Preaching on the Unpreachable

A friend of mine from college, Father Robert Zwilling, stopped by our office recently to celebrate Mass in the Pro-Life Action League’s St. Joseph Chapel. Since then, I have had the good fortune to be able to read his Sunday homilies, which he sends to an e-mail list, along with a reflection, a “Catholic term of the week,” a bit of humor, and some suggestions for further reading on the topic(s) addressed in the homily. Last week, Father Robert preached on contraception. St. Dominic I was very impressed — first, simply by the fact that he preached on what many consider to be the unpreachable. (Unfortunately, it seems that a homily on contraception is about as rare as a Honus Wagner cigarette card.) Most people assume it’s foolish for a priest to preach against contraception: Most of the parishioners are using contraception themselves, so many of them will be offended, and they’ll stop coming to Mass — which means they’ll stop giving to the church. Or so the argument goes. Thankfully, there are still holy priests who care more about souls than money — priests who are serious about shepherding their flocks, and are courageous enough to proclaim the truth about human sexuality from the pulpit, knowing full well that many in their congregations may have never heard these teachings before. I especially liked Father Robert’s use of an analogy I’d never heard before to distinguish between contraception and NFP:

Now, Natural Family Planning is not Catholic contraception. I repeat, Natural Family Planning is not Catholic contraception. Let me give you an example: Suppose John and Mary are planning a wedding. They are sending out invitations and wonder if they should send an invitation to their good friend Jesus. Jesus has always been gone on the last 7 days of every month, and their wedding is at the end of the month. John and Mary, knowing Jesus is always gone at the end of the month, send him an invitation anyway because they would like Jesus to be there. This is Natural Family Planning, the invitation is there for God. But suppose John and Mary like Jesus, but they do not want him at their wedding. Now they know he is going to be gone when the wedding is scheduled, but just to make sure he does not accidentally show up by some fluke, they send him a note saying that under no circumstances is he to come to the wedding. This is artificial contraception; it sends a note saying NO to God.

Read the whole thing:

Sermon on Artificial Contraception and Natural Family Planning Given at St. Michael and St. Barbara Catholic Churches Sunday, October 22, 2006

I hope you realize that I love you, each and every one of you here present, every member of St. Michael (St. Barbara) Parish! By this I mean that every thought, word, deed, and prayer of mine is to God for you! From our time at this, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to the school yard, to the laughing we share when we meet one on one, I try to give you every good thing. Today, this is no less true. I give this sermon after much prayer, consultation, and preparation. I desire to give you the truth about your own person and the union of man and woman in Holy Matrimony. In charity and sensitivity, I am going to share with you the truth about artificial contraception and Natural Family Planning. I beg you to keep your ears and your hearts open, and listen to every word I am saying. There is nothing more devouring the human person, nothing more poisoning to Marriage, and nothing more damaging to creation today than artificial contraception, that is, birth control, or anything that artificially and purposely disrupts the Marriage act. And there is nothing more loving of the human person, strengthening of Marriage, and building up of the world today than Natural Family Planning. What do I mean? What am I talking about? Let me first say that the Marital Act is good, very good! God made it this way, and Church declares this. Marital relations were given to man and woman for them to become the one flesh person. The Marital embrace is the holy and sacred union where the human person comes from, where you and I came from. Marital relations are for bonding and babies and there is rightful joy and delight in that act. Whenever the Church gives us what we might call rules or do’s and don’t and points out sin, it is always doing this that we might not get hurt, that harm may not come to us or those whom we love. Parents, you know this, you tell your children to not run out into the street, wash your hands, don’t play with fire, eat your vegetables. You do this because you love your children and do not want harm to come to them. Children when you hear your parents tell you NO or to do something it very often because they love you and want the best for you. No truer is this than when it comes to the Catholic Church. Remember the Church is the BRIDE of Christ: St. Paul writes to the Ephesians (5:31-32) “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cling to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament; but I speak of Christ and the Church. So that when you hear the Church speaks in matters of faith and morals, Jesus Christ speaks, He gave His Church this authority when he said” St. Matthew records Jesus saying (16:18) “And I say to you: That you are Peter (remember Peter is the first Pope); and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Look at the third window on the north side of St. Michael) And the Catholic Church never says anything in the realm of faith and morals that Jesus Christ does not want her to say, the Holy Spirit guarantees this! So after almost every other Christian church abandoned their centuries long condemnation of contraception, after world governments repealed their laws against it, Pope Paul VI in 1968 moved by the Holy Spirit more clearly stated the Church’s 2000 year old teaching received from God (saying in the encyclical Humanae Vitae): Nonetheless the Church, ((calling men back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as interpreted by their constant doctrine,)) teaches that each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life [12]. That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. (Humanae Vitae 11-12) “Each and ever Marriage Act must remain open to the transmission of human life.” This is what the Church has taught for 2000 years and cannot change. Why? Because this is how we have been made and designed by God. Remember that there are 3 for Marriage: man, woman, and God. Man and Woman cooperate in creating the physical body and God instantly creates the human soul completing the human person. Artificial contraception (birth control) keeps God out of the Marital act. Artificial contraception says, ‘I love you, except for that part of you which helps to bring our children into the world.’ Isn’t true love supposed to be giving oneself totally to the other? Artificial contraception says something is wrong with the woman that needs to be corrected by a medication. Pills are usually given for illness, while ‘the pill’ disturbs a state of health in a woman. Artificial contraception says children are inconvenient, and if one is determined to not receive a child, the final contraceptive: abortion, is horribly invoked. Use of artificial contraception says and does all this, even if its users do not mean it to say this. Your actions are speaking and bringing about this reality even if you not intending it. Like a person stealing money from a poor person. Thief just wanted some quick money, but they took all that the poor had to live on. Have you ever looked at the word ‘contraception’ closely. contra- means “against” or “opposing” as in the words contradiction or contrary -conception means “receiving life” as in the Immaculate Conception, the conceiving of the Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne Thus, contraception literally means ‘against receiving life.’ Contraception literally means ‘against receiving life.’ You might even say that little by little contraception is love-killing and life-killing. There is a darker side to contraception. Many contraceptives are what are called an abortifacient. That is, not only do they stop conception, if they fail at this they also will try to cause an abortion of the newly conceived person in the womb of the mother. You don’t hear this from drug companies, and rarely from doctors. Remember many in this world will give people what they want sometimes regardless if it is good for them or not. It is hard to say no to little Joey or Amy when they want something that is bad for them, how harder is to say no to the adult Joey or Amy. Please understand what the Church is lovingly teaching. She is NOT saying that Catholic couples are to have as many children as they possibly can. She is NOT saying that they are to raise more kids than they can care for. The Church is NOT saying that a woman should bear children even to the detriment of her health. The Church is NOT saying these things. She IS saying, “Let God be in every marital act, let every act be a renewal of your wedding vows, trust and work with God to receive children lovingly. There may be very good reasons to postpone pregnancy. Perhaps a family cannot care for another child at this time. Perhaps the mother’s health may be at serious risk if she becomes pregnant. Jesus Christ, through His spouse, the Church, is simply asking men and women to work with the way they were made. Doing this is called Natural Family Planning or NFP for short. Now, Natural Family Planning is NOT the rhythm method. Again, Natural Family Planning is NOT the rhythm method, which was based upon a calendar system and used in previous generations. NFP looks at the way God made man and woman and using learned modern scientific observation tells a couple when to abstain from Marital relations to avoid a fertile time OR pinpoints a fertile time for couples trying to conceive a child. Natural Family Planning respects the bodies of the spouses, encourages tenderness between them, and help couples to recognize children as the miracle that they are. It assists couples to self-mastery and increases communication between them. Instead of acting like a woman is ill and giving her something that is artificial, Natural Family Planning honors the person of a woman and works with her naturally to achieve or avoid pregnancy. Now, Natural Family Planning is not Catholic contraception. I repeat, Natural Family Planning is not Catholic contraception. Let me give you an example: Suppose John and Mary are planning a wedding. They are sending out invitations and wonder if they should send an invitation to their good friend Jesus. Jesus has always been gone on the last 7 days of every month, and their wedding is at the end of the month. John and Mary, knowing Jesus is always gone at the end of the month, send him an invitation anyway because they would like Jesus to be there. This is Natural Family Planning, the invitation is there for God. But suppose John and Mary like Jesus, but they do not want him at their wedding. Now they know he is going to be gone when the wedding is scheduled, but just to make sure he does not accidentally show up by some fluke, they send him a note saying that under no circumstances is he to come to the wedding. This is artificial contraception; it sends a note saying NO to God. Here are some more connections: The promoters of artificial contraception said that divorce, abortion, and that child abuse and abuse of woman would decrease with its use, and at the time their reasons seemed to have some merit. But as time has gone on this has not happened. In fact, all of these have significantly increased in proportion to the distribution and use of artificial contraception. Why? Because artificial contraception keeps God out of Marriage, separates man and woman from bonding, and calls babies a liability. Current statistics show that about 1000 women a year die from the effects of artificial contraception, and many others have infertility become a constant reality in their body even after the use of artificial contraception is stopped. Natural Family planning can be more effective than the best artificial contraception. One statistic for your consideration from a study done by Dr. Ellen Grant, MD and the Couple to Couple League in 1994, which has been repeated: Divorce rate among users of artificial contraception: over 50% Divorce rate among users of Natural Family Planning: 1-3% I tell you solemnly and truthfully and I personally believe it with every fiber of my being, that the evil, the decay of morals, the hatred, the violence, and the sin in the world today has at its root, this contraceptive mentality, manifested in our day and age, as artificial contraception. NOW, I am not saying all of this to judge or condemn anyone. I AM saying this to reach out to any who may have never heard this before or may not even know about this. As I said, I am saying this because I love each and every one of you. And no one is exempt from the effects of artificial contraception. I am giving you the truth and Good News preached by Jesus Christ because God wants you to have life to the fullest. I am giving you this so that you might better be able to love God, those around you, and yourselves all the more. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? First, PRAY, pray, Pray, PRAY. We talked about this the last two weeks. Pray about doubt, pray for understanding, pray for strength. Your prayer and mine must always be the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where he sweated blood praying, “not my will, Father, but your will be done.” The next step for every one of us is to become convinced of the truth of what I have spoken to you today. To this end, a talk from a Married couple has been stapled to the bulletin. At the back of Church are CD’s with talks from men and woman and a booklet on Natural Family Planning. There are also more resources in these materials. This has parental content and is meant for the mature. So please treat it accordingly. Next, pray and talk with others prudently. The devil has masked and twisted this truth well inside and outside the Church. Also, this is a very sensitive matter for some and very volatile for others, even perhaps for some here. Talk to Jesus about this in prayer. Remember as St. Paul said to us this morning, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” Talk to couples or individuals you trust. I will try to make a list available of pro-life doctors who are willing to talk. I too, of course, am willing to talk to any individuals or couples. After this, change will be needed as it is needed in all our encounters with Jesus Christ. He loves us too much to leave us as we are, as you love your children so much that you teach them to be good and help them to become adults. Remember He says to us at every Mass, {{hands together}}“THIS IS MY BODY WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU!” So we will need changes from what we say or do, how we view the world and our American culture, the way we as individuals, couples, and families live our lives. Couples who use artificial contraception are not bad people, but the use of artificial contraception is a destructive practice. And whoever hears this truth, Jesus Christ is calling to change, and He will give the grace and strength to do so if they come to Him. Remember also, Jesus said to us in today’s Gospel, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If God does this for us, should we not do this for others, beginning with our spouses and children. I promise you if you do this, you will never be the same, and even more so you will encounter God, life, and love as you never thought possible. I want to end with a true story. A woman by the name of Ethel after many children and at the age of 38, gave birth to a son, who she called Marvin, in 1974. After Marvin’s delivery, the doctor came to Ethel’s room where her husband, Herman, was with her. The doctor offered to prescribe artificial contraception for her because of her age and how many children she had had. Herman and Ethel knowing the Church’s teaching and having always tried to cooperate with God in their Marriage, declined the doctor’s offer. In 1978, Herman and Ethel received with joy their eleventh child, whom they named Robert. Had they taken the doctor’s advice, the priest you know as Father Robert Zwilling may not be with you today!

If you would like to receive Father Robert’s weekly e-newsletter, please contact him at: [email protected]

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