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Featured Article: Let the Children Come to Me: How We Saved Our Catholic School - It was September 2007. I was three years into my pastorate at the historic St. Augustine Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Washington. Our school had just received its notice of termination: with 175 students, it would close in June 2008 along with seven other parish schools serving predominantly African American students. Flash forward nine years. We did not close but are still here today alive and well! Read Full Story

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But What's Wrong with “Same-Sex Marriage”?

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But What's Wrong with “Same-Sex Marriage”?

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Fr. Joseph SsemakulaSame-sex marriages are common place to speak about. In this article I show that marriage is not an invention of human beings, but it is "copied" from what God does with all humanity. It is represented by the life of a couple, of a man and a woman who get married. It is key to understand that marriage can only be so because it mirrors God's marriage to us. God's marriage to humanity will be further specified by Jesus' marriage to His Church. Jesus is the bridegroom and we are His bride. If marriage then represents such realities, the importance of the male - female symbolism gets highlighted. And as God - husband marries Israel - wife, and Jesus -bridegroom marries the Church - bride, so a husband marries a wife, in order to represent the God-humanity marriage reality. And therefore, since a man marrying a man, or a woman marrying a woman, represents nothing of the marriage of God to His people, the place where marriage comes from, calling those relationships "marriages" is not only a misnomer, but also a non-sense, since they represent nothing.

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And so, what is it about "same-sex marriage" and our Christian faith and conscience? The problem with this same-sex "thing" is calling it "marriage". "Same-sex" cannot make "marriage", those two realities cannot go together. Call it whatever else you will, just don't call it marriage. It is often because we do not usually look at the whole picture that we are not able to see what is wrong with same-sex relationships. We only look at "whom they love". Therefore in order to understand this well, we shall try to explain it within the context of some other Church (Biblically) sanctioned relationships that we have in life.

Asking "the beginning question" here is important as it puts us, and keeps us, on track about what it is we should be looking at when dealing with this topic. And so, where does marriage begin? Where does it come from? And who defines marriage?

Marriage visibly began between Adam and Eve, but strictly speaking, it began between God and humanity. You will have to be patient here, we shall explain this step by step. God in His creation of humanity made men and women. And men and women in all cultures of the world, even the most primitive ones, have since time immemorial had elaborate procedures of getting into a household and living together - what we call marriage. Because marriage existed even before Christianity, and apparently men and women decided how they were going to get married and they did, many people today have a difficulty of seeing why this time around men and men, and women and women, should not decide to get married and do so too. But wait! It only appeared as if men and women decided on this on their own, but that was not the case. Their nature, given them by God, had naturally "set them up" for this. And God would eventually become clear on this.

After God reveals Himself to Abraham, He moves along with him and his descendants after him and eventually gets into a covenant relationship with the people of Israel on mount Sinai, and from then on He painstakingly and patiently begins to form a people for Himself out of them. He will promptly begin to send them prophets to remind them of what had happened at Sinai and to continue to nourish that relationship. And then something very interesting happened: with time, God began to speak to His people as if they altogether were His wife! He was the husband, and they were His wife, and He was often comparing them to an unfaithful wife, an adulterous wife! That is why you will read in many places in the OT many writings with descriptive sexual overtones to them, making them sound sexually explicit between a man and woman. But in reality they are most often used by the prophets to depict that relationship between God and His people Israel. That relationship was so intense that there was no known image in human terms to describe it apart from the marriage image.

But that was not all, God got very real. He at one time will command His prophet Hosea to go and marry a prostitute, Gomer, and take her for his wife (Hosea 1:). The poor prophet did so. And while he showered all his love upon her as God tells him to do, and while she bore him children, she did not stop going back to the streets because that was all the life she had known. And God wanted to use this very real life example of the prophet's marriage to show to all Israel what His own marriage to Israel was like, as time and again Israel strayed and went after the idol gods of the nations, abandoning its God, the only one who was everything for Israel. Remark here that even if we call this a depiction, an image, of God's (marriage) relationship to Israel, for the prophet Hosea that was not a trial marriage with a trial wife! That was his real marriage and his real wife! He married only once, and his wife was the prostitute. This showed how real the thing was between God and Israel, it wasn't just images: God was the faithful husband of Israel the adulterous wife. There wasn't any other thing on earth to describe more adequately the relationship between God and His people.

Then the time of the prophets of the OT expired and God now, at the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), decided to send His own Son Jesus who was going to be the final revelation of who God was.

It is then very interesting what happens in the life of Jesus when looked at from that perspective. To begin with, John the Baptist will call him the bridegroom (Jn 3:29) - but doesn't tell us who and where the bride is! Not only that, the very first appearance in public of Jesus according to one Gospel, of John, was at a wedding - therefore a joining of a husband and a wife - as if by chance. But then the big one comes, do you see how many times in Jesus' parables it is question of a wedding feast? Of all the parables of Jesus, it is the one with the image of a wedding feast that is used repeatedly, three times; Mt 22;, Mt 25:, and Lk 14. He uses all the other parable images only once for each. There was no mistake about it: Jesus had come to seal a relationship, a covenant relationship, a marriage relationship. And then, … He speaks of Himself as the bridegroom (Lk 9:15), did you see that?! Why? Because His father had always been the husband in the OT, now when He the Son who says "one who sees me sees the Father" (Jn 14:9) comes, He had to come as a bridegroom, because the Father He was coming to reveal was a husband.

Jesus could only have come as a man for that very reason, and He couldn't have been unisex to symbolize his coming for both men and women in the world, because the God who had set a precedent in revelation before Jesus came was a God -husband. Husbands are not unisex. But where was His (Jesus') wife this time? His wife was all of us, the new Israel, the people of the new covenant; the new people of God, we are all together the wife of Jesus who is our bridegroom. Did we say bridegroom? Then we are His bride. Have you heard those words before, something being the wife/bride of Christ? Yes, you have, when St Paul speaks about the Church (Eph 5:). But the book of Revelation 19:, and especially 21:, come out clearly with the image of the Church as the Bride of Christ. The Church is the new Israel, the new people of God, the people of the new covenant, and that Church is us!

From this you will understand in a very succinct way why the priest in the Catholic Church is a man, because he represents Christ who is a bridegroom to His Church the bride. The priest couldn't have possibly been a woman because then she would not be representing the bridegroom Christ, and even if we forced it a little bit and she did represent Him, then she would be representing Him to His Bride the Church; so it would be a woman - therefore a bride too - but a priest this time, marrying the Church-bride. Now, that would not work, unless we were talking again of a "same-sex marriage" between the priest-woman-bride and the Church-bride of Christ. In other words, the symbolism of the Christ-bridegroom who marries the Church-bride cannot seriously be carried by a priest-woman.

And by the way, the one who carries the fullness of the sacrament of ordination, the Bishop, in his full representation of Christ the high priest and the bridegroom, actually gets married to the Church at his episcopal ordination. At that time, not anymore as part of the Bride, the Church, but this time going from the side of Christ towards His Church. That's why Catholic bishops wear a ring, because of that marriage; it's not for personal taste. But of course at the same time the Bishops, (and the priests), being part of humanity remain part of the whole Bride of Christ the Church. They only execute a role toward the Church of which they are part at the same time.

But then you will understand why the Catholic priest also is called β€œFather”. It is because the Church is " Mother". If the priest could be "Mother" and being a priest representing Christ to His Church, which is another "Mother", you see the Mother married to "Mother" problem again? The Catholic priest being called "Father" is therefore not in defiance of Christ's words: "Call no one on earth your father; you have but one father in heaven, (Mt 23:9), and really it has nothing to do with those words of Christ. It is more exactly to do with his role as a representative of Christ to the Church, as bridegroom-husband, and therefore father, because the Mother - the Church, has children, us. And that's why too a priest will also call his fellow priest "Father", because while being "Father" himself, he remains part of the children of the Mother, the Church, whose "husband" (representative of Christ the bridegroom) the other priest also is. And what do you call the husband of your mother? This is just like we have seen about the Bishop above, being the "full" husband of the Church, (for the fullness of the priesthood in the Bishop), but while at the same time remaining part of the Church-bride.

What brings those slight complications is because in our human limitedness we only have so many words to use, we don't have infinite words, and yet we refer to infinite realities. So we end up coming full circle on quite a few words because we are out of words! That's why, for example, St Paul, despite the command of Christ: "Call no one on earth your father …", tells the Corinthians, " I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel (1Cor 4:15), because he had given birth to them in the faith. What do you want to call him if that's what he did to them? Human language calls also that "fatherhood". And therefore he was not defying Christ's command either.

The importance of all those explorations we have made is to show what other implications there are to the fact of Christ being a bridegroom for us the bride. It does not only touch the same-sex relationships, it touches a lot of our other human Christian relationships. And if we do not have all that context in mind around same-sex relationships we can hardly see what is wrong with them. The marriage of God to humanity, and eventually specifically to Israel, updated and brought forward to our time by the marriage of Christ to us His bride the Church, is the origin of marriage. It is fulfilled to its highest degree with Jesus's sacrifice on the Cross when Christ died for His bride the Church. One who says the word "marriage" of necessity evokes all this, knowingly or unknowingly, because marriage is not man-made, it is God-made and God patterned.

Here, and only here, do our human marriages come in. Men did not invent marriage, God did, and He did that not by ordaining it for humanity, but by doing it Himself with humanity. The marriage between man and woman here on earth is only a representation of that original marriage of God and humanity, of the marriage of Christ and the Church. That is where marriage comes from, it does not come from us, we are "sucked" up into it! That we may be constantly reminded of how committed God is to us, God so arranged that we down here would get married between men and women, such that as long as we look at each other married, we may remember the God who is married to all of us together. That is why marriage is also called a sacrament. A sacrament is a visible symbol of an invisible reality of grace. And the invisible reality symbolized is God's marriage to us. That is what human marriage here on earth is.

And since God from of old chose to be husband of Israel, and consequently Christ chose to be bridegroom of the Church, thus a man chooses to be a husband to his wife here on earth as a sign of God's big marriage to all humanity, and Christ's marriage to His Church. And because the human marriage is and can only be a representation of God's marriage to us, consequently a man cannot choose to be a husband to another husband because that doesn't represent anything, it is a sacrament of nothing; nor can a woman choose to be a wife to another wife, because that does not represent anything either, it is sacrament of nothing. That is why the word 'marriage" cannot be applied to same-sex couples, because it doesn't mean anything, it is a non-sense.

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