Some found him and some did not

January 5-6

Readings: Is. 60.1-6; Ps. 72; Eph. 3.2-6; Mt. 2.1-12

In today’s gospel three groups of people were searching for the infant Jesus. Some found him and some did not. May I suggest that their different starting points affected their different outcomes. First, the Magi were curious astronomers who had observed a bright cluster of stars. They traveled from Babylon to Bethlehem, and found the stars and Jesus. They physically found Jesus, and probably held the baby in their arms. In order to find Jesus spiritually, they had to ponder the mystery of Jesus’ life in itself, and in relationship to all divine and human life. Second, Herod was searching for Jesus. Fear and jealousy of royal competition drove him, and no doubt, obsessed him. He ordered his soldiers to slay in the region of Bethlehem all boys two years of age and younger. Herod never found Jesus, neither physically nor spiritually. Third, the chief priests and scribes knew where to find Jesus; they were keepers of the religious tradition. Their profession called for them to try to understand Jesus’ role in the religious tradition. I suspect that some sought and found Jesus both physically and spiritually, and I suspect that others had no special interest in this man Jesus, or could not be bothered. Our starting point affects our outcomes.

Our starting point affects our outcomes. I’d like to make an application of this principle to a topic that is fundamental to our Christian beliefs, yet controversial in context of our post-Christian society. Beginning this month, the Maryland General Assembly will consider redefining traditional marriage to include same-sex marriage. This issue is fundamental to our Christian civilization. The Maryland Catholic Conference, which consists of the archbishops and bishop of Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Wilmington have provided materials which they asked each parish to include in today’s church bulletin.

It is impossible for me in the next five minutes to say everything that needs to be said on this topic. The issue was discussed for months last year in the Maryland General Assembly, and it will be discussed for months again this year in the same venue. If you think I have covered insufficiently a certain aspect of this topic, you are probably right, and I probably agree with you. If anyone wishes to hold a conversation with me after Mass, whether you agree or disagree with me, I am happy to do so. You know that I often say: "truth evolves in dialogue." Another caution, the Vincentian adage states, "if it can be misunderstood, it will be misunderstood;" so, please make sure that I said what you think I said before you react.

What is your starting point on this topic? Faith? Reason? History? Economics? Just good old Christian love of every person? Egalitarianism? Individualism? If you can identify your starting points, you will save yourself and others a lot of time and heat in any discussion. So, again, what is your starting point? My starting points are strong faith, acceptance of Church teachings, and world history. I really fear individualism, because it runs contrary to community, common good, culture, and civilization. How can you argue with someone who concludes, "Well, that’s just how I feel. You have your opinion, and I have mine. There is no right or wrong. There is no absolute truth." That kind of nebulous and imprecise thinking would lead any household and any classroom into chaos. Yet, that is how our society seems to be thinking currently, or more accurately, not thinking. We’re thinking with our hearts instead of our heads, with short-term vision instead of long-term vision. Imprecise thinking, anti-authority thinking, relativism of truth, and the poison of individualism are leading Western Civilization into chaos and possible collapse. We need to stand up for the union of faith and reason, which union is the two thousand year hallmark of the Catholic Church.

Regarding marriage, homosexual persons, and same-sex unions: 1. Marriage by nature and history consists of one man and one woman. Yes, I know evidence is brought forth from remote islands to indicate the past or present practice of same-sex unions. These are isolated aberrations, not the experience of major societies. As far as I know, only Greek civilization promoted same-sex love. A critical difference exists between practices which are tolerated and those which are promoted. E.g., polygamy and prostitution have been practiced for thousands of years, but I know of very few societies which have actively promoted these practices. 2. Regarding homosexual persons. I trust that most of us know of family members or friends or someone who identifies him/herself as gay or lesbian. These are our children, our brothers and sisters; these are God’s children. They are to be respected and protected. We love them in their being even though we might not like their behavior. I have a cousin who is gay, who died recently. He had a heart of gold, and would do anything for anybody. He could not imagine ever hurting anybody. He was a wonderful person. 3. Regarding same-sex unions. Marriage is restricted civilly and ecclesiastically. Just because two people want to marry, does not mean that the state or Church must perform the wedding ceremony. The state imposes restrictions due to age, mental capacity, blood relationship, even residency. The state wants to protect marriage because marriage is the desired context for the procreation and raising of children, and complementarity of the sexes. Marriage and family are the most basic institutions in society. To "redefine" marriage, as social libertarians choose to do, strikes at the core of Christianity-based Western Civilization.

Really, will the world fall apart just because the state might allow same-sex couples to marry? Yes. Not because of the particular people involved in so-called same-sex marriage, but because the state would have demonstrated its "loss of nerve" to stand up for principle, for truth, for moral good, for the common good. And yes, Western Civilization will collapse. Overnight? No. Inevitably? yes. Positively, to end this decline, we in Western Civilization need to shake free the chains of our self-indulgence, the fog of cloudy thinking, the emphasis on selfish individualism. We need to return to the integration of truth and faith, to the study of world history, to living the life of Jesus’ Cross and its essential self-sacrifice. We need to emphasize doing moral right and avoiding moral wrong. In your thinking and judging, what is your starting point? … Your starting point affects your outcome. It is our turn to stand up and speak up for Jesus, the Church which he founded, and Christian civilization. Please read the Maryland Catholic Conference insert in this week’s bulletin.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley