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Jesus And Marriage

Sermon by Father Roger J. Landry
Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts

Catholics are accustomed to asking themselves, "What would Jesus do?" in their situations or "What would Jesus say?" The answers to those questions generally make clear for us what we in turn should do or say.

I think those questions are important ones to ask with regard to the question of whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. What would Jesus say if he were to testify up on Capitol Hill on the matter?

To ask this question is not to imply that one needs to have recourse to religious arguments in the debate. Most people, however, including non-Christians, will find in Jesusıs testimony about marriage a crisp and clear presentation of what is already recognizable by reason.

One day Jesus was asked about the meaning of marriage and the possibility of divorce. His reply is as relevant to the question of same-sex marriage as it was to the original query. He took marriage back to creation and described the nature of marriage and its essential properties:

"In the beginning God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate" (Mt 19:4-6).

In this concise response, Jesus mentions four things pertinent to our debate.

1) In the beginning, God made them male and female.

God never acts by chance and hence he made us male and female, and not male and male, for a reason. There is great meaning to masculinity and femininity. The most profound reason of all is to help us grow in the image of God.

In the first book of the Bible, we read, "God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). God is a communion of persons in love, wherein Father and Son love each other in such a way that their love "generates" a third person, the Holy Spirit, who is the fruit of their mutual love.

God created the human person male and female to exist as a communion of persons in love in such a way that their love would similarly be capable of generating a third person, a child. In this way, man and woman together would also image God the Creator, by participating with him in the act of the creation of another human person.

Same-sex relationships are not capable of bearing this image of God.

2) "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife."

Because of how he is made ("for this reason"), a man leaves his parents and clings, not to whomever he wishes, but to a wife. His masculinity is directed by his Creator to anotherıs femininity (and vice versa).

This is because one of the essential truths of masculinity is the manıs capacity for fatherhood, which can only be naturally fulfilled when joined to a womanıs capacity for motherhood.

A crucial element in accepting "who we are" as male or female is to recognize this innate maternal or paternal potential. A crucial element in accepting another in love is to recognize the otherıs maternal or paternal potential. Same-sex couples, in this respect, neither accept the full meaning of who they are or who their partner is.

3) " And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh."

Jesus says that marriage is meant to bring about a one-flesh union. This is not a romantic metaphor, however beautiful it is. It also refers to more than the temporary union of bodies that occurs in the act of sexual intercourse, which is not a perduring union.

It refers to the marriage of their flesh in a child who is a symbol and a fruit of their loving union. The husband and wife become one flesh in the child.

The reason why the Church has always said that there is a two-fold purpose to conjugal relations ‹ unity and procreation ‹ is because for there to be a true unity between husband and wife in the act of making love, there needs to be the openness to their becoming truly one flesh in a child.

To will against a child is to will against real union between the spouses, because it involves rejecting the other personıs paternal or maternal potential in the very act made for it by God. Such a rejection is the opposite of the full mutual acceptance required by love.

Same-sex couples are incapable of this type of natural one-flesh union in a child. As a result, same-sex couples often try to divorce sex from its procreative potential and meaning. Once this is done, however, sex is also divorced from real union and real love.

Rather than "making love," such gay sex (like heterosexual contraceptive sex) often becomes the mutual use of another for sexual pleasure, which will begin to corrode whatever love may be present between the couple.

4) "What God has joined, let no one separate."

God has joined man and woman in marriage. To try to make marriage a man-less or a woman-less institution (as it would be for same-sex couples) will bring disastrous consequences and confusion. All of society and particularly our children will suffer.

Among the consequences will be:

a) The meaning of masculinity and femininity will be distorted, as they will no longer be seen as necessarily complementary and ordered to each other.

b) The meaning of marriage will obviously change and bring about a transvaluation in the meaning of a family. Marriage will become primarily for the satisfaction of adult desires, not for children. Permanently fatherless or motherless families will become more common and this will harm children raised in such non-optimal situations.

c) The homosexual idea of the meaning of sex ‹ divorced from any procreative meaning, or even from any male-female complementarity ‹ will become the bottom-line of public school sex-ed curricula, because any heterosexual idea of sexuality will be "discriminatory" against gays and their newly-invented "rights." It will become harder for our children that ever before to perceive the essential connection between love, marriage, sex and children.

To try to separate what God has joined in marriage is to separate us from the truth about who we are as male and female and whom we are called to be ‹ and will bring great harm.

What would Jesus do and say?

Jesus "came to give witness to the truth" (Jn 18:37) and his truth is unchanging.

What he taught about the meaning of our masculinity and femininity, its relation to marriage, and the relation of marriage to the family, is something that gives believers and unbelievers alike a greater foundation for what we can already perceive by reason and common sense.

For believers, however, what Jesus would do or say is always a motivation for our own action. Jesusı followers are called to make his testimony resonate "from the housetops" (Mt 10:27). May we do and say as he did!

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© July 2015