The following is a practice homily given for class.
Infertility is a cross that many good people bear. I was once privileged to hear a presentation by a couple who struggled with infertility. They shared their frustrations and the trials that face couples who suffer from this difficult burden. Their presentation was in the context of a program in which we explored the incredible work that Catholic doctors are doing in developing reproductive technologies which are in harmony with the teachings of the Catholic Church. In their presentation, it was powerful to see how putting into action the teachings of the Church helped them to grow in knowledge of each other and of their fertility. Not only were they able to conceive, but they also deepened their faith. Particularly, the woman grew to appreciate how her fertility was a real gift from God, a gift to be nurtured and protected.
Often, when people hear the teachings of the Catholic Church, they only hear a list of no’s. The Church says no to contraception, the Church says no to in-vitro fertilization. People think that the Church is a bunch of unmarried men who want to tell women what to do with their bodies. In all of these perceptions, people don’t hear the Good News of the Gospel, and the Church’s teaching on sexuality is that, Good News.
Does the Church teach that contraception is a mortal sin and thus immoral? Absolutely, but we have to understand this teaching within a greater context. Our teaching cannot be reduced to a series of rules and regulations, but is grounded in true human flourishing. The Church wants us to be happy, and the true path to happiness is found in living in harmony with our created nature. God made us a certain way, and the more we work in harmony with the purpose for which we are created, the more our lives are marked by the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Catholic doctors and institutions are discovering the negative effects that artificial contraception can have on the body. In response to these findings and the teachings of the Church, they have developed ways of preventing pregnancy that work with our biology instead of trying to destroy the gift of fertility. The Church does not tell us how many children we must have, but she does teach us that the love shared between husband and wife has two interconnected meanings. The love shared by couples is meant to unite the two and to be open to children. This teaching is the key to a deeper kind of happiness, a happiness grounded in eternity and the Spirit. Through the Spirit, our lives become filled with the joy, peace, kindness, and gentleness which are characteristic of living in harmony with God and nature.
On this Sunday of the Family, I want you to imagine that your family is marked by docility to God’s will. Imagine that instead of listening to the voices of this world which speak about power, control, and domination; that instead you listen to God’s invitation to faith, hope, and love. Imagine that you respond with a deeper yes to God’s plan for this world and that your life takes on the unconditional love that is the characteristic of the saints. Through the love shared by you and your spouse, you can become a saint and learn to live a life moved and guided by the Spirit.
On this Sunday, we are beginning a new process in this parish to teach this good news to everyone who is willing. The first stage of this process is that we are asking you to respond to a survey that we have designed to best serve your needs. We are not here to judge and condemn, but rather to help you draw nearer to our Lord. We ask for honesty, and I want to thank you in advance for your participation. In addition, we have information in the bulletin and on the website about natural family planning and the good work done by Catholic doctors and institutions. It is my hope that this will be the first step towards proclaiming the good news about the gift of our sexuality.
Let us not forget, our Lord came not to place heavy burdens on our shoulders, but to proclaim liberty and freedom to us who have been bound by sin and its effects. The liberation from sin and the freedom that comes from the Spirit is the heart of the Church’s teaching about sexuality. I want to invite you today to participate in that freedom.