Summary: Society is upside down like a spacecraft in the water, but the Holy Spirit has a way to right it.
6th Sunday of Easter 2015
Some of you are old enough to remember the first American flights into earth orbit and toward moon landings, and you remember the first manned spacecraft. They looked a little like this chemical reaction flask (show Erlenmeyer flask). They had slightly curved bottoms with heat-labile tiles that would kind of evaporate as the craft re-entered the atmosphere, and parachutes in the top that would slow the landing in the ocean. I recall that the whole apparatus was designed to float long enough for rescue craft to recover them.
But I also recall commentators saying words like “stable-1" and “stable-2.” That meant that when the spacecraft hit the water, they were supposed to float with the top up. That was “stable-1.” The ship would stay afloat for quite some time that way, and the astronauts would be safest. But if something went wrong with the parachutes or floatation system, the ship would invert into “stable-2.” It would still float, but upside down, and the rescuers would have less time to pull the astronauts out underwater before the ship would sink.
Human beings are designed to be like God, in His image and likeness. That means acting like God, who shows no partiality, who loves every human being on earth. In fact, this God is so different from us that He gives love and grace until it hurts. Until it results in the death of the Son of God. That’s what we are designed to be, and to do. But we have free will. We can choose to do good, and that’s great, and that’s right-side up, “stable-1.” In that state we are open to everyone, and can live a life of giving.
But we can also choose the way of selfishness, pride--self-centered existence. It’s upside down from what God intended. Our spirits and souls are under the moral water. We are destined to drown in the moral swamp we have created for ourselves. Moreover, we cannot right ourselves. This is human life enmeshed in vice, in sin. Only the grace of Jesus Christ can turn us back to a truly stable, open way of living. That is what we receive when, repenting of mortal sin, we come to confess our sins, repent and promise to avoid them in the future, and accept the grace of God when the priest, acting as Jesus Himself, says “I absolve you.”
The best moms are those who teach us to live in an upright manner, who live that way themselves and admonish us when we turn upside down. They teach us the moral law at every stage of our childhood and adolescence. When we stray from the right path, they urge us back onto it, not with curses and whips, but with the loving kindness of God. Each day they encourage us to pray, and perhaps even lead a family rosary or recitation of the divine office. They find creative ways to pry teenagers out of bed to attend and participate in the Sunday Mass. These moms are more precious than gold, because the treasure they nurture does not remain behind on earth when we die, but, being eternal virtue, comes with us into the presence of God.
Moms, to the extent you have done this for us, thank you. And thanks be to God for the mothers and fathers whose greatest legacy has been, and continues to be, children and grandchildren who give to others, who live for others’ good. Families like this are the reason our poor society has not shaken completely to pieces.
If society has problems, and they are legion, it is because over the past five hundred years we have allowed selfish men and women toy with the family for their own ends. I’m going to come down hard on Protestant revolutionaries as the instigators. Yes, I know that there was corruption in the Catholic Church in the early sixteenth century. But there is corruption of one kind of another in every human institution. The Church had mechanisms for coming out of such bad times, and had done so at least a half dozen times in the first 1500 years. The Holy Spirit makes the Church also a divine institution, whose fidelity is guaranteed by a divine promise. But when the revolutionaries turned to their own cleverness to solve problems, they began to weaken not just the Church family, but the fundamental unit of society, the human family. We are all familiar with the way Henry VIII gave bad example with his divorces and multiple attempts at remarriage. But most of us are unaware that Luther was documented as an unrepentant libertine who gratified his passions in many ways even as he led much of Germany and northern Europe away from the Faith. Once the break with Rome had occurred, he was even bold enough to permit a well-heeled prince to engage in bigamy. It wasn’t too many generations before all of Protestantism was at least tolerating divorce and remarriage, despite the clear warnings of the Gospels and St. Paul. And after that, so very many of them gradually accepted contraception, serial polygamy, abortion, in-vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, and now, so-called “gay marriage.” It’s one of the reasons that hard-line Evangelical churches are growing while mainline denominations are waning. We are at the point where the Texas legislature is debating whether to allow the law to force Catholic clergy to officiate at these mockeries of the sacrament, and thus, whether to make us live in the fear of being imprisoned for our faith in the country that used to pride itself on the First Amendment.