Three years ago on the feast of St. Francis, Pope Francis opened the Synod (meeting) of Bishops in Rome on marriage and family. Pundits speculated that the Church would change her teaching on divorce. Providentially, the Mass readings that day delivered Christ’s clearest teaching about marriage and divorce: “What God has joined let no man separate.” Marriage is certainly a human relationship, but the Sacrament of matrimony takes us far beyond our human capacities. Bishop Barron describes the human aspects of marriage as “two people deciding, for mutual benefit, to live together in a form of intense friendship.” Children, physical pleasure, recreation, emotional fulfilment, professional achievement, etc. are all fruits of this relationship. But marriage is not only a human relationship. It is primarily a relationship, through your spouse and children, with God. Marriage, and all forms of love, are God’s, and so Jesus declares that what God has joined no man can separate; therefore whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. The Catholic Church does not recognize divorce, simply because divorce does not exist. A man who separates himself from a woman he has validly and sacramentally married is still married to her. No divorce certificate from city hall can change that. Neither can any priest, bishop, or pope break the bond that God has forged.
Youth, faith, and vocations
It’s been three years since the Synod on marriage, and last Wednesday Pope Francis opened a second Synod, this one on “youth, faith, and vocations.” Again the Synod begins its monthlong deliberations with Christ’s words from Chapter Ten of St. Mark’s Gospel affirming God’s gift of lifelong marriage, and warning against the grave harm impurity does to our relationships. Again, however, the world is wondering if the Church will relax her biblical rules on sexuality. How can the Catholic Church, pundits ask, possibly expect young people to be chaste? But this Synod again opens with Christ’s clearest teaching on God’s plan for human love: “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.” A person’s sex, or what we call today “gender,” is not personal choice. Our sex is a gift from God. We either use our sexual gifts according to God’s laws (and flourish) or we ignore the owner’s manual (and suffer chaos). We do not break the law of God. We break against the law of God. Someone suggested that if you are confused about your sexuality simply go into the bathroom, disrobe, and if you have any questions call him. Biology and the natural law matters. I know that many young people have been thrown into confusion by our confused culture, and many bear wounds from the pervasive social dysfunction of our time. Young people, especially, have had the rug pulled out from under them in the sexual sphere. But the solution is not to pretend that we can create our own reality. The solution is to come back to the natural laws. Our Heavenly Father does not want us to break against these laws, which are beautiful, true, and good. He wants us to flourish by joyfully receiving the beautiful ways of nature.
I noticed a large sign in the store the other day: Love Wins. That is certainly true. While everyone seems to have their own definition of “love,” there is a God and He is love. One who loves another brings the beloved to God who is love. When it comes to male and female, love by its nature is fruitful, as in all the animal and plant kingdoms. Love blossoms effusively. “Let the children come to me” Jesus says in the Gospel about marriage. Love wins because it transcends its own time and place in begetting new lives who carry that love far beyond the short lives of their mother and father. It is this vocation to which God calls young people— to offer ourselves as He offered himself for another. Let us pray that the Church, in this synod, calls young people to no less than Jesus Christ in this Gospel.
God our Father, through Holy Mother church, has opened both these Synods of Bishops with the Scriptures we hear today: “it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” God is the author of love and the intensely relational form of love we call sexual. Adam wakes up to find Eve and cries out: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And that is why a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” We are not owners, but stewards, of our bodies and souls. Let us pray to the Blessed Mother in this month of the rosary to show us how to love, and how to live, in the Sacred Heart of Jesus her Son. Let us pray for the leaders of our Church, now gathered in Synod, to proclaim God’s truth about truth and beauty and love, ever ancient, ever new.