“Faith,” Pope Benedict XVI has said, “opens our eyes to human life in all its grandeur and beauty.” And nothing more opens our minds and hearts to the wondrous gift of human life than the gift and mystery of the Eucharist by which we are gathered together as God’s family.
Here the author of life speaks to us the Word of life and love. Here the Gospel of life in all its coherence, truth, goodness, and beauty is proclaimed. Here, we encounter and receive the Incarnate Word, who took flesh in the womb of Mary, who suffered death on the Cross for our sins and rose to restore our life. Here, the redemptive fruits of Christ’s death and resurrection are applied to us, as individuals and a community of faith, so that we might have the strength we need both to embrace the Gospel of life in its fullness and also to bear witness to it “in season and out of season.”
Yes, nothing more opens our eyes to the grandeur and beauty of human life than faith, than this Mystery of Faith, in which the Lord of life and love gives himself to us so totally.
II. Defenders of Life
What a joy it is for me to gather with you at Eucharist for the first time, you who are my co-workers in defending and fostering human life, you who have dedicated so much of your prayer, time, and talent in seeking to construct a culture of life against what seems to be overwhelming odds. As I seek to share with you the living Word of God, on the cusp of the Year of Faith, called by our Holy Father and dedicated to the New Evangelization – please know that my heart is filled with gratitude for you, even as I pray that God will bless our common effort to defend and foster human life from the moment of conception until natural death.
How providential that today’s Scripture readings speak to us of marriage and family. The Book of Genesis tells us that God is creator of all that is but that the pinnacle of creation is the human person, made in his image. Using its own literary style, this passage tells us that God made woman to be the suitable partner to man, that she equally shares his humanity, and that man and woman become one flesh in expressing their love for each other and in cooperating with God in the begetting new human life. Since the dawn of civilization, the truth embodied in this Scripture passage has been understood to mean that marriage is between one and one woman, that it is an exclusive, total, and complementary love by which children are brought into the world and through which they are given the best chance to grow and flourish. This is a truth known and understood by reason for centuries, a truth that is confirmed by faith in the living Word of God. Yes, faith opens our eyes to the grandeur and beauty of human life.
Next month, on November 6, Marylanders will be asked whether or not a law should go into effect which says that marriage as between one man and woman can be redefined at will, that marriage has virtually nothing to do with begetting and raising children but much more to do with our adult feelings and needs. Dear friends, we are not against anyone or against anyone’s rights but we are for marriage as an institution given us by God, an institution that is unique for a reason.
Blessed Pope John Paul II, commenting on the very passage from Genesis read today, made this profound observation: “When a new person is born of the conjugal union of the two, he brings with him into the world a particular image and likeness of God himself: the genealogy of the person is inscribed in the very biology of generation” (EV, 43). He teaches us to understand that husband and wife, as parents, cooperate with God the creator in conceiving and giving birth to a new human being. They are co-workers with God in the work of creation and in the mystery of transmitting his divine image to their children. Parents are called to accept God’s gift of new life and to cherish, nurture, and form that new life to full maturity.
III. Let No Man Separate
In the Gospel Jesus reveals to us the true meaning of today’s reading from Genesis. Jesus is keenly aware of the human frailty every one of us shares. So many complex and difficult factors can lead to the breakdown of marriages, and it can be very challenging even for couples in seemingly happy marriages to stay the course, to live their wedding vows “until death do us part.” All too often couples decide to live together without benefit of marriage and many today find it difficult to enter into sustained, faithful relationships.
Surely the Lord is urging us as individuals and as a community to seek his grace and to apply our energies to fostering marriage and family life so that husbands and wives can find the divine and human resources they need to deepen their relationship of love day by day, to live the sacrament of matrimony in fidelity, perpetuity, and fruitfulness, and to welcome and nurture children as the gift of God.
Indeed, there is a direct connection between the dismantling of marriages and the family structure and the scourge of abortion in our society. The more husbands and wives enter into authentic married love, the more children in the womb will be protected and nurtured and the more children will be allowed to grow to their full potential. Often, though not always, abortion is sought because unmarried couples are in temporary, unstable relationships and all too often unmarried mothers find themselves alone and abandoned. One statistic might serve to bring this home: In 2010, only 8.6 % of households in the City of Baltimore were comprised of a mother, a father, and their children. And while so many single parents heroically strive to raise their children, no one should want the decline of marriage to become “the new normal”. Many studies demonstrate for us that many children suffer when they are deprived of a sound family structure where human life and love can flourish in a stable atmosphere of faith and prayer.
How urgently the Lord calls us to be agents of truth, healing, and compassionate love. Because faith opens our eyes to the beauty and grandeur of human life, faith also calls us defend and promote the vocation of marriage in truth and charity. As we prepare to enter upon the Year of Faith, let us ask for an outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit so that we might understand ever more profoundly the Gospel of Life, so that we might grasp the wisdom of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family, and, being convinced ourselves of the grandeur and beauty of this teaching, become witnesses to that teaching among our family members, friends, & co-workers.
May the Lord bless us and keep us in his love!