where there is love

Dec 15, 2018

The 18th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel opens with Jesus taking Peter and James and John “up a high mountain apart” where heaven and earth came together in the event of the Transfiguration.

Yesterday on FFF we reflected on the tension that exists between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world.

In the Transfiguration these two kingdoms became one for Peter, James and John as witnesses to the Transfiguration of Jesus when heaven and earth were visibly united.

Today’s gospel is the next moment in chapter 18 and begins with the words “as they came down from the mountain…”

Mountains are important places in the scriptures because God often communicated with people on mountain-tops.

But every place where God and people communicate is significant: sometimes the plains or valleys, at other times the lakeshore or a boat on the lake.

At the end of his earthly life Jesus spoke most eloquently with His father and with his disciples from the road to Calvary and from the cross as he hung dying.

Wherever God and people meet and speak is holy ground.

Because humans so often resist the divine, communication between God and humans is not always easy. So too the voice of God speaking through the church (as a mouthpiece of God) struggles to be an effective communicator of the beauty of life with God.

It is a tragedy that so many people today think that life as a Catholic is a hard, limited and restrictive existence. Sadly the beauty of the life-giving adventure of faith for many people has been disguised by an emphasis on law without relationship.

While doctrine that is good and true is presented by teachers in the church, real communication only happens when a word that is spoken is also heard. Teaching requires more than a sound and articulate teacher and a teacher is teaching only when a student is learning.

For most people this gap in effective Catholic teaching is nowhere more evident than in matters of human sexuality.

Too often we reduce the beauty of human sexuality to moralism and legalism upheld by fear.

While it might be ok to use fear to stop a two year old playing on the road, love is the only effective and life-giving motivator for humans seeking to live in healthy and mature relationships.

A Christian who makes decisions about life and love by consulting a check-sheet of memorised moral rules is missing an opportunity to discover the beauty of the ultimate relationship lived with Jesus Christ and (as a natural fruit of this divine relationship) with those whom Jesus brings into our lives.

Recently the National Centre for Religious Studies published a five-page guidance paper for “Principals, Boards of Trustees, Staff, Students and Whanau of Catholic Primary and Secondary Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand.” entitled “Gender Complexity in Schools”.  This inspiring document is endorsed by the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand.

The document is noteworthy for its Christ-centred and practical approach to the complexities of human sexuality and gender. It begins with a quotation from Pope Francis’ 2016 post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of Love”:

This opening quotation highlights the centrality of Jesus in any relationship of love. This brief sentence also implies the uniqueness of “each person without exception”. Healthy people will have an interior sense that they do not fit easily into narrow categories or compartments which only stereotype human sexuality which is naturally and necessarily complex. As the document states:

“Psychosexual development is a unique and special journey for each person. Patterns of understanding can be readily identified though these may not fit everyone…

…No person’s identity can be reduced to their gender or sexuality, just as they should not be labelled by any other single aspect of their personhood – for example, intelligence, sporting ability or ethnicity”…

…we live in a time when some young people are particularly vulnerable as they discover that their own gender and sexuality does not fit traditional binary categories. The number of children who report their gender does not match their biological sex is significant. Gender dysphoria is real”.

This reflects the Catechism of the Catholic Church on sexuality:

“Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others. (par. 2332)

“Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept their sexual identity. (par. 2333)

The document concludes quoting the new commandment of Jesus:

An Invitation

  • Take a moment to become aware of the complex beauty of human sexuality in your own life and in the lives of those you know and love. Become aware that every human person, and every complex and diverse expression of human sexuality when lived with love, expresses something of the love of God to the world.
  • Consider too the damage that misunderstanding of and misuse and abuse of human sexuality causes. Offer a prayer for those who may be struggling to see their sexuality as a gift of God and an expression of love. 
  • Consider the family and friends you will spend time with at Christmas. In this group there will be a complexity of relationships and diverse expressions of love. You might offer a prayer that begins: “Jesus, Your ways are not our ways…
  • You can read the full document by visiting the NCRS homepage and clicking on the “Gender Complexity in Schools link under “Additional Resources” at the bottom of the “links” section.
  • Follow this link for New Zealand Catholic article on the document.

NOTE: A number of very strong comments have come in on this post. I am happy to publish all of these, but not as anonymous comments. If you have made a comment anonymously and would like it published please comment again and add your name. Thank you. John.


  1. Now there’s a sobering message, worthy of close attention. God cares, so must we.

  2. A wise and timely comment in a society that has a limited understanding of sexuality and gender. Sexuality is not about a small part of the body: it is the whole person made by love for love.. .When we value the miracle of our uniqueness, we stop judging ourselves and others. We see all is round us, people who are temples or tabernacles, with love indwelling, . It is human love that brings us to the discovery that love is our spiritual identity. It’s God’s way of bringing us home to who we really are,

  3. Your wisdom is so gratefully received Fr John. Thank you

  4. It is good that the church is addressing these issues – as Christians we are called to love everyone – this includes those who are different. This is a truly Christian response. Thank you Father John for your loving words.

  5. Thank you Father John for your thought provoking writing today and reminding us that we are all loved dearly by our loving God, wherever and whoever we are. We are here to live that commandment that Jesus gave us.

  6. Thank you, Father John. Your voice (and writings!) bring much needed hope today. God bless

  7. Dear Fr John, I am deeply disappointed with the synopsis presented here as a quasi-endorsement of aberrant and damaging sexual behaviours by those whose lives are have been come corrupted by the adoption of homosexuality and gender-dysphoria as a norm, when it is not. When in fact these lifestyles are a great evil which limit the growth of the human person, disfigures sexuality and the beauty of the sexual act, darkens the soul, and ultimately (unless the grace of God is found again through the sacrament of reconciliation, for Catholics. Repentance for others) leads to eternal death. The rendition of so-called ‘Catholic teaching’ given here is an affront to any faithful Catholic who knows his of her faith and is merely a ‘new theology’ which has no basis either in Scripture or the CCC. It is in fact a scandal that what is presented here is a heretical view of the Catholic teaching on sexuality – the half Gospel, as we have so often heard preached in many so-called Catholic institutions and churches in recent times. The love of Jesus yes! But His justice also for those who refuse His mercy by clinging to sinful lives – this is the full presentation of the Gospel in this instance and the merciful way to instruct the ignorant, console the doubtful, admonish sinners (not confirm them in error!), bear wrongs patiently (but always preach the truth on sin and sexuality) and forgive too. But we must judge evil for what it is. Our salvation and that of those we live with and interact with depends on this truth.

    • Thanks Pat, accurate feedback.

  8. Dear Fr. John, your words today are confusing.
    Sodomy is an offense against God and His people-and we currently have a Crisis of sodomy in the Clergy and Hierarchy. No amount of misappropriation of His rainbow (or the word ‘gay’) alters that fact. We cannot tinker with God’s Laws.
    Yes, we are charged with being compassionate and to show love, but, we are also charged with giving filial Correction-as with any serious Sin. We are not charged with simply being ‘nice’ to everyone. It would be a wrong, and sinful, mistake to overlook grave sin in a misguided effort to be ‘inclusive’ and ‘respectful’. In these difficult times for the Church, we MUST learn to stand up for God’s timeless Truth- not cower into submission before the world’s ever changing norms.
    This will require backbone-not horse-feathers.

  9. Agree with Pat on this one.

  10. Love is more important than laws in any relatioship and about any problem, not only those related to sexuality. Any time I tried to impose laws whitout witnessing the beauty of a differe nt lifestyle, I destroyed relationships. Advent is a good season for me to start again in a different way, welcoming the love and patience of Jesus toward me and each one of us. Thanks, Fr. John for this reminder.

  11. John. Thank you for leading us into some big issues with this reflection. I know I struggle with such concepts personally and wonder how I would really react if one of my children came home and confronted me with a radically different sexual orientation. However if I have faith in an all loving God who defies my mental ability to understand how and why he created me then I have to relinquish my human scaled understanding of how God may love all people. What I can best to is to try and reflect that love to all those around me, especially where it challenges me most

  12. This is something I srtruggle with. Thank you all for your comments, as they give me much to ponder.

  13. Strongly agree with Pat’s comments. Absolutely love everyone but love also extends to pointing out errors.

  14. Fr John, I am also concerned about the tone of this article, and the work of the NCRS.
    I often think that any gender dysphoria is a powerful tool to point one to a deeper issue to be concerned about rather than an idea to accept.
    I would like to why you might think that homosexual unions (which cannot of themselves be fruitful out of the flesh, and therefore the spirit) are life giving? Or, that mutilating ones body to become a different sex when the problem is deeper can be of any long term help?
    I am not talking here about those with chromosomal complications.

    I am also concerned about the twisting of words of scripture, I am not sure how you extrapolate this idea (quote) “when heaven and earth were visibly united.” I think you are trying to be very clever with ideas when in fact what Peter James and John were witnessing was the reality of who Jesus is, they were given a glimpse of Glory. They were also given a glimpse of Christ with us in the Tabernacle as well, since the wording in the Douay Rheims bible makes reference to tabernacle and not tent.

    It is true that the Catholic Faith is not about rules but relationship, the most intimate of relationships, we are the bride and He is the bridegroom, or are you about intimate that the Church change this wording and understanding as well? I do not want to be sodomised by anyone and the whole idea is abhorrent. You cannot have a relationship that is not face to face, and sodomy certainly cannot be performed face to face. God our Father wants us to look full in His wonderful face.
    What is the NCRS hoping to achieve by hopping on board with anti-christian ideas and twisting the beautiful reality of life and loving which our Faith presents to us?
    By pleasing the ideas of a fallen world we will only cause more harm.

  15. I hope we can get an explanation of how the above article can be harmonised with the Bibles’ view of homosexuality which refers to it as being an abomination or detestable.

    Paul groups homosexuality with such things as adultery, theft, idolatry.
    Would an article that speaks of theft or idolatry or adultery in the same way as the above article speaks about homosexuality be acceptable, would it be sound doctrine?

    Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any beast and defile yourself with it, neither shall any woman give herself to a beast to lie with it: it is perversion.
    24 “Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves;

    Leviticus 20:13 If any one lie with a man as with a woman, both have committed an abomination, let them be put to death: their blood be upon them.

    1 Timothy 1:3-11 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
    We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11
    Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    Romans 1:25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
    26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
    28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.


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