Heeding Our Earthly Mother & Heavenly Father — 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9,11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

A Wall Across the Road

Imagine an wall built across a road which has stood for as long as anyone can remember. The Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton suggested that when confronted by such a peculiar sight:

The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

It is said that human history has been constantly repeating two phases, summed up in two concise phrases:

First, “What could it hurt?
And second, “How were we supposed to know?

All of us are children of the same holy Mother, the Church. And she is united with God, our loving Father. Moms and dads sometimes tell us, “Don’t touch that–it will hurt. I know it glows enticingly, but it will burn you. We’re not saying this in order to control you or to make you miserable, but because we love you. We want you to be safe and happy.

Red_Hot_Coiled_Stove_Burner_3_by_FantasyStockWe then have three options in how we respond: Either we can touch the forbidden thing for ourselves and experience the pain firsthand. Or we can observe others who have touched the thing and learn from them (though they sometimes hide their pain and tears, even from themselves.) Or, and this is the best response, we can trust in the words of our Mother and Father and never get burned.

Sometimes the wise and the learned of this world refuse to see the truth, but to the little ones, to the childlike, the truth is revealed and they welcome it. In our first reading from Zechariah we find a prophesy about the Messiah. The Savior is not coming on a warhorse, but on a donkey—not as a conqueror imposing his will upon the earth by force, but meekly, inviting us to trust in him and freely embrace his will.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

This week’s Supreme Court’s verdict in the Hobby Lobby case comes as good news for religious liberty. However, we must keep praying. Though the five-to-four decision is a positive sign, religiously affiliated non-profit groups are not safely out of the legal woods yet. Many people of goodwill support Catholic institutions in their conscientious refusal to facilitate things they consider gravely immoral, but I wonder how many observers understand why Catholics have any objection to contraception and sterilization to begin with?

People fail to realize that contraception is not something new. For thousands of years, people have used various barriers, chemicals, and techniques to prevent the marital embrace from being fruitful. And most have never heard that before 1930 all Protestant denominations agreed with the Catholic Church’s teaching in condemning contraception as sinful. Most people have not realized what could be wrong with putting asunder what God has joined in the marital act; separating love-making from an openness to life. And though few recognize the harmful impact that contraception has on families and society, its consequences were not entirely unforeseen.

Pope Paul VI

In 1968, in the midst of a sexual revolution made possible by the birth control pill, some believed the Catholic Church would “update” its consistent teaching on contraception. (“What could it hurt?”) Instead, Pope Paul VI shocked the world with orthodoxy. His encyclical, Humanae Vitae or “Of Human Life,” was one of the most controversial documents of the twentieth century, yet the pope’s four predictions of what would happen if contraceptives gained widespread use have proven true:

  1. A general lowering of moral standards throughout society.
  2. A rise in infidelity.
  3. A lessening of respect for women by men.
  4. The coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.

What is more, a contraceptive mentality has so pervaded our culture that healthy fertility is treated like a disease and conceived children are treated like a cancer. Because of procured abortion, in any room of people under 40 years old, there is on average one person missing for every three people you see. This is the fruit of a contraceptive mentality. (“How were we supposed to know?”)

Whether the Catholic Church teaches on indecent images, fornication, cohabitation, same-sex relations, divorce and remarriage without annulment, in-vitro fertilization, abortion, drug use and drunkenness, euthanasia or suicide; for every “no” in her teachings the Church proclaims a greater, more foundational “Yes” to love and life and true happiness. As St. Paul tells us:

“Brothers and sisters, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Will we be childlike enough to listen to our Father in heaven and our Mother on earth? Learn from Christ and take his yoke upon you, for according to his promise you will receive rest. His ways require sacrifice, yet compared to the yoke of sin and death which comes with the ways of the world, Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light.

6 Responses to “Heeding Our Earthly Mother & Heavenly Father — 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A”

  1. Doug Says:

    “All of us are children of the same holy Mother, the Church. And she is united with God, our loving Father.”
    Not so, according to my source: Gal 4:25,26; Heb 12:22; Rev 3:12

    • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

      Thanks for the note.

      This homily was written to those in Mother Church who call on God as ‘Our Father.’ But if the Holy Spirit leads others by these words, then they are included too, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14)

      • Doug Says:

        Perhaps I should have quoted instead of citing:
        Gal 4- “now Sinai is a mountain in Arabia and represents [physical] Jerusalem in its present state, for she is in slavery together with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and that is THE ONE THAT IS OUR MOTHER”
        Heb 12- “But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the HEAVENLY JERUSALEM where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival,”
        Rev 3- [Jesus said] “Anyone who proves victorious I will make into a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, and it will stay there for ever; I will inscribe on it the name of my God and the name of THE CITY OF MY GOD, the new Jerusalem which is coming down from my God in heaven, and my own new name as well.”
        All quotes from the NJB at catholic.org.
        So: Not Rome, not a church, not a physical entity of any kind. That is our mother, and Ro 8:14, which you quote appositely, identifies our Father.

      • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

        Thanks for clarifying. How about this line of thought:

        The Kingdom is where Jesus is. (Luke 17:21)
        Jesus is where his Body is.
        Jesus’ Body is the members of his Church. (1 Cor 12:27)
        Therefore, the Kingdom is present in his Church on earth and in Heaven, and may be called our Mother.

      • drpruner Says:

        “may be called our Mother” Not by me, as seen above. Not by Paul, as seen above.
        It seems you’re using a correct translation of Luke; “… in your midst” not “… is within you”. (Because the to-be-king, Jesus, was in the midst of those Pharisees.)
        Anyway, no mention of “mother” in either verse. And remember, a kingdom can be represented by its leader, by its ambassadors, or by its capital city. Paul referred to the capital, which was not then nor is now earthly Rome, London, Canterbury, Salt Lake City…
        But that was then. Where is the kingdom now, do you think?

      • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

        The question at the heart of this discussion seems to be whether the Kingdom of God has begun on earth. Like our salvation, the Kingdom has come both “already” and “not yet.” We are in Christ, yet still vulnerable to evil; we are in his Kingdom, but not in its fullness on earth as it is in heaven.

        At the Last Supper, Jesus says, “I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25) The next time Jesus drinks wine is on the cross: “When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’” (John 19:30) Thus, Jesus on the cross is in his Kingdom on earth.

        In Matthew 20, when the mother of James and John ask Jesus to “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom,” Jesus replies that they do not know what they are asking for (because the places at his left and right are crosses.) They answer that they can drink the cup of suffering, but Jesus says these places are “for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” Later, at the cross, “Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.” (Matthew 27:38)

        Furthermore, we see that the Kingdom has already begun on earth because the Holy Spirit does mighty works in and through the Church to this day. As Jesus says, “if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)

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