Homily no. 37 – ‘Sixth Commandment’ (CCC 2331–2400)

Catholic couple at their Holy Matrimony or mar...

Catholic couple at their Holy Matrimony or marriage. In the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, during the celebration the priest imposes his liturgical stole upon the couple’s hands, as a sign to confirm the marriage bond. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[In the absence of a homily delivered on this date, owing to my absence from the parish on pilgrimage, I re-present, for the purpose of covering the 6th Commandment — “Do not commit adultery” — the salient points from one of my Marriage-Preparation handouts, which covers three aspects of the marriage bond, three planks of Christian marriage; namely, the essential elements of indissolubility, faithfulness, and openness to children.]

 

 

“Marriage: three tricky questions”

 

1)    Love comes to an end?No to divorce, Yes to lifelong commitment.

  • Few of Jesus’s teachings are as clear as His teaching regarding divorce!  He reiterates that What God has united, man must not divide … The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery.
  • But divorce afflicts our western society and the fact that it has been made legal has made it seem right, but this is just not true.
  • Civil divorce is so common that it can even begin to disease the idea of Christian marriage.  The availability of divorce can begin to undermine the committed love of a couple if in the back of their minds there is the lingering idea that “we can always get out of it if necessary.”
  • Instead, the very firm belief that what is vowed on the wedding day is absolutely and totally till death do us part, is the basis for helping get through the difficult times, the arguments and tensions.  It’s the solid ground on which your marriage stands: a firm foundation for working at your marriage.  The Church supports married couples — even those in difficulty — and assists those who may feel they need to examine and re-kindle their lives of married love.
  • Sometimes in the last resort a couple may feel as if they cannot live together any more, and maybe they need recourse to civil divorce for financial matters, but this does not give them the freedom to re-marry.  They remain married in the sight of God and the Church, and should live out their vows in faith.  If they feel that there exist some grounds for supposing that the consent given at the time of the wedding was not proper or complete, they may ask for the Church to examine the circumstances of the marriage, and consider granting a ‘decree of nullity.’

 

2)     Love is uncommitted or unfaithful?No to sex outside marriage and adultery, Yes to faithfulness, and keeping sex special to spouses.

  • Love is nurtured in all sorts of ways, and we can’t do without love.  Love is much greater than sex, and sex doesn’t create love.  Yet a special way of showing love is sexual intercourse.
  • Some think the Church disapproves of sex!  But no!  The Church values sex so much, thinks of it as so precious and powerful a gift, that it should be given its proper and sacred place, exclusively within marriage.  It is a beautiful thing, given us by God.
  • Sex is so powerful an expression that it deserves care and commitment.  Naturally the intimacy of sex demands faithfulness — even non-believers generally think that ‘sleeping around’ is wrong.  The logical extension of this is the Church’s precious teaching: the Church sees sex as an expression of bodily commitment, which can only be honestly made inside the already-committed love of marriage.
  • But films, TV and magazines continually bombard us with the idea that you should try and get as much sex as you can, when and where you like!  This is gravely wrong and leads to much emotional and spiritual damage.
  • Casual sex, or any sex outside the commitment of married love, is not God’s intention for the way to live.  Whether it’s sex before marriage, or once you’re married adulterous sex with someone else, either is contrary to the real purpose of sex.
  • Adultery.  We all know that that is wrong.  So don’t tempt fate!  Other attractive people may well come into your life, but that doesn’t alter your exclusive commitment to your spouse.
  • Fornication.  If you are already having sex now with your fiancé(e) then you should think very seriously about this.  It isn’t right.  It’s worth stopping even now, right up to the day when you marry.  Make something special of your married intimacy!  As you’ll say on the wedding day: to have and to hold from this day forward.

 

3)    Love is closed to children?No to contraception and abortion, Yes to responsible parenthood. 

  • Love is fruitful.  It spreads out and includes others.  Sex also is fruitful, in that the fruit of loving sex can sometimes be children born of that love.
  • Sex is not just about pleasure and about binding the husband and wife together.  It’s also, quite naturally, about children.  It’s about both, inseparably.
  • Therefore you can’t deliberately and permanently exclude children from your marriage, as this would be an invalid marriage.
  • Nor can you deliberately and artificially exclude conception from your sex.  Marriage is about totally giving yourself to your husband/wife.  And this includes your fertility.  Contraceptive sex holds back an important part of yourself.
  • This is why the Church forbids the use of artificial means of birth control, or unnatural sexual practices.  They go right against married love.
  • The Church doesn’t expect you to have as many children as biologically possible!  But just to remain always open with God to the transmission of life.
  • The safeguarding of unborn life is at the heart of this too.  An attitude of deliberate and ongoing contraception can be dangerously anti-child; hence the widespread evil that ‘accidental’ pregnancy can then be ended in abortion of the child.  Are you ready to accept children lovingly from God?, the marriage rite says.
  • The natural female cycle of fertile and infertile phases may be used by a couple to space or delay pregnancy, if necessary, as responsible parents.  This requires the couple to communicate well, to understand each other’s body, and to abstain from sex when necessary.  All this promotes total and wholesome loving.

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Closing Prayer — adapted from the wedding ceremony:

Father, by Your power You have made everything out of nothing.  In the beginning You created the universe and made mankind in Your own likeness.  You gave man the constant help of woman so that man and woman should no longer be two, but one flesh, and You teach us that what You have united may never be divided.

Father, keep us always true to Your commandments.  Keep us faithful in marriage and let us be living examples of Christian life.  Give us the strength which comes from the Gospel so that we may be witnesses of Christ to others.  Bless us with children and help us to be good parents.  May we live to see our children’s children and after a happy old age grant us the fullness of life with the saints in the kingdom of heaven.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen

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About Fr Philip Miller

I'm the Catholic Parish Priest at St Augustine's, Hoddesdon, Herts, UK, in the diocese of Westminster. This cycle of homilies is one of my contributions to this parish's life in the 'Year of Faith' (Oct 2012 - Nov 2013) called for by Pope Benedict XVI to renew the Church's understanding of the faith.
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