The journey to God’s kingdom
By Fr. Tirso Villaverde
St. Thomas of Canterbury, Chicago
As we all know, recently the US Supreme Court made the historic decision to legalize same sex marriage. This has brought the issue of marriage to the forefront of many peoples’ minds and it is an obvious statement to say that there are people on both sides of the issue. No matter what arguments proponents of both sides choose to defend their respective positions, there is no denying that disagreements will still arise.
Obviously, the Supreme Court’s decision greatly impacts churches and faiths that do not agree with marriage between members of the same sex. This is true with the Catholic Church. However, as Archbishop Cupich of Chicago wrote in his statement after the Supreme Court announcement, the decision to legalize same sex marriages in a civil union does not, in any way, have any bearing nor does it change the Catholic Church’s theological understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage. The Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church remains a sacrament instituted by Jesus himself to be a sign of the union between him and his Church, a union that is most clearly seen in the committed relationship between a man and a woman. For this reason, the Catholic Church continues to uphold the dignity of the Sacrament of Marriage as she has celebrated it for 2,000 years.
At the same time, Archbishop Cupich rightly reminded Catholics of the Archdiocese that, in no way, are members of the Church ever called to treat any other person as less than human. It is the vocation of every follower of Christ to walk side by side with everyone who is on the same journey to God’s Kingdom. Nothing changes the truth that every human life is a gift from God and the expectation remains that all human life must be treated in that manner.
Whether people agree on lifestyle or not, ultimately no one person’s life is ever perfectly in keeping with the expectations of God. Sin is a constant struggle for every follower of Christ no matter what his or her sexual orientation may be. This is what we have in common and so we daily find ways to make our lives more in union with the life to which God calls us.
On this topic, I am actually reminded of the readings that my nephew and his new wife chose for their Wedding Mass just last month. The readings were from Genesis 2:18-24 (Eve is created from Adam’s rib); Colossians 3:12-17 (St. Paul’s message to put on love and let the peace of Christ control the heart); and Matthew 19:3-6 (Jesus answers the question regarding divorce). In these readings, every follower of Christ must remember to what he or she is called whether we agree with the Supreme Court’s decision or not.
In the reading from Genesis, it is a grave misunderstanding to interpret it as saying that men are more important than women simply because Genesis mentions that Adam was created before Eve or that Eve was created from the rib of Adam. Instead, the point to the story of Creation was simply to state the truth that, from the very beginning, God never intended that human beings live in competition with one another. Rather, God created human beings to become companions on the journey in order that one might complement and complete the other. In this relationship, specific obligations are fulfilled by each member not because one is more important than the other but simply because doing so would make the life of the other more whole.
All conflicts between human beings arise when people approach each other as rivals instead of companions. The moment we see each other as rivals, we become competition. Then, if we are in competition, inevitably, one side will feel as if he or she must dominate, control, or even eliminate the other. Remembering this can allow every follower of Christ to approach one another with compassionate hearts that seek to find what unites us to one another rather than what may separate us.
In the reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he urged his audience to put on love and allow the peace of Christ to control their hearts. Love is much more than just an emotion or a sentiment. Love is much more than a matter of desire or convenience. Love is so much more than the physical act of sex. The love to which Christ calls his followers is a life dedicated to being an active part of the life of other human beings. In other words, God did not intend for His Creation to live in isolation from one another. God intended that every human being become actively involved in the lives of every other human being. In love, we must be actively engaged in each other’s lives. In love, the respect we give to one another becomes real despite the differences or disagreements that may still exist between us.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is challenged with the issue of divorce where the religious leaders of his day try to trap him by asking if it was ever lawful for a man to divorce his wife. In response, Jesus says that in the beginning God created male and female and the two become one flesh. For that reason, Jesus further declared that what God had joined no one must divide. On this point, the goal of every Christian life is to include people into one’s life in such a way that he or she no longer remains a stranger or even a competition. Instead, the Christian must strive to make every person into “family.”
In every family, people will not always agree. Parents will not always agree with the decisions that their adult children may make. Children may never see the logic behind the actions of their parents. Siblings may question the choices each one makes. Yet, nothing changes the fact that they are all part of a family. Ideally, parents and children will continue to love one another despite their disagreements. Siblings will continue to find ways to support one another even when there may be “rivalry.”
Likewise, God as the heavenly parent may not always like the choices His children make but there is nothing that any of us can do to make God stop loving us or wanting us to be a part of His one, large family. When we approach it in this way, we can find the gentle and loving ways to challenge each other to become the better versions of ourselves and continue to accompany each other as brothers and sisters of the same God and Father of all.