A beautiful selection of Scriptures today. Also a sad day as we remember on Tuesday the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. I'd like to preach about the culture of death. The culture of death is a phrase used by Blessed Pope John Paul II to describe western civilization in our current state. The culture of death is one that sees death as an answer to life's problems.
In 1995, Blessed John Paul II wrote a letter to the Church and the World: “Evangelium Vitae,” the Gospel of Life. He describes this culture as “a society excessively concerned with efficiency,” resulting in a sense of “war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another.”
Almost 18 years later, we are hard pressed to argue with his words. Whether it is unborn life, elderly life, immigrant life, we know that wherever a life requires “greater acceptance, love and care,” that life is in danger. I’d like to point out one way to rebuild a culture of life and to aid the weak, wherever life is in danger.
Men. Not man in the gender neutral, but men. If you desired to wage a war on the weak you would seek to disarm their protectors. Our culture has done that. Look how the protecting roles in life: husbands and fathers especially, are being eroded.
Now consider this fact as well. Jesus identifies himself as the bridegroom, the husband, in today’s gospel. In Jewish weddings, it wasn’t the family of the bride’s responsibility to entertain at the feast but the groom’s. So when they ran out of wine it was the groom’s responsibility. This is why, after the miracle of water into wine, the headwaiter goes to the groom to inquire. In providing the wine—and the best wine—Jesus not only aids his friend but also sets the theme for his whole public ministry. I am the true bridegroom, the true husband of Israel and of your soul. He claims for himself the identity in the prophet Isaiah of our first reading: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”
To think of Jesus as the bridegroom of our soul is a big thought, but let’s leave it at face value for the time being and add something else. Remember, how does Jesus interact with God throughout the Gospels? Jesus speaks to and of God as His Father. Jesus reveals God as a Father. These two images: Jesus as bridegroom and God as Father are two dominant ones from the Gospel. These two images are ones deliberately chosen and elevated by Jesus.
So what should we think of a cultural or societal movement that devalues and rejects the idea and identities of fatherhood and husbandry?
But what of other natural relationships, where are they in the bible, relationships and identities that occur in nature, such as wife, mother, and child? These also are chosen and elevated. You and I are the bride of Christ. The Church is a mother. We are God’s children. Streams of thought in culture and society reject and devalue these identities as well. What should we think of them?
At the very least we should conclude that they are confused; at the worst we conclude that they are deliberately acting against God and nature.
In Evangelium Vitae, “The Gospel of Life,” Blessed Pope John Paul II asked us to build a culture of life. So of course we should advocate and work so that abortion, euthanasia, and other violence against the weak is no more. But we also need to start in our own homes and families. Men, cultivate your identity and responsibility as husbands and fathers. Women, cultivate your identity and responsibility as wives. If you do not yet have a family then act in a way that will aid for that day or time.
Finally, I want to leave you with something for your hearts. In the prophet Isaiah we heard that God will rejoice in us “as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride.” This week, slip into the chapel unnoticed. Use the side door if you have to or park a block away so no one sees your car. Spend a few moments quieting your heart of the distractions of the day and call to mind that God is present in your soul by baptism and confirmation. Call to mind the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Tabernacle. Then read over those readings from Isaiah and the Gospel of John. Ask to know God’s joy over you.