NFP Awareness Homily 2016
as presented by Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB, a consultant at NFP Outreach
- -- spiritual fatherhood
- -- we only discover, not replace, God’s plan
- -- what spousal love was designed to express
- -- where contraception goes astray
- -- we all want strong and loving marriages, and healthy, happy families
- -- how to begin, and where to find our strength
- -- diocesan resources
TIE-IN WITH GOSPEL:
The readings today center on the necessity of persistent prayer. Something very necessary in living out God's plan for marriage. In today's gospel Our Lord promises his Holy Spirit to those who do so.
Today I will draw upon my priestly and spiritual fatherhood in a special way. Every priest is called upon by God to proclaim God’s wonderful plan for us as it applies to all significant dimensions of human life. We speak today about marriage and spousal love. I am very concerned about the drop in marriages in this parish, in the drop in baptisms, and in the huge drop in Catholics worshiping here for Sunday Mass.
Every man fathers, and every woman mothers. As a priest and a man, I exercise my spiritual fatherhood by explaining God’s plan for marriage and spousal love, and pointing to the means whereby we can live that plan and benefit from it.
God’s plan for marriage and spousal love is a great gift to all of us. You live it, and I foster it by explaining it and encouraging it.
We only discover, not replace, God’s plan
It is important to point out that you and I do not define marriage for ourselves. We do not make up the rules as we go along. Some things are too important to leave to our limited insights and abilities. Only God, the Creator, can design such things as our human nature, as marriage, and family. He also is the designer of spousal love, of the marital act. He designed it, not us. We only discover the design of these things; we don’t invent it. After the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s, the popular impression is that we can redefine sex by separating sex from giving life to babies. Now sex means only the pursuit of pleasure, any way you choose to do it.
But consider the tragic results of this way of thinking. Think of all the innocent unborn babies that are aborted. [Sex was designed explicitly for sharing life, but couples who have abortions deny that. They destroy the natural fruits of their act.] Contraception has made it possible for men and women to think that they can ignore the natural purpose of sex, and simply pursue sexual pleasure. God wants us to save sex for marriage, and in marriage to always honor both the love giving and the life giving dimensions of the marital act.
Rulings from the Supreme Court now justify making contraceptives easily available for teenagers, for unmarried couples, and the married. They defend abortion, because you can’t have unrestricted sex without the inevitable results of a pregnancy. Abortion is used as a backup for failed contraception. Have you noticed that Planned Parenthood promotes contraception far and wide, and then benefits from all the profitable abortions that result from contraception? They call this providing health care for women. They are purposely forgetting about another person.
If we make something like sexual pleasure into an idol, something that we worship, then we have set up a false God, and worship it. You know that God will not tolerate that. Abraham Lincoln once said “We have no right to do the wrong.” We could add to that, “not even when 5 supreme court justices say it is guaranteed by the Constitution.”
What spousal love was designed to express
When God designed marriage and spousal love, He had a magnificent plan. He wanted Adam and Eve, the first couple, to be the best of friends and helpmates for a lifetime. He wanted them to be in love, and for that love to mature over a lifetime. And He gave them the marital act, reserved only for a man and a woman who have committed themselves to each other for life. When couples engage in their marital embrace, they are expressing two things. First, they are making the total, personal gift of self to the other. You can make such a gift only to a person who is a spouse. Given to any other person, it is a counterfeit.
Second, they are cooperating with God who wants to share life with the next generation. God wants marital love to blossom into a family. He wants children to be bonded with their fathers and mothers, and they to their children. When you think about it, you realize that the family is extremely complex, and one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind.
Where contraception goes astray
What does contraception do to a relationship and to a marriage? Contraception is the number one counterfeit of our times. Those who profit from it financially (the pharmaceuticals, Planned Parenthood, and sellers of porn) promote contraception as the greatest thing to happen since the Industrial Revolution. Now we can ignore the need for the virtue of chastity and self-control. Now we can blissfully pursue the pleasures of sex. People bought into contraception without thinking of the unforeseen consequences, or they simply ignored them.
Contraception is like walking pneumonia. The pneumonia is working on your system, but you can still function and pretend it isn’t there. Contraception is like a hidden cancer, concealed, but constantly eating away on your healthy organs.
Contraception is like an acid that erodes a relationship. Instead of making the total, personal gift of self to one’s spouse, and being open to the goodness of their fertility, they hold back. They tell each other “I want you, but I don’t want this dimension of you. You keep your fertility to yourself. That’s your problem.” When you put that kind of a barrier in a relationship, what do you expect to happen down the line? If a couple cannot be totally present to, and fully accepting of the other in their marital embrace, then what does that do to the rest of their relationship?
Have you considered why marriage and family life are so fragile and frail today? Why the steady increase in divorce rates since the use of the Pill? Why the great surge in single moms (nationwide it is 45% today)? Why the explosion of abortions in 1973 after the Supreme Court had already legalized, in their previous decisions, the sale and use of contraceptives to married couples and then to any young person? Why is porn so pervasively present on the internet? When heterosexuals choose to reject God’s plan for sex and marriage, should we be surprised that the gay activists are now pushing hard for homosexual same-sex marriages? Should we be surprised that 5 unelected Supreme Court judges have arrogated to themselves the authority to redefine marriage, and claim that the Constitution justifies that?
Contraception is the greatest counterfeit of all times. It is destroying marriage, spousal love, family and the morals of our young people. Still, we pretend that it the greatest invention since the Industrial Revolution, and insist that it be made available to anyone who wants it. The HHS mandate is now forcing employers to provide free contraception to their employees, even when that violates their religious convictions. It is attempting to force even the Little Sisters of the Poor to do this. We have a new idol.
We all want strong and loving marriages, and healthy, happy families
How do we get out of this mess? Everyone wants a strong and loving marriage. Everyone wants a healthy, happy family. But they don’t know how to do it.
When things get out of whack, out of alignment, then the solution is to return to the basic plan. A good medical doctor can read the symptoms of a disease, and then prescribe behaviors and medicines to rid the disease and restore the patient to good health. That is because the doctor understands the design of the human body, and he works with nature, instead of against it.
God wants each couple to have a strong relationship in their marriage, and a happy, healthy family. Not just for the elite, but for everyone. Can you think of anyone who doesn’t want a strong marriage? Can you think of any child who does not want a loving father and mother, and a supportive family?
We need to return to the basics. Go back to God’s plan for marriage, for sex, and for family. It is all laid out in divine revelation, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in just using common sense. When we get tired of being sick, then we go to a good doctor. When we get tired of damaged relationships and dysfunctional families, then we go to the Author of marriage and family.
How to begin, and where do find our strength
Jesus set up his Church to continue the work he began on Earth. The Church teaches what Jesus taught, and the Church provides the strength and consolation of the Sacraments that Jesus established. Fads come and go, but the plan of God for all important matters endures. We find that plan in the Church. So, start reading again. There are great teachings on all these topics by the Church. They are there, waiting to be discovered.
We all need to discover the beauty and mystery of human sexuality. It is much, much more than a pleasure machine. Every person who has passed through puberty needs to understand such things as natural family planning and the theology of the body. You won’t learn these in just an hour or two. NFP couples enjoy a good marriage, and a very satisfying sexual life. They also appreciate the gift of the child. They are very generous people.
Your diocese provides many services: Family Life Office, NFP teachers, and instructors in the Theology of the Body. It is all there for the taking. The choice is yours.
The Church understands, and Pope Francis understands, that people are very complex. But there is a certain simplicity behind all complexities. God’s basic plan for marriage, spousal love and family are so fundamental, and basic, that they apply to everyone. So, get started. God’s grace is there to sustain you at every step of the way. Expect a few difficulties in eradicating the disease that is contraception. But know that true happiness was meant to be yours.
Catholics have a great gift to give to society. They can help their fellow citizens discover the secret of strong marriages and healthy, happy families. But first, they must make that discovery themselves. Pray hard about what you are going to do about contraception.
The last word goes to Pope Francis in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love, paragraph 307: “In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist form proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur. Young people who are baptized should be encouraged to understand that the sacrament of marriage can enrich their prospects of love and that they can be sustained by the grace of Christ in the sacrament and by the possibility of participating fully in the life of the Church.
A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for your people themselves. To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being. Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown.”