The English mystic George MacDonald (†1905) said “The one principle of Hell is: ‘I am my own’” and one can easily understand how that principle is at work in the world we live in today. The more this world resembles Hell, the less hope there is for men and women as the world dives into darkness. Homosexual unions and divorce are now almost universally accepted and legalized. Each one carries its own loss of hope. Once we were men and women who had the spine to love someone forever. We were great enough to believe the words of Solomon: “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death.” Song of Solomon 8:6.
The hope of natural offspring is absent in homosexual unions, the hope of forever is subtly undermined by divorce. Unwittingly the world is eliminating hope from human life in many ways, as men and women search for unlimited individual freedom. It is not hard to see how all of that leads to the gates of Hell. “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” reads the sign. In reality all hope is lost here on earth, a hopeless life is a personal choice of those who want to completely own themselves.
Today’s reading of the Gospel touches a few related points:
“And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14.
Weddings are a common figure in Scripture. In the Old Testament God compares Israel to a spouse, in the New Testament the Church is often described as the bride of Christ. In fact the Christian idea of history is one of a gradual approaching of mankind to a more complete union with God. We were made to be with Him in the beginning but we strayed away from Him yet He rescued us, and now we are moving forward to the moment when we will regain our lost perfect union with God. Holy Scripture presents weddings in different ways to educate us about preparing ourselves for that union. The parable of the wise and the foolish virgins expecting the groom, the wedding of the Lamb in the Apocalypse of St John, etc. It is so important to learn this that Jesus chose to begin His ministry on earth at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. A wedding is a joyous giving of two souls “One has to learn to be like Adam and Eve in the beginning…the whole inventory of the soul open to the other’s inspection and possession. One has to strive to exist for the benefit of the other without using, without manipulating a single thing, always giving.” Those invited to a wedding are witnesses of a mutual expression of love and hope.
But the parable we read today also touches on the duties of the invited and it carries its own eschatological warning: one cannot fail to attend or show up improperly attired without suffering the consequences. One can see clearly that this parable represents God inviting humankind to enjoy life in sacramental union with Him. William Congreve may have given us an indication when he wrote:
“Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d
Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.”
The love of God is well represented in our parable and so is God’s rage at the criminal scorn of those who refuse His invitation. Even in the more gentle parable of the Prodigal Son, the father uses a strong phrase to invite his returning son to enter the paternal home: compelle intrare, compel him to come in. God does not tarry when it comes to saving souls. Whoever does not accept the invitation is rejecting life itself, the love of God for His creatures moves Him to waste no time in useless niceties. The parable teaches us that God has invited us to a wedding and we must attend if we hope to live. The other option is the loss of all hope in the darkness outside the love of God
With all of that in mind we enter the week of the Synod of the Family taking place in Rome under the guidance of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document of the Synod.
I have heard from the upper echelons of the Church that the Synod “is not going to change the teaching of the Church.” It seems to me that is an attempt by certain parties not to reaffirm the teaching of the Church but to put it aside so that some other things can be considered.
What I can gather from the document is that there are some among the faithful, the divorced, the practicing homosexuals, and others who suffer a sort of painful exclusion from the life of the Church (Holy Communion, Sacramental Absolution, etc.) Then, based on the idea of mercy, there are those with authority in the Church who want a kind of aggiornamento of certain practices so those suffering the consequences of their own choices can feel more included in the sacramental life of the Church.
Implicit in the document there are two principles that we must examine. One has to do with the facts of life and Divine Revelation. The Church always affirmed the error of trying to adapt the divinely revealed principles to the moral ways of the world. We believe God is outside circumstance and so historical changes cannot affect the nature of divine revelation. Being more specific: God cannot learn to like or tolerate divorce or homosexuality because they are now common in our age. But for the Modernist heresy the realities of the world determine how to interpret Divine Revelation. For them it is not the Word of God what judges man but it is man who judges the Word of God. “Times have changed” they say, “and we must adapt!”
That kind of thinking negates the existence of immutable truths (the essence of Divine Revelation) and I would not be surprised if a convention of mathematicians espousing those principles would vote to approve 2+2=“anything you want” as a necessary adaptation that will mercifully make math geniuses of all school children, avoiding thus the unmerciful practice of grading.
Compare all that to the words of Jesus Christ: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35. Well, if the words of Christ are true … are the members of this Synod powerful enough to change them?
Pope John XXIII, said that the Church had to “open the windows to let in some fresh air.” And so the Church ended up letting some of the ideas of the world come in. That change led us to the stormy seas we are navigating today.
If I remember well it was St James who wrote: “Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4
John XXIII discouraged the denouncing and correction of errors. That seems to be in opposition of the first letter of St Peter: “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. Well, was it worth paying attention to St Peter and try to weed out the errors instead of ignoring them? Look around you and see if St Peter was not right.
St Paul’s counsel to Timothy: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings” 2Timothy 4:3. I am sure we can all relate to that, can’t we?
To solve the problems of mankind we have to identify their root causes. We know those causes are of supernatural origin. Supernatural problems require supernatural solutions. We have been invited to enter in union with the supernatural, with God Himself creator of both the natural and the supernatural. If we reject the invitation we remain alone before problems that overwhelm not only our puny intelligence but also our very nature. That would not be a wise decision even if a million bishops vote for it.
Abandon all hope those who enter Hell. Embrace all hope those who accept God’s invitation to Heaven.