Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Mt 23:13-22 Love And Order

Monday of the Twenty-First Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.  You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter."

Just a few days ago, a senior from a local public high school asked me to answer some questions for him regarding Catholicism.  I was surprised, given the fact that this topic was of a religious nature.  He told me it was for a class he was enrolled in.  I agreed and was ready to set up an interview when he insisted that he would write down the questions and email them to me.   He wanted a written document.  Hmmm. Okay, no problem. Unfortunately, when I read his questions, I was disappointed, for they centered solely around the Church's teachings regarding homosexuality.   When I read his questions for a second time, I realized that they were very misleading and very "leading".

A leading question is a question which subtly prompts the respondent to answer in a particular way. Leading questions are generally undesirable as they result in false or slanted information. For example: "How fast was the blue car going when it crashed into the white van?"  This question is "leading" because it suggests that the blue car is to blame for the accident.

I never mailed my responses.  Here are his questions.  Here are my answers.

1.       Does religion in general play a major role in society’s culture?  Yes.  It always has and always will.  Sometimes more. Sometimes less.  But like a language, religion is a part of who we are.  We celebrate.  We mourn.  We hope.  We love.  We do all these things in a very religious way. 

2.       How has Catholicism affected society’s culture and mindset? (i.e. abortion, homosexuality)  Catholics have contributed to Western Society in many ways:  in the building of Universities (the first being the University of Bologna (1158), Oxford, Cambridge and Paris); in the building of hospitals; in scientific research (the theory of the Big Bang came from Fr. George Lemaitre, a Belgium priest); in the legal rights of indigenous people (Fr. Francisco de Victoria is described as the father of International law).  

The Catholic Church has affected society in its long standing respect for human life, regardless of the age or "quality" of that life.  The dignity of the human person never changes.  It is not defined by their "usefulness" or how efficient they are.  All life, from conception to natural death, must be respected.  All individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, deserve to be loved. 

3.       What does the Catholic Church say about Homosexuality and same-sex marriage? 
Paragraph 2357 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:  "Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved."

4.       In your opinion, is homosexuality a choice?  I find it interesting that you are now asking for my opinion.  What good is my opinion?  What good is your opinion?  For centuries, opinions have led to many erroneous beliefs or positions.  Is this an admission on your part that there is no conclusive evidence available to us? Contrary to popular opinion, genes can't control behavior completely.
"Affecting something is not the same as having complete control over it.  Environment, like genetics, plays an important role in how our behavior develops.  For example:  Alcoholism runs in families not only because there is a genetic component to alcoholism, but also because children learn to cope with stress by watching how their parents and siblings behave in stressful situations"
[Scientific American, Oct. 23, 2012].  Likewise, your environment affects your sexual and romantic relationships.  With regards to homosexuality, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. 
  


5.       Is being in a homosexual relationship a sin?   If you notice, the church does not use the word sin in its explanation, and there is good reason for it.   Would it be a "sin" to have one arm? Would it be a sin to have a medical condition?  Would it be a sin to have an addiction? It is not a sin to be homosexual.  But it would be na├»ve to say that nothing is wrong. 

6.       Are Homosexuals expected to live a life of chastity?  From the Catechism of the Church:  2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Unfortunately, in today's hyper-sexualized world, chastity is very much ridiculed rather than respected.

7.       How will the legalization of same-sex marriage affect the church and the sanctity of marriage?  If the definition of marriage changes, then our whole understanding of the family will change as well.  The importance we place on children being raised by a father and mother will change.  And down the road, words such as "life", "family", "children", "parents", "liberty", "freedom", may change, and change for the worse.  Changing the definition of words is no small matter.  It creates confusion.  After all, this is how we understand one another. 

8.       Can Homosexuals li[v]e a homosexual lifestyle and be involved with the church at the same time?  Everyone is welcomed.  Not everything is welcomed.  All people are to be loved.  But to love someone doesn’t necessarily mean you have to agree with them on everything. 

9.       Will Catholicism ever be accepting of the Homosexual lifestyle?  Accepting, no.  Understanding, yes.  Doctrines may be black and white, but people are not so clear cut.  Yes, we all need rules, but we also need compassion.  Compassion and understanding are absolutely necessary for life to be worth living.

10.   Are those who advocate same-sex marriage just as sinful as those getting married? Sinful?  No.  I would say they are misinformed.  Far too many advocates are under the impression that to love someone means you have to agree with them on everything.  They equate being "nice" with being accepting.  That’s how a lot of teens feel these days, and that's why so many of them have a hard time telling their friends the truth.  They equate "telling the truth" with "not being very supportive.”  They are well meaning, but not very helpful.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.  What makes the Catholic faith so beautiful is also what makes it extremely messy.  Our doctrines may be clear cut, but our people are not.  Words are carefully defined, but people are all over the place.  Logic is in perfect order, but people are messy!  We are good, but we do bad things.  We have a good heart, but not all our thoughts are good.  Our Catholic faith understands this. but not everyone appreciates it [for example,  secularists].

Secularists are like modern day Pharisees. They like to have clear cut answers from the Church.  They demand yes and no answers.  The individual that wrote these questions wrote them like a politician or lawyer, not like a lover of truth or a doctor; like a robot, not like a human being.  He expected black and white answers.  He got gray instead.  People are more than the sum of their parts.

We come from a nation that is heavily influenced by "Bible Christians."  The problem with them is that they routinely remove the human dimension from the word of God.  

In the Catholic Church, Sacred Tradition plays as much as an important role as the Bible, for it is a sacred reminder as to how the word of God should be applied to real life.  This human experience allows us to give flesh and bones to words, an absolute requirement ever since the Word became flesh...and dwelt among us. 

The scribes and Pharisees treated people like they treated the law:  with exacting precision.  They treated Christ like they treated their writings:  by crossing their t's. 

And what the world got was a Cross and a person nailed to it.

Writing the law down is not a bad idea.  Nailing people to it is.  We need to know what is right and wrong.  But writing off people is a bad idea, for only God knows the hearts and minds of all His people.  As the Pope recently said, "Who am I to judge?"  The Pope's response shocked our secular media and many uninformed Christians.  Why?  Because they still don't know Jesus Christ.

   

25 comments:

  1. Good Morning Father,

    Very good responses to the high school student's questions. You cannot go wrong with quotes from the catechism. Nobody really likes answers that fall into the gray area but didn't Our Lord not always give black and white answers?

    Out of due respect, I didn't think the young man's questions were that "leading." I think they are a direct reflection of today's societal secularism. Homosexuality and same-sex-so-called-marriage are hot topics these days. The fact the teen reached out to you with questions is a good thing. I don't think it was very wise to ignore his email. I probably would've answered his questions in private before posting on my blog! Furthermore, why are you disappointed? Did you expect a young teen who is obviously "secularized" to ask you about how to become a priest or question the Church's devotion to Mary? I would be careful not to make assumptions about people's actions. I know it's hard to do. (I have a tendency to auto think someone is asking me a question for the wrong reasons.)

    Normally I love reading your meditations first thing in the morning. However, this one was a little biting for my taste. Of course, you love to say it like it is. :)

    -J.

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    1. Nobody really likes answers that fall into the gray area but didn't Our Lord not always give black and white answers?

      I find it absolutely fascinating that Jesus asked 190 questions, answered 3 directly, and answered 307 questions with another question.

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  2. Father, I really appreciate this posting.

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  3. Does anyone know how to resend a post? I added and changed a few things and would like to send it out again.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It's your own blog and you don't know how to run it?

      Delete
    2. Blogger is inscrutable. . . . .not unlike Facebook. . . . .

      Delete
  4. Thanks so much Father, may the Almighty God bless you; for being a knowledgeable informant. Atleast we've known some tactics of responding to direct and challenging questions on our FAITH.

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  5. Father, I've been following your blog for a long time, and I find this to be one of the most thoughtful, well-written posts you've ever shared. Thanks for taking the time to explain with sensitivity the teachings of His Church on each of these issues. It seems that you must have dedicated a lot of time (and prayer?) in developing your responses. Or...maybe not...sometimes the Holy Spirit is quick to bring inspiration when needed. ;) Despite the leading nature of some of the inquiries, I think your answers are a source of good that will help bring understanding to many future readers on these difficult issues.

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  6. Thank you so much. Please share it with others. :)

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  7. Thank you. Feeling like we are dealing with this topic more and more on an hourly basis. And often hitting very close to home.

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  8. I'm confused. If there's nothing sinful about homosexuality, then why is it against doctrine? Is there anything sinful about homosexuality?

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  9. Does the catechism of the Catholic Church use the word sinful? No. It is a disorder. What is sinful are those who encourage it and promote it.

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    1. Okay, I've now read the catechism closely ( starting at 2357 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm ). It doesn't say homosexuality is a sin, though it does denigrate homosexuality - e.g. claiming that homosexual love is not genuine affection and calling homosexuality "intrinsically" and "objectively" disordered.

      Is willfully breaking natural law a sin, or is there anything sinful about it? Homosexual acts are described in the catechism as being against natural law, so if performing them is a sin, then that would be something about homosexuality that is considered sinful.

      I don't really know what you mean by "encourage" and "promote". For example, a gay pride march is about being glad to be gay, not encouraging other people to become gay. Maybe you're talking about promoting the idea that there's nothing wrong with being gay? Is that what you say is sinful? Is that the official Church position?

      If so, a gay person who has no problem with being gay and says so would be sinning.

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    2. This doesn't answer the question. If homosexuality isn't sinful but is disordered in some non-sinful way, then why is it of concern to the Church? If it's not a sin, then why does the Church take any position on it? Presumably there is some sort of negative judgment short of sin that extends from core principles (Bible, Church, tradition).

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    3. flies: You are the one who is very concerned about calling homosexuality a sin.

      Homosexuals, like heterosexual people, are not sinful people. Homosexuality is an intrinsic (that is, in it of itself) and objective (that is, regardless of what anybody thinks) disorder.

      "Why does the Church take any position on it?" For the same reason why it takes a position on illegal immigrants or school vouchers or anything to do with human beings: because it affects people and their lives and community.

      Homosexuality is not something that is reserved for two people. Now that homosexual marriage has been legalized, an entire culture will emerge from this. Children will be taught in school that a princess can marry a princess. Businesses will have to cater to homosexual marriage or be fined or sued. This has already occurred. That whole nonsense that this was a choice between two people was a rhetorical device, nothing else. People will be forced to go against their conscience. And this is disturbing for its hypocrisy. For example: The Governor of California refused to defend the state referendum because he personally objected to it. The Attorney General refused to defend DOMA because he personally objected to it. But if a clerk in an office refuses to give out a marriage license because to two gay people because they personally object to it, then they must either quit their job or be fired.

      The negativity or judgment of homosexuality comes not only from the Bible, but also from reason. Don't fool yourself. If homosexuality was normal and natural, then it shouldn't be a point of discussion today, just like heterosexual marriage or love has never been a point of discussion or debate. And one does not need to resort to the bible in order to defend it.

      Promoting and encouraging homosexual acts is a sin, just like promoting and encouraging anything that is harmful to individuals and society.



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    4. Are you talking about these?

      http://scottfillmer.com/2008/07/06/christian-photographer-refused-gay-wedding/

      and

      http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/30/oregon-bar-owner-to-pay-400g-to-banned-cross-dresser/?test=latestnews

      -J.R.

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    5. Yes, I'm concerned with the Catholic position on homosexuality vis a vis sin. I don't know why there's anything remarkable about that - the student's letter asks about this as well. It's an issue of concern to non-Catholics (e.g. myself), and I imagine there are many lay Catholics who might want to know as well.

      For the moment, I'd prefer argue over the rightness of the Catholic position, though I imagine it comes as no surprise that my disagreements with Church doctrine are many. If you'd prefer to have that discussion, I would oblige you, but for now I'm just trying to figure out what the Catholic position is.

      I think you've answered my question about why the Church takes a position on homosexuality, but there are some issues I'm still unclear on. First, I am wondering about breaking natural law - is it a sin?

      Second, what is meant by "Promoting and encouraging homosexual acts?" For example, does a gay pride parade count? Or in general, promoting the idea that there's nothing wrong with being gay?

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    6. Probably yes to both questions, although the degree of culpability varies with the person's knowledge and understanding of sin. (We can't be culpable for what we are ignorant of. We aim to reduce ignorance, however, by engaging in life-long learning of the faith, study of Scripture, especially the Gospels, etc.) Gay pride parades often feature couples of the same sex and people dressed immodestly, both of which are not in line with Christ's teachings, not to mention the fact that these features have a potential negative impact on children who may encounter them. Gay pride parades sometimes (often?) include placards that ridicule religion on people of faith, or worse. For example, last year in Latin America, women in same-sex relationships demonstrated bare-breasted and mobbed a Catholic church, which was surrounded by its members, both male and female, because the protestors aimed to desecrate it. The protestors rubbed their naked bodies against the members, who surrounded the church with elbows locked, grabbed members' genitals, and spray painted the members with special emphasis on the members' genitals. Earlier this year people in same sex relationships protested at the Vatican naked. Not very respectful, to say the least.

      The idea that there is nothing wrong with being gay is problematic too, especially for young people who are developing and/or struggling with their sexual identity. People, especially young people, can be unsure of their sexual identity for many reasons, including traumatic ones. Also, generally in the secular world the "nothing wrong with being gay" perspective also involves encouraging people to enter into same-sex relationships. It's not the same as the Catholic acknowledgement that people with same sex attraction should be accepted and treated with compassion as should all members of the Church--but should remain chaste, as should all unmarried people. (Well, married people are called to chastity too, by using their gift of sexuality appropriately within marriage...but that's another topic.)

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    7. To follow up to the above response to your question, here is a link to an article describing Notre Dame Cathedral's plans to sue bare-chested women who gathered outside of the cathedral chanting "In gay we trust" among other things. http://www.thelocal.fr/20130214/notre-dame-sues-topless-feminist-activists There have been many instances like this across the world.

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    8. >>The idea that there is nothing wrong with being gay is problematic too, especially for young people who are developing and/or struggling with their sexual identity. People, especially young people, can be unsure of their sexual identity for many reasons, including traumatic one.<<

      Father Paul Check, the director of Courage, an apostolate which ministers to people with same-sex attraction who want to live by the Catholic Church’s sexual teachings, addressed the problem of encouraging young people of identifying as "gay." He points out the dangers of early labeling, especially during adolescence when self-identity is developing:

      http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/CatholicEducationDaily/DetailsPage/tabid/102/ArticleID/2515/Don%E2%80%99t-Encourage-Youth-to-Identify-as-%E2%80%98Gay-%E2%80%99-Says-Courage-Leader.aspx

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  10. Sometimes it's helpful to distinguish between "same-sex attraction" and an "active homosexual lifestyle." There's a difference. I've heard some teachers of the faith carefully distinguish between the two, to make the point that same-sex attraction is not sinful, but an active homosexual lifestyle is. They also prefer the term SSA because the emphasis remains on the person ("a person with same sex attraction") rather than sexual orientation defining who the person is ("a heterosexual" or "a homosexual").

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    1. What constitutes an "active homosexual lifestyle" beyond sex?

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    2. Hi flies,
      For Catholics, it's probably easiest to speak in terms of an "unchaste lifestyle," which all Catholics are exhorted to avoid no matter whom they are attracted to. Catholics are exhorted to be chaste by avoiding occasions of sin (imprudent friendships and acquaintances, places, films, books, magazines, shows that can be significant sources of temptation to oneself) and shunning sexual activity with anyone to whom s/he is not sacramentally married. We are also encouraged to give witness to the truth of His teachings by avoiding involvement with anti-Catholic organizations or organizations which are hostile to His teachings, and by supporting and assisting with organizations on ministries that are based on the precepts of His Kingdom.

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    3. In addition to avoiding occasions of sin, we also strive to be chaste by being modest in dress, and pure in thoughts, words, and deeds/actions toward others.

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    4. These are helpful replies, thanks.

      Delete

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