THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
(Proverbs 31: 10-13.19-20.30-31; Thessalonians 5: 1-6; Matthew 25: 14-30)
Last month Pope Francis appeared again in the headlines. The newspapers reported that he already approves of gay marriages or, at least, "civil unions" between homosexuals. Supposedly he said so in a documentary made this year.
The news raised questions from many people. Promoters of the gay lifestyle wondered if the Church will change its condemnation of homosexual acts. Parents began to doubt what they taught their children. Some astute journalists had more pertinent questions. They wanted to know why the new documentary used recorded interviews made from last year for a different audience. They also questioned whether the pope really used the words "civil unions" or was talking about "civil coexistence." In ordinary parlance "civil union" refers to a state-recognized sexual relationship between two people of the same sex. The "civil coexistence" is a broader class of relationships between two people.
Pope Francis is not naive. He knows that the press often distorts his position. Perhaps for this reason he waited a while to respond to the concerns. He wanted to answer precisely to avoid further confusion. It is also not unusual for the Vatican to moderate the tenor of the debate by taking time to respond. It is saying, in effect, that the issues of sex are not the most important, much less the only ones that matter.
The response came through the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. It makes it clear that the pope believes that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. It follows that the Pope wants to reiterate the Church's concern for homosexuals: men and women with homosexual tendencies are human persons in need of family love. First, they need their fathers and mothers not to reject them as if they were undomesticated animals. Also, as adults they should not be deprived of the intimate trust of another person. In the interview made last year, the pope spoke of "a law of civil coexistence" to allow homosexual couples to speak for one another in the event, for example, of a medical emergency. He wanted to assure all people not married but living in the same house that they have the right, as he puts it, to "be legally covered."
The church has long supported the recognition of legal authorities whereby two people living together can share social benefits. But she insists that the scope of the law providing this recognition is not limited to people in a sexual relationship. The two people can be, for another example, a son living with his mother whom he wants covered in his health insurance policy. Presumably Pope Francis had this in mind when he spoke of "a law of civil coexistence."
The actions of Pope Francis provide testimony to the gospel we hear today. When Jesus tells of the man praising the behavior of the servants who invest his money, he is not promoting the stock market. Rather he is showing his disciples the need for charity. To be a Christian awaiting the coming of the Lord we have to do works of mercy. If we only wait sitting on our hands, we will be betraying Jesus who died for us. It is instructive that Pope Francis has the courage to declare himself in favor of people who are often despised, such as immigrants and homosexuals. He in no way wants to condone immorality. Rather, he is promoting the love of Jesus for the poor and outcasts.
In the Second Eucharistic Prayer, the priest asks God to bring the Church "to perfection through charity." Sometimes we miss this goal by not showing charity to different types of person. Pope Francis has taught us how to extend it to all. Hopefully all of us will hear him.