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:
- 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.