Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fighting for the Family

Each year around this time we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, a feast where we pay particular attention to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a family. And the context for this feast is always within the Octave of Christmas. In our liturgy, an Octave is where we suspend time and just live in the same celebration for eight days and examine it from different angles. So this Octave of Christmas, this eight day celebration of Christmas, has various feasts throughout it that help us to examine and appreciate the various ways that Christmas is made. Today we try to make sense of the fact that the second person of the Trinity, through whom all things were made, was born into a family, and what the implications of this great mystery might be.

Our God always does what's best. Jesus wasn't born into poor circumstances and adored only by shepherds and foreigners simply because there was no other choice, but rather because it was best and most fitting that it should happen this way. And also with the fact that he was born as a helpless baby into a family, rather than arriving on a cloud in Jerusalem fully grown and surrounded by trumpeting angels. It's not that the clouds and angels and trumpets couldn't have happened, but it was most fitting that it should happen the way it did. This is consonant with what we find in scripture from the very beginning. The first thing that God doesn't call good in the story of creation is man's loneliness. Everything that God made he called good: the land, the sea, the birds, the fish, the land animals. It was all good, until he looked on Adam's aloneness, and then he said, "It is not good for man to be alone," and so he made Eve. He made someone to complement Adam, because Adam wasn't whole on his own. He made a family. This complementarity of male and female out of which family springs is integral to God's plan for creation.

And so, if complementarity and family is integral to God's plan for creation, it would make sense that if the devil and his minions wanted to sabotage God's plans, they would go after the these things. Pope Benedict, one of the clearest thinkers of our age, spoke on this back in 2012. I want to quote to you from what he said, then I want to pick the quote apart because Pope Benedict is a deep thinker:
"Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him...from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man."
That was a lot, so let's understand the basic things he's saying. First his assumption or starting point: he assumes that man and woman are have a Creator, and that that Creator made them to complement each other, that is, man and woman complete each other and that they're designed to go together. Then, he says this is disputed today, our world claims that there's no real difference between man and woman, that they don't complement or complete each other. And because the world rejects the idea that man and woman are designed by God to complete each other, Pope Benedict lays out three consequences: First, he says that the family is no longer seen as something springing naturally from creation, but rather it's simply a social construct that we can change however we want. Second, he says that if man and woman aren't designed by God to be complementary, than the child has no inherent dignity or rights, but now he or she has become an object that other people have a right to obtain or dispose of as they so desire. And third, if complementarity isn't something that we were created with but rather something we choose if it suits us, then God himself is denied, and along with God the inherent dignity of man as his creature is denied.

All of this stems from a denial that God made us and has a plan for us. And the results aren't hard to find. Marriage continues to take on new and bizarre forms. Aside from the homosexual marriage phenomenon that has been sweeping our country, start learning the words throuple or monagamish. Throuple refers to three people being married, and monagamish refers to couples that are faithful to each other but open to others. It's all coming. And of course abortion continues to be a scourge on our society, and now euthanasia is starting to make strides as well. Children are being created in petri dishes in order to be experimented upon. Now, all of this has been present in one form or another since the fall of man, but it's always happened in secret and in shame. Never before has such disrespect and abuse of the human person been declared good and wholesome.

Yes, the devil is very good at what he does. He knows that to wreak the most damage possible on God's creation, he had to go after the family. Step one in fighting back is to acknowledge that I have a creator. Say, "Eternal Father, you are my creator and I adore you." I've heard of this line being used at exorcisms, the priest challenges the person to say the line, "Eternal Father, you are my creator and I adore you," because as long as the person is possessed, they cannot say it. The devil cannot, will not acknowledge God as creator and worship him, and he wants to drag you down to the same level. So step one in combating the devil's plans is to acknowledge God as Lord and Creator.

And then, once you've acknowledged God the Father as your creator, you want to ask yourself what the repercussions of this might be. Number one is this: If God made you, that means you didn't make yourself. This is basic, but our world is intent on forgetting it. I didn't make myself, therefore, I don't get to call all the shots about me. The one who made me does. I have an obligation to learn about this one who made me and made the world, and to come to understand his purpose for it all. Luckily, he didn't leave us empty-handed in this crucial task, he gave us a Church with real teaching authority to make him known to us. So then, once you have God's purpose fixed in your mind and heart, then anytime the worlds come at with you with some new idea concerning these fundamental truths, you can ask yourself, "Is this stemming from the way God created and ordered the world, or is this stemming from a denial of God as creator?" If it stems from a denial of God and doesn't resonate with the teaching of God's Church, then you know to reject it outright.

Our God loves you and he wants to draw you to himself. This feast of the Holy Family, celebrated within the Christmas Octave, is how he wants to manifest one particular aspect of his love. Accept his love by living in the truth he offers rather than the lies that the world proposes. Accept his love, conform your life to it, and let that love lead you to eternal life.

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