Posted January 13, 2016 in Word Made Flesh:
Should the Church Change?

by Fr. Denis Lemieux.

So, should we give Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics? What about same-sex married couples? Is marriage really indissoluble?

Maybe we should just give annulments more easily, or why bother with that formality at all? Doesn’t the Church need to get with the times. I mean, yeah, Jesus is pretty clear in the Gospels about all this stuff, but it’s just too hard, obviously, and we should be merciful to people who can’t do it, right? Let’s change everything!

OK! So, do I have everyone’s attention now? I am writing this in October while the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family is actually going on in Rome.

The Catholic media has been all aswirl through the whole event, which of course happened behind closed doors and so has been short on facts, long on surmise and guessing.

Speculation, breathless controversy, panicked reports of imminent apostasy and the like have dominated sectors of the Catholic online media world.

Meanwhile, genuine concerns about how to minister to families in crisis, how to minister to couples who divorce and then enter into subsequent civil unions, how to help people in all sorts of difficult situations, but at the same time never neglecting the ordinary Catholics who just show up week after week and do their best to follow what the Church asks of them—all of these have been the hot topics of the day.

It is always a bit odd to write a Restoration article knowing very well that its readers are going to know quite a bit more about the outcome of a situation than I do. And I realize that, depending on how it all turned out, the Synod may even be a somewhat dim memory to people by the time this article gets read.

At any rate, at the time of this writing, I have seen no great grounds for panic or even moderate concern about the Synod and its deliberations.

I suppose time will tell, but it seems to me that Catholic doctrine and Catholic truth are well represented there. I don’t think anyone can deny that there is indeed much that needs talking about, praying about, and discerning in truth and in mercy around the whole subject of sex, marriage, and family life.

Meanwhile, we have these beautiful readings for this 2ndSunday of Ordinary Time that go right to the heart of the matter.

I think part of our confusion and anguish around all these matters of love and marriage stem at least in part because we don’t spend too much time contemplating that heart. Instead we get very much wrapped up in things that are also important, but not central.

What is this central thing? The first reading from the Mass tells it to us:

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be called forsaken, and your land desolate; but you shall be called my delight and your land shall be married.

For as a young man marries a maiden, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you (Is 62: 3-5).

In other words, before we can talk about marriage rightly, before we can really get what it’s all about, what it’s for, we have to know that in the first place, the principle reality is that God is married to us. Your builder shall marry you.

That which we all know marriage to be—a faithful, permanent, fruitful union—is the best description of God’s relationship to the human person individually and to all humanity collectively.

It seems to me that this awareness—and by awareness I mean not just a sort of abstract "well, isn’t that nice to think that" but a real lived-out conviction—is what we lack so often, and why it’s so often so impossible for so many of us to really think about, accept, commit to, and live out the sacrament of marriage.

For a man and a woman to actually enter and joyfully live out this call to a life-long, exclusive relationship, faithful and fruitful, is unthinkable unless God is living out just that relationship with each one of them.

We have to know that God has bound himself to us, and that his life in us is that strong, that real, that true, or we cannot truly commit ourselves to binding ourselves to one another in any kind of vocation.

If we think, on the other hand, that we are somehow on our own in this, that we have this very hard thing to do and only really incredible near-perfect people are going to be able to do it, and so on and so forth… well, then of course our conversation about it is going to go in a certain direction.

We can’t… we shouldn’t… we mustn’t… we have to change our teachings… the Church is wrong….

The Gospel is that of the wedding feast at Cana. We see here Jesus at a wedding, in attendance at this human reality of man and woman coming together to found this unbreakable bond. The wedding feast is joyous, happy, celebratory… and deeply flawed.

Flawed, because the wine runs out. Flawed, because sooner or later it’s not quite so joyous, not quite so happy. Marriage is a great good, a magnificent created thing… but sooner or later in any marriage as in any life, the wine (symbol of joy, life, beauty) runs out.

And it’s there that Jesus comes in, isn’t it? In the Gospel it certainly is. Hopefully it is so in our lives, too. The water is the symbol here of many things, among them the basic stuff of life, of reality, the most common element in creation without which nothing is alive.

Water at the wedding feast signifies perhaps that, even though there’s trouble and shortages, there is still something there, still a living reality.

But Jesus takes that water and makes it into wine. He takes the human reality of marriage and transforms it by his presence. He takes what is, and makes it what it can become. This is the sacrament of marriage, and it is a great sign not only of what marriage is, but of what all human life is meant to be in Christ—loving, fruitful, faithful, joyous.

Our Lady holds the key to the secret, of course, as she does with so many things. "Do whatever he tells you," she says to the servants.

The key to allowing Jesus to make our lives and our marriages what they can be, what he wants them to become, is to walk the path of discipleship daily.

All of this doesn’t necessarily provide nice, clear, clean, answers to some of the very real and very painful situations people find themselves in.

But I think we have to start there—Christ’s presence and his power to make all things new and to make a way where there is no seeming way forward—and from that, from our discipleship to him and our listening to Our Mother’s wise words, to do whatever he tells us.

This is the only way we will know the way forward in these hard questions of our day.

Readings for January 17th, the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Is 62: 1-5,1 Cor 12:4-11, John 2: 1-12


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