Monday, July 25, 2011

43rd Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

“When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

The Bible has a rich depth of contrast between a king ruling in this world and a king ruling under the guidelines and wisdom of God. Solomon is that famous king who received the gift of wisdom for governing his people. Wisdom is doing the right thing, in the right way at the right time. Sadly, Solomon is not only an inspiring figure but also a cautionary one. By the end of Solomon’s life, he squanders his gift of wisdom on riches, armies, and many wives and concubines, fulfilling the warning given in Deuteronomy 17.

Each of us is baptized as priest—offering our own spiritual sacrifice, prophet—to bring the Word of God to ourselves and others, and king—to lead those we’ve been entrusted with to the Kingdom of Heaven. Our kingship isn’t as large as Solomon’s but is in just as much danger. Each of us is ruler of at least one subject, ourselves. Spouses have responsibilities to each other, parents to children, consecrated women and men to their community, and priests to their bishop and parish. Are we ruling with the wisdom of Scripture or the wisdom of this world?

The wisdom of Scripture says to sell everything for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Like a great pearl there is no price too great. Like treasure in the field we must sell all to acquire that field. The wisdom of the world says to hold something back for yourselves and don’t trust the Kingdom of Heaven to provide for you—which is the wisdom of our enemy, the master of this world, Satan.

Am I living the wisdom of Scripture or the wisdom of this world? It might be a complex answer but we must be evaluating ourselves. Not for ourselves but evaluating our actions and choices in the light the Gospel and Church teaching. This struggle is part of the cross of following Christ. I fight against the voice and desires of sin that say: “do not trust the Kingdom of Heaven, for the promises of Jesus are empty and will not satisfy.”

This Monday marks the 43rd anniversary of a particularly hard fight for the Church in the West. On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote a letter to the Catholics of the world called Humanae Vitae. This letter was a teaching that said the nature of human, marital love is wounded by the practice of artificial contraception.

Theologians, priests, and even bishops met Humanae Vitae with organized resistance and protest. It is said that in our own day this Catholic teaching on artificial contraception is the least practiced. Bishop Swain mentioned this in his April Bishop’s Bulletin article on Pastoral Planning. Yesterday and today we ignore Humanae Vitae to our ruin.

Read it sometime. Pope Paul VI said there would be four fruits of artificial contraception*: lowered moral standards, increased infidelity, decreased respect of men towards women, and the coercive use of these technologies by governments. But it isn’t about who’s right or wrong this morning. It’s about our distrust of the Kingdom of Heaven. We distrust the Kingdom of Heaven to our ruin—whatever the issue.

If you have more questions for me about Catholic teaching on marital love, let me know. There are two couples in Brookings who teach classes on the Catholic answer to artificial contraception. If you have questions on other areas on Catholic life, please let me know. If you are saddened by anything I have said today, pray on the words of St. Paul, our patron. “For godly sorrow produces a salutary repentance without regret, but worldly sorrow produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10. Pray that your sorrow would be godly, that he would draw you closer to himself.

This godly sorrow is repentance and is the difference between the good fish and the bad fish. The good fish isn't perfect. In Matthew 9, Jesus said that he came to heal the sick, that those who are well do not need a physician but the sick do. The good fish is the one who repents of sin and seeks God's mercy and help- trusting that their needs will be provided. This is the wisdom of the Kingdom.

FOOTNOTE: A great article on the historical vindication of Pope Paul VI's predictions can be found here.

Crossposted at Pius XII Newman Center.


Kathryn said...

Thanks so much for this excellent post Fr. Andrew! Included it in Pay it Forward meme on A Life Size Catholic Blog.

Holly@A Life-Size Catholic Blog said...

Here visiting because Kathryn posted about you on the "Pay It Forward" Meme. I'm off to check out Pope Paul VI's article.

Thank you Father ... many blessings!