Jesus Doesn't Bless the Children to Give Us a Cute Theme for Our Holy Cards.
Lessons from cycle II of the feria, according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite:
Ezekiel 18: 1-10, 13, 30-32.
Psalm 51: 12-15, 18-19.
Matthew 19: 13-15.
The Nineteenth Saturday of Ordinary Time.
A Votive for the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday.
The Memorial of King Saint Stephen of Hungary.
Return to ByzantineCatholicPriest.com.
2:36 PM 8/16/2014 — Yesterday, as you know, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption, thus missing that day's installment of the Gospel of Saint Matthew which, yesterday, would have been from the beginning of chapter nineteen, in which our Lord is questioned by the Pharisees about marriage and divorce. That lesson ends with verse twelve, with today's very brief lesson beginning with the very next verse, verse thirteen. In contrast to what would have been yesterday's rather long lesson, today's is only three verses: children are brought to Jesus, he lays his hands on them and blesses them, the disciples try to prevent it, and our Lord rebukes them. It's a very common image for Holy Cards: our Lord sitting on a rock or something, with little children crawling all over him; kind of a cuteness overload.
But these Gospel lessons haven't been put together by the Church over the centuries for the purpose of giving us cute themes for Holy Cards. These three extraneous verses about our Lord blessing children may seem odd in the sense that, in every other instance, when our Lord lays his hands on someone and blesses him or her, it's because that person is sick or crippled and our Lord is effecting a cure. There's nothing here to indicate that these children are suffering from any kind of malady, which may explain why our Lord's disciples try to shoo them away. But I tend to think that the Evangelist included these three verses here because of the Gospel lesson that immediately precedes them, in which our Lord declares that marriage is forever: the first purpose of marriage is children; without them, the whole institution of marriage makes very little sense from the Christian perspective.
Separate the act of procreation from the concept of marriage, and you reduce marriage to nothing more than a public expression of romantic love; but, romantic love is just an emotion, and no emotion lasts very long. So, if marriage is just an expression of romantic love, then why presume that a marriage continues to exist after the emotions have died? Take the question a step further: if marriage is just an expression of romantic love, then why restrict it to a man and a woman? Why not make it available to any two people who love each other? Why even restrict it to two people, for that matter? Why not three or four or five?
Now, this is the National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, so it's safe to assume that no one's just going to pop in here for Mass who isn't, in some degree, passionate about his or her Catholic Faith; so, I think it's safe to assume that we're all equally distressed—as well we should be—over the attacks on marriage that we've had to endure in recent years. What may escape our notice, however, is the fact that all this is the direct result of the divorce—no pun intended—of marriage from it's primary purpose, which is the propagation and raising of children. And if you will forgive me for doing what should probably never be done in a homily, I will give you a personal opinion: that the high rate of divorce, as well as the high level of acceptance of the notion of homosexual marriage, even among Catholics, is the direct result of the failure of the Church, through her priests, to teach clearly and consistently the mortal sin of contraception. In our marriage preparation instructions, often the subject is not even addressed; and, when it is, it is confused and watered-down with inaccurate platitudes about conscience. Indeed, how many people are there who have been told, both inside and outside the confessional, that if they only pray about the matter, and decide it's not a sin for them, then they can contracept all they want and still receive Holy Communion? That has never, ever been the teaching of the Catholic Church, in spite of the fact that priests have been telling people this for decades now.*
But, this is a homily at Holy Mass and not a lecture about Catholic dogma. Let it be sufficient, then, to confine ourselves to the message of the Gospel lessons: that there is an inexorable link between marriage and children, that one is defined by the other, that neither makes sense without the other, that separating one from the other is what has led to the countless perversions from which our society now suffers, and that none of these ills can be healed until the two are reunited in the hearts and minds of all who seek the graces of marriage or children.
That being said, the simple fact is that, through a monumental sin of omission on the part of the Church herself, whole generations of Catholics are ignorant of the truth about marriage and children. It's not their fault, so we must pray for them, as well as for ourselves, so that the word of God in today's first lesson, spoken through the mouth of the Holy Prophet Ezekiel, may take root in us:
Turn and be converted from all your crimes, that they may be no cause of guilt for you. Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit (Ez. 18: 30-31 NAB).
* Cf. "What the Catholic Church Really Teaches about Birth Control and Conscience," among the selection of non-homiletic articles, for a more complete explanation of Catholic teaching on the so-called primacy of conscience. The title here is a clickable link.