On Teaching about Catholic Marriage
Today, we hear from Jesus about the physical and ontological nature of marriage. It is where man and woman leave father and mother and the two become one.
This teaching is controversial because in this country we also have what is known as same-sex marriage. In some places people have been persecuted or even lost their jobs when they defended the concept of marriage that Jesus explains in today’s gospel.
So let’s look at the whole picture and understand it. This is because your understanding of this teaching is essential to your role as laity.
When Jesus speaks, he speaks as the second person of the Trinity. He is God and communicates as God to His people. Everything is based on one thing: You are children of God and called to experience the indwelling of the Holy Trinity in your life to which we respond in gratefulness for this gift. The way to the Father is through imitating the Son’s obedience and seeking to grow in the wisdom that He promises us. Our union to the Father is our destiny, what ultimately will fulfill us completely.
Therefore, we hear Jesus’ words and we obey them because this leads us to the destiny to which Jesus calls us: union with the Father. If we reject Jesus’ words obstinately to our death that leads to permanent separation from the Father.
If we take this understanding out of the situation Jesus' teachings, then we reduce everything that Jesus teaches and promises to nothing more than a system of morality. The next question in that case is "On what do you base your understanding?" If we do not address the issue in light of the whole message of the Gospel we have no answer to that question. Then it is rule that has no foundation.
Further, if we are basing our morality in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and others reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ then the positions of where we stand on the nature of marriage are rooted in two totally different foundations: for example we stand on the Gospel and the teachings of Christ and the teachings of the Church. Others stand on secular values and reject the teachings of Jesus. We cannot resolve that difference because the foundations are not united.
Some may say that this country was rooted in Christian values. That is not exactly true. It was rooted in enlightenment values shared by men who were for the most part Christian. The early citizens were quite Christian, but not Catholic. For example, Thomas Jefferson may not have supported same sex marriage, I do not know, but probably not. I strongly suspect that Thomas Paine would have because he believed that the government that governs least governs best and would simply ask why is that a government question at all. I also believe that if atheism existed in Thomas Paine’s time, he would have been one. He even stated that his creed was his own and not of any other religion or church.
Therefore, in our country, when we define marriage in terms of what the Constitution teaches or what the founding fathers would support, we take it out of the realm of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus. But we also root our ideas on this world and focus on this world only, which is what Jesus told us not to do.
However, that also brings up another element of the discussion. It is useless to argue about same sex marriage if we do not first ground the discussion in the anthropology of the Gospel. It is useless to teach someone who does not believe in God the finer points of our Catholic morality because without the right foundation, they will not understand the connection. Further, if we do not lay the groundwork of our understanding of the Gospel teaching on marriage by evangelizing charitably what the gospel teaches then we may be more the cause of the anger than the solution.
What is more essential is that we first teach people about the truth of the Gospel which is in the ontological reality, meaning it goes to the definition of our souls. They need to first understand and know Christ before they can understand and know that true marriage is between a man and woman.
They must first understand and know the true love of Christ and his call to the fulfillment of our destiny in order to understand why we do not embrace same sex marriage. If we do not first teach that, then every argument about same-sex marriage will end up in frustration and anger because the issue is not whether or not we are for it, it is who we are as human beings. Jesus teaches us the fullness of truth in that arena. Thomas Paine did not, nor did Jefferson, nor does the Kennedy School of Government.
So as Catholics we understand that those men and women who have the vocation to marriage will seek it in light of the call of Christ to that vocation. Those who feel they do not have the call for a variety of reasons including those who do not have that attraction, have a calling not to enter into marriage. This is not because they can follow a rule, but it is not their vocation. Instead, as in the vocation to marriage, they will experience the deepest fulfillment of their being by instead living in obedience to the Father through Christ. However, that also means that the fruit of that call is deepening their relationship to Christ to its most profound and awesome levels. It is central to the call of Catholic chastity in and out of marriage.
Those who reject Christ for their philosophical ideas may find some form of happiness but not the ultimate happiness. That lack of finding the ultimate happiness will become an eternal frustration if they cannot fulfill their destiny. Our role is to show people that Christ is teaching them what will lead them to the fulfillment of all their desires and we can only do that when we also understand St Augustine’s admonition: In all things charity.
In the meantime, when we are humble to the teachings of Christ we find his destiny. Therefore, two people of the same or different gender who enter a relationship with other, will find their most deepest form of love expressed not in marriage but in their mutual communion with Christ and that is the destiny to which Christ calls each of us at all times.