Friday, June 28, 2013

Paring Down

Lectio Divina

... nowhere to rest....

Luke 9:58


Continuing Fischer, Reclaiming the Connections, in the chapel stall, and National Catholic Reporter, laying in the night-table.

In the wake of the historic decisions by the Supreme Court on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, I have returned to the book Secular Marriage, Christian Sacrament by Michael Lawler (Mystic, Conn.: Twenty-Third Publications, 1985). It is refreshing to step back from the current maelstroms over same-sex marriage to examine marriage itself as a human institution and Christian marriage as a sacrament. His distinction between secular marriage as a reality of the social order and Christian marriage as a living symbol of the covenant between Christ and the Church is clear and powerfully persuasive. The former pertains to the mundane, while the latter concerns a life of faith. While consent between spouses is enough to make a marriage, only the faith of baptized believers can make marriage a sacrament.

Without getting into issues of the morality of same-sex relationships, let me say that I agree with Lawler when he writes: "Human marriage is one of those created realities that enjoys its own meanings and values apart from the Church. To acknowledge that simple fact would free marriage to be a truly human reality which, in its very created humanness, can become the basis for the sacrament of covenant marriage." The Church did not invent marriage; it does not enjoy a monopoly over its meanings and values; and it can neither define nor dictate them for others who do not share faith in Christ.

Citing the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on religious freedom, Lawler writes, "It is hard to see how a Church that proclaims and believes in such an exalted vision could continue to deprive the baptized, believers and nonbelievers alike, of a right to secular marriage, a human reality for which they were created by God." It seems to me that proponents of same-sex marriage have no wish to redefine marriage as a sacrament for the Church or as a sacred institution for any body of believers. They seek only the liberty to enter into marriage as a human reality, a secular reality, one which has been and continues to be evolving. The decisions of legislatures and courts touch the reality of civil marriage alone; they do not and cannot touch the reality of Christian marriage as a living symbol of the presence of God, and a holy covenant of love.


As of this moment, my worldly possessions fit into three boxes, one small, one medium, one medium-large; and two pieces of baggage, one small and one large. The boxes go off to the post office this afternoon; the luggage will fly with me to New York on July 13. In storage with my family in New York are a few boxes of theology books and papers, a box of compact discs, a boombox I've had since I turned 14 (my oldest material possession), and a winter coat and a few sweaters.

Thanks be to God, I'm leaving here with fewer things than I brought. My hope, a year or two or three from now, is to fit my belongings into half as many boxes and one piece of luggage.

One more afternoon of faith-sharing with the men at the federal prison in Lompoc. We will see them again for Mass on Sunday, and then we must part. Perhaps we may meet again in this world; faith tells me we will meet again in the world to come. Then faith sharing in our own fraternity this evening.


It is expected to hit 95 degrees in the valley today. And then 101 degrees tomorrow and Sunday. Watch out, watch out! I will be taking extra time on my weekend rounds to water the grounds.

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