Homily - Bishop Kennedy Marriage & Family Sunday

26 July 2015 




Genesis 2:18-24, Romans 12:1-2.9-13, Matthew 19:3-6


In chapter two of their Communist Manifesto of 1848 Karl Marx and Fredreich Engels advocated for the ‘abolition of the family’ as being integral to their desired state-controlled communist utopia. Almost 170 years later in 2015 the family, thank goodness, has not been abolished. Families are still here and they are going strong, even if we can observe signs that our society may be inching ever so slowly towards the world that Aldoux Huxley imagined in his perhaps prophetic 1932 novel Brave New World, one of my favourite books. See if you can recognise any early warning signs in our society of this brave new world of Huxley’s.

In Brave New World there exists a futuristic dictatorship one world state in which there are no families. Natural procreation has been abolished and all human life is produced through reproductive technologies. Genetic engineering is used to breed workers of differing abilities in a strict caste system; embryos are raised in hatcheries; children are raised and educated, or rather indoctrinated, in large state-run nurseries; euthanasia is compulsory at age 60; and the world’s population is permanently limited.

There’s more: critical thinking is discouraged; “high” culture has ceased to exist and been replaced by movies; spending time alone is considered abnormal; hedonism is encouraged and rampant; sex is for fun, not for intimacy or procreation; hallucinogenic drug taking is common if not universal; and consumerism is fed by an abundance of material goods.

And since these genetically modified, artificially mass-produced human beings still have a religious yearning within them, true religion has been replaced by the worship of the letter “T” in recognition of the world’s first mass-produced product: the Model “T” Ford. Mass-production is fine for a motor car, but we know that God never intended human beings to be mass-produced, or to be ‘produced’ at all. God intended for each of us to be created!

Whether it be an absolute communist vision of the world, Aldoux Huxley’s brave new world, or any other type of new world order, radical social change requires radical family change. That’s because the family is the very foundation and building block of society, or as the Church prefers to say, families are the living cells of our society. When the cells change a body changes; when the cells are sick the body is sick; when the cells are healthy the body is healthy. And so it is for families and society. As Pope Saint John Paul II famously said: “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live”. In our own time, changes in marital and family life have certainly played a central role in the huge societal changes of the Cultural Revolution since the 1960’s.

For some years now there has been no hiding from the fact that families are under huge pressures: economic, social, and moral pressures. All families feel the strain of these pressures, some tragically so. But


this does not make God’s beautiful and simple design for families and society obsolete. And it certainly should not discourage us from drawing attention to God’s design. In fact, quite the contrary. Now is precisely the time to shine a bright light on God’s beautiful design for marriage and family.

God’s beautiful design centres on a man and a woman falling in love, perhaps even breathtakingly so, as when Adam first saw Eve and had his breath taken away, saying “Ah, at last, this is the one! This is the one I will spend the rest of my life with, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”. The man and woman’s physical and personal differences attract and complement each other.

In God’s beautiful design man and woman come together as equal yet distinct helpmates in the great and challenging adventure of marriage, of forming a family and of building a fully human world, not a “brave new world”.

In God’s beautiful design the man and woman who come together in marriage do not model themselves on the behaviour of the world around them but offer their bodies exclusively to each other - freely, faithfully, and fruitfully - to become one body. In effect the spouses say to each other what Jesus says to us in every Mass: “This is my body given for you.” In God’s beautiful design the man and woman, either naturally or by adopting or fostering, can become a Mum and a Dad, a mother and father.

In God’s beautiful design the family unit of mother, father, and children provides a sure and secure environment with a sense of belonging. The world can be a big and scary place, but the family provides the opportunity to experience unconditional love and merciful forgiveness; it provides the opportunity to learn human virtues and social responsibilities; and it creates a small domestic church, a community of faith and prayer united in and under God.

These are benefits to be enjoyed by all in the family: children, Mum and Dad. In fact, whilst there are and always will be some exceptions, social research shows that family life based on intact marriage delivers the best outcomes for all: including longer and happier lives, better mental health, greater educational attainment, and increased productivity and income. This is what the social research shows.

And, according to Dr Patrick Fagan of the Washington-based Family Research Council, when religious practice is included in family life the results for children are even better. Last year, summing up the research, he said: “Religious practice and prayer are good for marriage, but when marriage and worship are combined in family life, children thrive even more.” (As reported in News weekly 6 Dec 2014)

In Christian Sacramental marriage God unites husband and wife to each other in an unbreakable bond that no man or woman can divide. This brings great benefit to the spouses and to their children. Through the sacrament God also gives married couples the grace they so surely need to lay down their lives for each other and for their children and to endure and triumph over whatever difficulties may come.

Today on this inaugural Marriage and Family Sunday in the Diocese of Armidale we give thanks to God for his precious gift of marriage and family life; we acknowledge the pain of those for whom marriage and family life has not been all that God desires for them; we acknowledge and thank the many men and women who give valuable witness to the world through their marriage in good times and in bad; and above all we pray: we pray for God’s grace upon all married couples and families and we pray that men and women will continue to respond generously to God’s invitation to lay down their lives in marriage. A fully human world depends upon it. 

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