Saturday, November 5, 2011
Sunday 32A: "Virgins took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom": chastity is for holiness in every vocation and a sign of the kingdom
The French say, "le silence est doux et fort à la fois", silence is at once sweet and strong. In the world the many sources of noise sometimes combine into an overwhelming din and we can easily forget that we crave the medicine and beauty of silence. In fact, our liturgy of holy Mass incorporates silence in two places: after the homily and following Communion. In these two instances we need the room silence gives to fully receive and digest the Word which comes to us through proclamation of the sacred Scriptures and through the Body and Blood of the Lord really and truly present in the Eucharist.
But silence can equal consent not only to good, to God Himself, but also to evil.
Many and competing voices today are clamoring for our attention and that of our children. These voices reach us through cell phones with their text, internet and voice capacity, through social media like Facebook and, of course, the old fashioned way: person to person.
Our children are exposed with increasing intensity and frequency to dissonant voices which conflict with the truths we hold as Catholic Christians. Only the truth will set us free. The truths which have been handed down through the Holy Spirit in the Church are necessary for our flourishing as human beings in this world and our eternal happiness in the next because grace builds on nature.
There is waiting in the life of every human person. And waiting for a person we love is perhaps the most difficult waiting that we must do. The virgins in the Gospel are a sign both of the small ways in which we all experience expectation in this life as, every day, we are wait at the "door of the future" and that this life itself is the anteroom of eternity and the coming of Jesus Christ.
In the waiting of every human person is needed the strength of all the virtues, including chastity, which is symbolized by the virgins who play a role in the celebration of the wedding feast in much the same way bridesmaids do today in our wedding ceremonies. Sometimes members of the wedding party wait at the church truly ignorant of "the day or the hour" as the bride makes her own way, at her own pace, to the celebration!
More seriously, however, among the many gifts needed for patient expectation is the waiting of chastity, a moral good which obliges those of us who look forward to salvation in the kingdom of God. Sometimes spouses wait in marital chastity for their husband or wife to return from a journey or military deployment, young engaged couples, through the chastity of abstinence, wait for marriage, celibate priests, and men and women religious, through their celibate chastity wait for the kingdom of God in all its fullness. Our children must be formed in such a way that they too will one day also be able to accept the grace of chastity as a free and mature Christian adults.
Many forces in the world today have declared war on the innocence of our children which longstanding wisdom teaches should be extended as long as possible, and which is a different journey for every human person. For these and more reasons, the societal push toward classroom education in matters of marital intimacy violates the latency period and with its physiological nature violates the different developmental stage of each child.
But we are necessary for this process. If we remain silent in the face of the onslaughts upon our children's moral and faith integrity we leave them weakened before their enemies and also bereft of the power of our witness. Parents in particular have the irreplaceable role of serving as the first teachers on their children in the ways of faith.
The Church teaches and supports parents in the primary role as educators of their own children.
"Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the 'material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.'
"Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them: He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (CCC 2223)
Many Catholics, and even moreso the vulnerable young, fasten very quickly upon the opinions and attitudes available principally through the internet and television, in many cases without any reference whatsover to Catholic truth. This is seen especially with matters of marital teaching and of the bodily expression of love proper to the sacrament of matrimony.
As we live the chastity proper to our vocations and experience the joy of cooperating with grace in this way, using the sacraments properly as needed to keep us on this path, we are prepared most powerfully to hand on this way of Christian living and joy to our children as they seek God's will in discerning their own vocations which await them beyond the door separating today from the future.
Our silence can leave our children victim to the cruel winds of every opinion or error that blows in the world today. Let us speak out with the voice of Christ in His Church that our children will be formed firmly in the wisdom of the truth of God. Chastity is wisdom in action through the holy use of God's gifts for love and life.
'The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality." (CCC 2347)
We prepare through all the virtues to "stay awake" as commanded by the Lord in the Gospel: "stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." Living the life of the kingdom here and now gives us the joy of anticipating the moment we are called to enter into its fullness, into the "joy of the Lord".