HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (21ST SUNDAY) – YEAR A
HOMILY THEME: “I Will Build My Church!”
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
HOMILY: Mt. 16:13-20.
“Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah…I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church…” With these words of Jesus, many would think that the Gospel this Sunday is all about Peter. But actually, it is about Jesus Christ and his Church. Peter is the “Rock”, but it is Jesus who builds the Church: “Upon this rock, I will build my Church.” The “gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”, not because of Peter, but because of Christ who solemnly declared, “I am with you always until the end of the age.” The abiding presence of Jesus makes the Church, despite its human composition, truly divine in origin and destiny, and therefore, invincible against all attacks of the enemy.
And again, we are mistaken if we think that the Church is the physical house of worship we go to every Sunday. The Church is the people, the community of believers who profess the one true faith in Jesus. In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council states: “The eternal Father… planned to raise men to a participation of the divine life… to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ.” (LG, 2).
In the Creed, we profess, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” This Sunday, the Gospel invites us to renew our faith and loyalty to our Holy Mother Church. Although the Lord assured that, “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it,” he did not promise a smooth sailing. From without, the Church is attacked by her enemies. And from within, numerous problems, scandals, errors and sins continue to shake the Church to its very foundations. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI said that the “sins inside the Church” posed the greatest threat to the Church (May 11, 2010).
This leads us to consider another point: the Church is not only the institutional and hierarchical structure. Rather, the Church is composed of families firmly adhering to the values of the Gospel. Pope St. John Paul II said, “Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church.” Vatican II declares, “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children…” (LG, 11). Being the domestic church, therefore, the family is essential in the life of the Church. Whatever happens to the families has a sure and direct impact on the universal Church. At breakfast one morning, the wife asked her husband, “What are you doing?” “Nothing,” he replied. But she insisted, “Nothing? You’ve been reading our marriage certificate for an hour now.” The husband explained, “Ah, yes! I was looking for the expiration date.”
A study by the Pew Research Center, in association with Time magazine, revealed that about 39 percent of Americans said marriage was becoming obsolete, that it is not needed to have a family. In fact, the U.S. census data in September showed that marriages hit an all-time low of 52 percent for adults 18 and over. (Hope Yen, Associated Press, Nov 18, 2010).
Indeed, new forms of human relationships have emerged that seriously threaten the institution of marriage and the family. Interestingly, the divorce rate has gone down, and “has returned almost to the levels we saw before the divorce revolution kicked in during the 1970s.” But this is due to the fact that less and less couples are getting married. Many of them are into cohabitation, or the so-called “moving-in” relationship, with more than 40 percent of U.S. children now living in a cohabiting household. “The rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s lives in today’s families” (Source: Prof. W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia, the lead author of ‘Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences,’ a report from the Institute for American Values’ Center for Marriage and Families, NY).
A more worrisome trend nowadays is the “sleepover” relationship. According to a new study from the University of Missouri, there has been an ever-increasing trend for young adults to bypass the traditional ways to marriage. They do not anymore move in and live together. Instead they just “sleep over” for a couple of days and then leave and go on with their own lives. They say it is a great new way to keep one’s individuality, space, and lack of financial commitment. There is no commitment, no responsibility and no real relationship. (Source: Jonathan Holcomb, Aug. 03,2011).
Still others are coming up with more novel and bizarre marriage relationships. The latest of these are the renewable marriage contract and group marriage. As the terms directly suggest, these are direct affronts to the essential properties of indissolubility and unity of marriage. But the sad story does not stop there. The recent landmark US Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges that guarantees the right to marry to same-sex couples, and thereby legalizing same-sex ‘marriage’ nationwide, has radically redefined the concept of marriage.
Definitely, it has nothing but bad news for the family and the future of society. In his address in a conference during the World Youth Day in Madrid, Archbishop Timothy Dolan predicts that it will have a “big impact” on future attempts by young people to build up Catholic family life. “That’s a good example of how our young people find, very often, the culture of our society to be at odds with what they treasure as Catholics,” he said. (CNA/EWTN News August 17).
Pope St. John Paul II reminds us, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” These trends and culture in our present society are leading us nowhere but to self-destruction. Obviously, these are rooted in the people’s obstinate refusal to listen and obey the teachings of the Pope, the Rock on which Christ established his Church.
Jesus continues to build his Church, and no earthly power can destroy her. But in order to keep the Church strong and vibrant amidst all these serious attacks and dangers, we need to strengthen and protect our families, the domestic Church. And the way to do this is to keep our families totally obedient and faithful to the Church Magisterium and submit to the guidance and authority of the Pope and the Bishops united with him. Then we can begin to look forward in hope towards a bright future for the Church and the entire human society.
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