Sunday, July 20, 2014

Less Corn, More Wheat

After Mass today, a fellow stopped to ask me, "Do you know where I can get any good tomatoes?"

   Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time   A  

As I was struggling into the night on this homily—
not so much on what I wanted to say,
but on how I ought to say it—
I came across a blog post that cleared things up…
…and from which I’m going to borrow heavily.
It was entitled, 
(That’s certainly a name which gets your attention!)
It was written by Daniel Bearman—
a heavily bearded, seriously tattooed guy from the deep south
who married his high school sweetheart,
with her converted to Catholicism,
and is now the proud father of three very young children.
(That’s not your typical profile, either!)

He starts with the tomatoes.
I can no longer eat that little tomato wedge
that comes with side salads at restaurants.
You know, the little half moon
that sits to the right of the iceberg mix
with the texture of styrofoam
and a taste vaguely reminiscent of watery ketchup.
I used to be able to eat them
but then I had a real, fresh tomato
with soft, meaty flesh and vibrant tomato flavor.
Now, I could never go back to the stale and bland tomatoes
shipped across the country in midwinter.

Daniel goes on to say this is a hard thing to explain
in American’s current food culture.
Sure, most folks prefer better tasting food,
but our real priority is getting what we want,
getting it now, and getting it cheap.
The thought of waiting or paying more is simply absurd.
He calls this our “high fructose corn syrup culture.”
We plant millions of acres of corn every year in this countryin order to produce a sweetener that’s basically tasteless but cheap—
making it perfect to dump into just about everything.
The sad paradox is that,
despite a nearly infinite variety of food-like products
and so much land devoted to agriculture,
many American are obese, but not getting the nutrients they need;
they’re dying of heart disease and suffering from diabetes;
such abundance, and yet our children are malnourished.

Sadly, Daniel continues, this paradox of empty excess
is not unique to our eating habits.
Our culture is also sick because we think of sex in the same way.…
Because we’ve started treating sex the same way
we treat high fructose corn syrup.

The “sexual revolution” made us empty promises:
“Everybody can have sex whenever they want it,
with whomever they want it! 
Sex is easy!  Sex is cheap!  Sex is good for you!”
In the process, sex was reduced to its physical thrill—
as if pleasure were its only real purpose.
But such pleasure is fleeting.
So the solution must be to have sex more often.
Or to keep changing things up.
That’s why pornography
has gotten increasingly common and depraved,
why the supermarket checkout line
advertizes so many hot tips for the bedroom.
A constant diet of sex,
and yet we’re still malnourished, still unsatisfied.

How?  Why?
Because there’s supposed to be more!
Sex isn’t just about sexual gratification.
And where did Daniel and his wife learn this?
From—of all sources—the Catholic Church.
They learned it through Natural Family Planning.

First, the Church taught them that sex unites.
[O]ur “sex life”—Daniel writes
isn’t just some detachable part of our life
like a career or exercise routine.
Sex is an integrated part of our life connected to our marriage
and continuing commitment to each other.
When my wife and I make love
(a wonderful expression which hardly describes
our culture’s approach to sex),
I’m not just trying to satisfy my own sexual desires
and I’m not even trying JUST to satisfy hers.
I’m uniting with her physically
as I’ve already united with her
emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Sex is not an isolated act but, in a way,
an extension of the thousands of hours
we’ve spent talking and laughing together;
trying to take care of each other;
and sharing everything from meals to joys and fears.
Sex is one of the many ways in which we become “one flesh”
and our enjoyment is exponentially greater as a result.

And second, the Church taught them that sex creates.
[W]e aren’t actively trying to get pregnant every time, of course.
But we’re open to the possibility.
And part of the richness of that openness is present
right in the next room where our children are sleeping.
And another part exists in our hearts
where we keep our desire to have, God willing,
more wonderful children.…
The pleasure is compounded because,
I am not just making love to a beautiful woman;
my beautiful lover is also my selfless wife
and the wonderful mother to my children.
This is also why our satisfaction is longer lasting.
Because we don’t just take pleasure from each other and pull apart.
We give ourselves to each other in a way that lasts…

Daniel concludes:
All of this is difficult to explain
to a high fructose corn syrup culture.
“You mean you have to WAIT sometimes?
You can’t just have [sex] whenever?”
Well, yes, we do have to wait sometimes.…
When I have to wait I begin to crave,
not just sexual release but, intimacy with my wife.
This doesn’t push us away from each other;
it draws us closer.
Waiting, if we let it, can strengthen our marriage.

Our culture gives us corn syrup;
sex that is easy and cheap,
that you can have whenever you want
but will ultimately leave you unsatisfied and sick.
Soon this sex is like a January tomato, tasteless and stale.
The teachings of the Church on sex, by contrast,
are meant to give us nourishment and vibrancy,
a fuller picture of this beautiful gift from God
that will satisfy not only our sexual desires
but many of our deeper desires as well.

I’ve let Daniel Bearman say all this
because I couldn’t have said it any better myself—
and it so desperately needs to be said.

Today, the U.S. Catholic Church
It’s always timed to coincide with the anniversary
of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical 
Humane Vitae, on the regulation of birth,
issued July 25, 1968.
For more than 40 years, the Pope’s words
on why sex, marriage, and procreation always belong together
have been widely mocked
and largely ignored by Catholics as “out of touch.”
In that letter, the Pope warned
that if the widespread use of contraceptives was accepted,
there would be:
            (1) a rise in infidelity and general lowering of moral standards;
            (2) a reduction of women to objects for men’s sexual satisfaction;
            (3) government coercion in reproductive matters.
Sadly, that should all sound familiar enough
that I don’t need to cite the supporting statistics.
Although few want to admit it, the Pope was exactly right.
For 40 years, in the field of human sexuality,
we've seen the weeds gradually choking out the wheat:
we've seen the enemy's work growing;
we have watched God’s plan slowly subverted.

Are we satisfied eating these hothouse tomatoes?
Haven’t we suffered enough
from a diet of corn syrup?

Many Catholics have hastily rejected the Church’s teachings on sex
based on someone else’s opinion,
but without ever seriously looking into them for themselves.
Given the track record I’ve just cited,
don’t you think they at least deserve an honest look?
Read Bishop LaValley’s letter in this Sunday’s bulletin.
Help yourself to some of the NFP materials
available in church this morning.
Look into resources online—
they’ve never been more easily accessible.
Above all, keep God in this conversation.
After all, sex was his idea! 
God knows a thing or two about it.

The Lord is tremendously patient 
in waiting on our repentance,
but we must not presume on his mercy.
After all, the time for harvest—
the Day of Judgment—must come.
No aspect of our human lives is beyond the reach
of the good seed of the Kingdom of Heaven.
So let's plant less corn and grow more wheat!


Unknown said...

What a powerful homily, and one that is so needed in our Church. Even better is when couples begin to realize how much better God's plans are for us than our own. I've found that many who start out using NFP are able to take that leap. I've found that God has given us absolutely no more than we can handle. It is also a huge blessing to those couples who have had trouble having children.

Anonymous said...

Very beautifully done Father. It wasn't so much about sex to me as the corn syrup of superficiality that so many Catholic settle for. The little apple wedge of sin that puts feeling friendly way above speaking words of truth. People wanting to be liked won't take a worthy risk and call people on being phony. The average Catholic believes they are saved because they go to church and take Communion. But that's more a Protestant thing, believing they are saved by merely saying they believe. All humans have the Holy Spirit guiding them whether they want it or not. Life is about a choice. A choice to accept that guidance or walk away into the dark.