Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

Church Quotes

  Contact Us


  Parish Office
  (810) 724-1135
  Fri 9am-2:30pm

  email Parish Office


  Parish Fax
  (810) 724-0870


  DRE Office
  (810) 724-1145


  email Fr. Paul Ward












Fr. Paul Ward

Sat. & Sun., Oct. 3 & 4, 2015
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B


Unity in Marriage Arises from
What Marriage Is



   Let us talk about the union of marriage today. But first, some points of parish life. First of all, next Sunday, Bishop Minde will offer all the Masses, paying us a special visit from Tanzania; may we give him that same, if not greater, reception in the charity of faith and support in the Church as we provided him in his last visit a year ago. Furthermore, that Sunday afternoon, we will have our High Tea, an event I personally look forward to every time it is held. Please call ahead of time confirming your participation, as the numbers in attendance will determine much of the preparation that goes into it. Remember also that today, October 4, is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, who gave us such a heroic example of evangelical poverty as to inspire us all to be detached from all worldly creatures. There’s also the Pro Life dinner at the Knights of Columbus hall on Thursday, October 8, so I warmly encourage everyone to attend. I also would like to remind everyone about the cruise Fr. Paul Nicholson is organizing for January; it looks like an event as enjoyable as formational in the faith, and could provide an excellent vacation for a few days of cold January. Finally, let us remember that today the Bible Study continues with Jeff Cavins, exploring the Gospel of Matthew, promising an excellent opportunity to know Jesus and the Scriptures better. May all these events bear their fruit and fill our lives with God’s grace.

   Today’s important readings stress the unity of marriage. The Lord condemns divorce and remarriage in very clear terms. (Let us remember that the situation of annulment is different.) In a previous year, when this Gospel passage came up, I spoke about this specific problem. This Sunday, I wish to look at it from a different perspective, namely, a meditation on the unity of marriage.

   Let us begin as follows. We live in a world today that has forgotten how to think philosophically, metaphysically. We think we’re so smart and advanced, even more than all the generations of men that have preceded us, because we think like the scientist in the laboratory. For example, we think that “all observable matter is, at its most fundamental level, an arrangement of atoms and their constituent particles.”
[1] This subtle thought penetrates everything we think about. Man is a machine; his conduct is determined by atoms, molecules, DNA and hormones. What is man? He is H2O, carbon, and electrical impulses. What are plants and animals? Just combinations of atoms in motion; indeed, some will say, there’s no such thing as life, life is only an illusion of such combinations of atoms in motion. Even when speaking about the Eucharist, saying that it is Jesus, some may wonder, “But if I put it under a very high powered microscope, won’t I see anything but molecules and atoms?” If there were ever a microscope so powerful so you could look at an atom, the answer would be, “Yes.” For the modern scientific mind looks at the atoms, and thinks it knows all; but the philosophical mind says that a thing is more than that.

   For it is true: all things are more than its atoms. To break down a human body to a molecular description is not to state what a human being is; you have only described him atomically. If I tell you a man’s atoms, I still have not told you what he is. If I tell you his shapes and colors, I still have not told you what he is. If I tell you his place in the economy, his weight, his career, his state of health, I am only describing him under a certain point of view, but I still have not told you what he is. It is the metaphysical mind that asks, “what is he.” To reduce him to any of these other categories which we may have abstracted about him fails to state his nature. Man’s nature isn’t atoms or any other such: man is an incarnate spirit, a rational living thing, an individual substance of a rational nature.

   This is all important, because the modern approach to marriage is afflicted with this same bad philosophy, the same bad philosophy that says it has overcome philosophy with science, only to tacitly embrace a philosophy about knowledge, truth and substance which ends up leaving man as a scrap pile of random, meaningless atoms.

   Marriage is therefore seen as an impulse of attraction, the drives of hormones, the pleasure of an emotional satisfaction. While these, and other such things, are just as present in a good marriage as atoms are in a human body, they do not tell you any more what marriage is than atoms tell you what man is. When marriage is reduced to this level of drives that, they say, spring forth from our DNA and bodily organs, then we see how the sodomites take advantage to promote their disorder. They say they have other drives than a man and a woman, that their impulses and satisfactions are different; for which they say they must have different DNA or other bodily features than all other human beings. These poor people fail to think straight, letting their minds be enslaved by their angers and lusts; and they make themselves in this way incapable of thinking metaphysically, that is, asking what a thing is, that is what is man and woman, and what is marriage.

   Marriage is a reality that immeasurably exceeds what atoms can explain. It is a spiritual reality, a covenant. God has made a covenant with man, several in fact, the final and endless one being made in the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In this covenant, he gave his body for us, dying on the cross. In a marriage, there is a covenant in which each member, give their bodies, in a specific kind of way, to one another. A covenant is a contract that makes one kin, family; in the marriage covenant, there is, furthermore, a gift of self made between two persons. When you marry, you give yourself away; this leaves no place for selfishness in marriage, but spouses should seek how to sacrifice themselves for one another without keeping score.

   For man and woman are made for each other (cf. CCC 371-373). Equal in dignity and nature, yet different in that quality of their nature that makes them complementary in certain ways. And it is specifically and exactly this complementarity where we can define that certain type of love that spouses enjoy. Spouses are not just friends, but we hope they are that too; they aren’t siblings, roommates or business partners. This specific kind of love, which we call conjugal love to distinguish it from all other forms of love, finds is special manifestation in the union of the flesh, for God makes them two in one flesh. Two men or two women do not have this kind of complementarity, making conjugal love impossible between them; calling homosexual unions “marriage” is a fantasy, and an insult to true marriage. The union in the flesh is not all of their marriage, but it is as a keystone is to an arch of stone, holding the rest together. And from this specific union of the flesh, children are born, as a gift from God, who alone is the creator of all persons, angelic and human.

   Since, therefore, marriage is a spiritual reality, a covenant in which two are made one flesh, based on the nature and truth of manhood and womanhood, marriage cannot be ended as long as the bodies of the husband and wife are still alive.

   My dear brothers and sisters who, led by God’s Providence, have chosen holy matrimony, let me encourage you to persevere. God is faithful to his bride the Church, and the Church to him; let every groom and bride remember that in their marriage they are participating in this great mystery. Let all the petty selfishness end; let parents stop pitting their children against their spouse; let wives be obedient to their husbands, and let husbands sacrifice themselves for the happiness of their wives and children. Let greed find no crevice between husband and wife, into which to force a wedge and cause estrangement. Let there be forgiveness and patience, maturity and realistic expectations. Be merciful, love one another, and accept that love from one another. Within a marriage, a family, these and all the virtues may be amply and frequently practiced, making family life a great opportunity to grow in holiness.

   Marriage in our day is under fire, and the world refuses to see marriage for what it is, it’s truth and reality, preferring to define it any way it wants. Soon people will be legally marrying their pets and furniture, it seems. But we trust in the Lord, and in the intercession of the virgin Mary and the celibate Joseph, who, in unique chastity, were truly married, and are there to help all couples. Be not afraid or ashamed of your marriages, and count on divine help. Amen.


[1] This quote is from Ferris Jabr, in the New York Times, March12, 2014; the problem to which I refer briefly here is explored brilliantly in an article by William Carrol, “Does a Biologist Need a Soul?” in Modern Age: A Quarterly Review, Vol. 57, no. 3, summer 2015, pp. 17 ff.



























Archives of Homilies on the New English Translation