Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Josh 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Eph 5:21-32; Jn 6:60-69
Recently, a friend sent me links to talks on YouTube by a Jewish Rabbi named Jonathan Cahn. In my homily this morning I will be borrowing some of the points he made there.
The word “desecrate” means to use a sacred thing or place in an unworthy or wicked way. An example can be found in the Old Testament in the First Book of Maccabees. When Antiochus Epiphanes and the Greeks conquered Palestine, they went to the holiest place for the Jews – the Temple in Jerusalem – and erected an altar to their god, Zeus, on top of the most sacred Jewish altar of burnt offering. This took place in December of the year 167 BC, according to our way of reckoning the years. For the Jews, this building of an idolatrous altar on their sacred symbol and consecrated space was a sacrilege, a desecration. We read there, “On the fifteenth day of Chislev in the year 145 the king built the appalling abomination on top of the altar of burnt offering (1Mc 1:54).
Three years later, as soon as Judas Maccabaeus had regained control of Jerusalem, one of the first things he did was to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it. They tore down the altar to Zeus and also the old altar of burnt offering, since it had been polluted. They built a new altar in its place and dedicated it with much ceremony. They celebrated the event for 8 days, and made it a law that those 8 days should be celebrated every year in remembrance of their great joy. That is the origin of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah, which occurs around Christmas time.
Marriage is another sacred institution and symbol in our Judeo-Christian tradition. It is a holy covenant. As we heard in our Second Reading this morning, the relationship between a husband and his wife symbolizes the relationship between Christ and his bride, the Church. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.”
But with the recent Supreme Court decision, that sacred symbol has been desecrated. Same-sex unions, something unholy and sinful, have been publicly recognized by our nation as “marriage”. Now, we all have our own sins that we struggle against, our own evil tendencies. I’m not trying to say that I’m clean and they’re unclean. And I certainly want to separate the sin from the sinner – we are instructed to hate the sin but love the sinner. But don’t take a sinful act and glorify it. Don’t take something unnatural and confuse it with the ancient and sacred rite of marriage. These people have the right to live that way if they choose, but call it same-sex unions, not marriage. The Church does not in any way condemn people with homosexual tendencies. But they are called to be chaste, just as heterosexual people are. It’s the sinful acts that are condemned, not the people committing them. They are to be treated with compassion and understanding.
Another sacred symbol in the Judeo-Christian tradition is the rainbow. It symbolizes the covenant that God made with Noah after the great flood (Gn 9:13). But now it has been taken over to represent the gay movement. Something holy has been taken over to symbolize a sinful lifestyle. One more desecration. If they need a symbol, find a new one – don’t use one of ours. And the video on YouTube showed a picture of the White House lit up at night with rainbow colors to celebrate the Supreme Court decision. The highest house in the land celebrated a double desecration. And Rabbi Jonathan Cahn commented that if the decision would have gone the other way, he doubts the White House would have had any special lights.
The gay and lesbian community speaks of tolerance. If someone holds a different belief system than you, you need to be tolerant. Live and let live. But there are certain members of that community who only want that tolerance to go in one direction – in their favor. In some states, New Jersey for example, parents are not allowed to send their underage children to counseling if they are showing homosexual tendencies. The parents are not allowed to hold the belief that this is an unhealthy sickness that needs to be fixed.
In Gresham, Oregon a Christian couple refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Aaron and Melissa Klein owned Sweet Cakes Bakery and had baked plenty of cakes and stuff for the lesbian couple before. But the wedding cake symbolized something that went against their conscience. It was their own private business and they felt they had the right to refuse service to whomever they wished. But they were sued and lost, even though the incident happened well before the voter-approved ban on gay marriage was struck down by a federal judge. A judge has ordered them to pay a whopping $135,000 in emotional damages to the lesbian couple. The decision was upheld by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. The Christian couple are appealing it, but in the meantime they have been legally restrained from talking about it publicly. The Kleins have since shut down their bakery, and the fine is threatening to send them and their five children into bankruptcy. That’s bullying! That’s persecution! That’s not tolerance! It feels like the gays are pushing their agenda on us and shoving it down our throats.
A differentiation has to be made, though. Most gay people I know are peaceable and keep a low profile. It’s the militant gays who are disrupting things. They have an in-your-face attitude and are belligerent. They seem to have a lot of anger issues, and definitely have an axe to grind. We have to be careful to not let our indignation with them spill over to the low-key ones.
In conclusion, I’d like to return to the topic of marriage, since that was the theme of our Second Reading. It is such an integral component of society and civilization in general. But it is breaking down today and under attack from Satan. Many couples just live together and don’t bother to get married. Of those who do, over half of them fail. It’s such a prevalent problem that Pope Francis is trying to figure out a way that divorced and remarried Catholics can still receive Communion. It’s a complicated problem and will need much prayer and grace. We, on our part, cannot go wrong by being loving and holding it all before God in prayer.