“Love and Marriage” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, January 16, 2022

I said earlier that God regards the marriage relationship as so special that, of all other relationships on earth, he chooses it to symbolize the love He has for us, His people. Christian married love is meant to be unconditional, undying and totally committed to the other, and that is exactly how God loves us. The breakdown of the marriage relationship is therefore a tragedy for society and for the Church. Figures show that divorce between Christians is just as common as with the rest of society, though I understand that it is less for Christians who are regular practitioners of their faith commitment. But any marriage breakdown is a wound in the heart of Church and society and also in the heart of God, because it mars the significance of marriage as symbolic of God’s love for us. For this reason, the Church has, while recognizing the sad reality of divorce, worked to reduce its possibility by requiring engaged couples to go through a marriage preparation course, to help prepare them for the realities of a married life together, by providing counselling for marriages that are in trouble, and by providing courses like Marriage Encounter, to help renew marriage relationships ..

Because God highly honours marriage, he has bestowed on it the blessing of sexual love, which he also honours highly. Because of its power to bring healing, strengthening and sustaining of the marriage relationship, and also to bring forth children, God has reserved sexual love to the stability and exclusivity of the marriage bond as the safest place for it to be exercised. We are  sadly familiar these days, with the reality that many, if not most Catholics ,at least in the West, choose to move in and live with their partners, ahead of the wedding ceremony. But this has never been the way God intended it, or wanted it ,though he chooses to work with it, as does the Church, recognizing that we humans are weak, sinful creatures, and yet God loves us nonetheless. The Church tries to always balance the need to speak the biblical truth about marriage with the need to show mercy and compassion with those who fail to live out this biblical truth. To “speak the truth in love”, in the words of St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4: 15) is the ideal to which we must always strive, even though we all, myself included, tend to fall short of this ideal. 

Part of the biblical and Christian truth about marriage and sexuality is that it is reserved for a man and a woman. As the book of Genesis (2:24) puts it, “therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh”. Certain trends within society today put that biblical and Christian truth in peril, and also puts in peril those who affirm that truth. The federal bill C-4, which amends the Criminal Code, makes it a criminal offence to counsel others from a context of biblical and Christian teaching on sexuality and gender It was recently introduced into law having been rushed unanimously through Parliament without any debate of public input. According to Bill C-4, which came into force on January 8th, the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and gender is defined as a “myth” under Canadian Law. The promotion and sharing of this biblical teaching will be a jailable offence that officially “causes harm to society”. 

 In response to this very disturbing piece of legislation and the anti-Christian and anti-biblical mindset which supports it, Christian leaders from all across Canada are encouraging all faithful pastors and priests to take a stand and speak out from their pulpits today, January 16th, designated as “Biblical Sexuality Sermon Sunday” in Canada.  Campaign Life Coalition, a Catholic pro-life organization, are actively supporting this stand as well.

Here is the statement which we are encouraged to read out this weekend:

“This past week marked a monumental change in Canadian law and society with the enactment of federal Bill C-4, which amends the Criminal Code.

The law’s stated purpose is to outlaw “conversion therapy”. We strongly oppose the coercive and unscientific therapeutic practices the Bill was introduced to address. We appreciate and affirm the desire of parliamentarians to protect the vulnerable. However, we are deeply concerned that the effective reach of the legislation could be extended far beyond its stated purpose. Because its definition of “conversion therapy” is vague, many are concerned that it could capture parents, pastors and counsellors who teach a biblical understanding of sexuality in a variety of situations. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees our freedoms of religion, conscience, thought, belief, expression and association. It is our prayer that the law will be applied – and clarified as needed – in such a way as to honour these Charter protections.

We recognize that the greatest danger facing the Canadian church is not that we might face criminal prosecution, but rather that we might compromise in our teaching of the Word of God or fall silent in our proclamation of the gospel. Along with church leaders of like conviction across Canada, we stand before you today to pledge that we are committed to obeying God above all others (Acts 5:29). With the Lord’s help, we will continue to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) without fear or favour. This includes God’s life-giving design for human beings, made in His image, male and female (Genesis 1:27), with sexual intimacy reserved for the covenantal union of a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24). We will continue to issue the call to repent of all kinds of sin and to believe the gospel, knowing that we all have sinned (Romans 3:23), and that salvation through Jesus is the one true hope for the world (Acts 4:12). We will continue to love and serve all people in our community, without distinction, in Jesus’ name. As we press on in the work of ministry, we will trust our heavenly Father to guard us and keep us, and to work out his greater purposes for our good and His glory.

We continue to pray for our government , and to plead with the Lord to have mercy on our needy land.”

Campaign Life Coalition

I have no doubt that my reading this statement out will displease many, and subject me to severe crrticism, as has happened before whenever I have been led to speak on such subjects. Probably some may take the decision to leave this parish as a result.  That thought upsets me , I have no wish to deliberately court controversy, but I am also upset that declaring biblical and Christian truth should be regarded as controversial, even among Christians. But this piece of legislation is a “line in the sand” for me, one of many such” lines in the sand” I suspect that will be coming up more and more as this nation turns away from the Judeao-Christian teaching on which it was founded. 

Lines in the sand that will challenge each one of us to stop going along with current trends and make a stand for Catholic Christian biblical truth. As for me, I can only make my own the words of Martin Luther from over 500 years ago: ”Here I stand, I can do no more”.