, but we cannot ignore it. This weekend our Knights of Columbus are receiving signatures for Referendum 74.* We are doing this for a simple reason: So that voters in our state will have the opportunity to express their views on the definition of marriage. The issue has so many implications that it should be decided by more than a few dozen people in Olympia. Your signature on Referendum 74 says: Let the people decide.
As Christians we are not in doubt regarding the definition of marriage. The Bible states that because God created us male and female, a man leaves his father and mother, joins himself to his wife and the two become one flesh. For us marriage is sacred because it reflects the union of Christ with his bride, the Church.
To say that marriage was instituted by God and that in Christ it becomes a sacrament does not mean that we exclude anyone. We welcome all because we all come to Jesus the same way: sinners who need forgiveness and healing.
One way almost everyone - above a certain age - has sinned is by misusing the gift of being male or female. God gave us our masculinity and femininity for marriage - to bind, to protect and to procreate. There a man joins himself to one woman - to the exclusion of all others. That's no easy road. And being unmarried is no picnic either. Outside of marriage - whether we are priests, religious, youth, widowed, divorced, single - Jesus calls us to abstinence. Chastity, self-control, is essential to following Jesus. There is no discrimination here; the same rule applies to all.** And let's be honest, every one of us has fallen short. We need healing and forgiveness.
In today's Gospel Jesus sends the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus invites us to place ourselves under the Divine Mercy.
Once a man walked a lonely Washington beach. He noticed a drop of water on a large, smooth rock. It seems a strange thing to do, but he took the drop of water - and tossed it into the ocean. He thought: "The drop has disappeared. So it is with my faults, my imperfections, my sins - if I throw them into the ocean of mercy."
The ocean of Divine Mercy is not sterile. Like the blue waters of the Pacific Coast, it teems with life. Abstinence or chastity - when placed under the Divine Mercy - is not sterile. Masculinity by God's grace becomes spiritual fatherhood. Something similar applies to femininity.
The shining figure in a C.S. Lewis book*** is a woman who had no children. "Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter."
"Isn't that a bit hard on their own parents?" someone asks.
"No, There are those that steal other people's children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives."
Chastity, when placed under the Divine Mercy, becomes fruitful. We need spiritual fathers - and spiritual mothers: followers of Christ who enter the Ocean of Mercy. And in this time of crisis, we need holy marriages - mothers and fathers who place themselves under the Divine Mercy.****
*Note to homilists: Although Referendum 74 applies only to Washington State voters, this issue pervades Western society. I encourage everyone to read Archbishop Sartain's thoughtful letter and Frequently Asked Questions on this issue. The letter and FAQ make clear that for us this is not so much political as it is a profound pastoral issue. It is like our opposition to assisted suicide a few years back. Our concern is for people's salvation and we have a duty to warn about actions that would bring eternal condemnation. Not that we condemn anyone. Speaking personally, I have plenty of my own sins to repent of and ask for Divine Mercy.
**In his letter and the FAQ, Archbishop Sartain compassionately addresses the concerns regarding equality, justice and discrimination. He also points out that "gay marriage" will not give any rights that Washington States do not already have under current civil union laws.
***The Great Divorce
****You perhaps noticed that I did not use the words "gay" or "homosexual" in this homily. I avoid those words because our opponents have successfully created a climate where a Christian cannot utter them without a significant part of our congregation reflexively thinking "hate," "bigotry" and "discrimination."
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Divine Mercy Novena (print ready in English & Spanish)
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Please take time to read what our bishops are saying about Religious Liberty & Conscience Protection
The Archdiocese of Seattle also has helpful resources regarding the defense of marriage and family
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
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