In His Providence, God has a wonderful sense of humor.
Last Friday, as I’m sure you know, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the U.S. Consitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The opinion is quite remarkable in a number of ways from a purely legal standpoint. There really are no limiting factors – the number “two” is mentioned regarding the number of adults in a marriage but as dicta, that is, noncontrolling legal discussion; religious objectors are told they’re fine to disagree with the ruling, but nothing more. From a legal standpoint, its not clear what sort of ramifications Obergefell will have, but they will be far-reaching.
Similarly remarkable was rate at which further action was offered by supporters of redefining marriage – Justice Alito already questioned the implications to religious schools in the April oral arguments, but a New York Times‘ writer opined in Time that now is the time to end tax exempt status for religious institutions. Not so much because religious organizations are bigoted, but because the ending tax exempt status would generate new revenue which the Federal government could use to take over the charitable works and services religious organizations do so well, and do it better. After all, “countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.”
Next came the more technical, legal suggestion from the ALCU, which explained why it no longer supports the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Essentially, the exercise of religion may infringe upon someone’s new-found Constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex, therefore, “it’s time for Congress to amend the RFRA so that it cannot be used as a defense for [practicing your religion].” Then came the calls for the right to truly marry who ever I want…be it one or two or four people.
By the time I came to work on Monday I was not expecting to be lectured and mocked by coworkers telling me Obergefell ins’t hurting me, so why should I have any concerns? By that time, one could hang his head in despair…or find hope. Enter God’s humor.
Monday was the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. I think I’m frustrated, or I have major concerns… what about those two? They were hung on a cross and beheaded. I don’t have it that bad, take courage and look to them for inspiration!
As if to hammer home the point, Tuesday came and with it, the Church celebrated the feast of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Tacitus said that “mockery of every sort accompanied their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished or were nailed to crosses, or were nightly illumination” in Nero’s gardens. Pope Clement said they set “the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures.” Again, we’re not there (yet) and should we ever find ourselves in that position, we’re in good company and many more have gone before us.
By that point, I could only laugh at the first reading at Mass – the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sorry, I thought the Providential timing of that reading was really funny.
At Mass on Sunday our pastor gave a great homily where he highlighted that this moment in time is an opportunity for Christians to live out the Eighth Beatitude, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22). I couldn’t believe i was being mocked already a day into the week on account of something that didn’t seem very controversial last week (at least among my office co-workers). But Peter, Paul and the First Martyrs expected it and have received their reward for it…and it wasn’t really that bad for me.
May we have the strength to endure whatever is to come, in the both the short and and long term, knowing many others have suffered and will suffer worse than us, and may we do so with joy! It is our prophetic moment to witness to Truth that neither a State nor a Court can proclaim, and Who will outlast them both.
A blessed 4th of July to you all!