I’ve heard the complaint that people want the Church to stay out of their bedrooms. The truth of human sexuality is not something people want to be bothered with when it comes face-to-face with their ordinary, everyday lives. Contraception, IVF, sterilization, surrogacy, and a host of other ethical problems are not what people want from the Church. It is almost as if they were to say, “Just give us the church service and leave the rest of my life to me.”
In which case, I am compelled to ask, “What exactly did you think the Church was?”
Rather than overbearing, the Church desires to guide us in every aspect of our lives because God cares about every aspect of our lives. Jesus is Lord over all, even the parts of our life we struggle to give to Him. Especially those parts.
The “Catholic world” has a lot more to it than churches. It’s also a world of libraries and bedrooms, mountains and the seaside, galleries and sports fields, concerts halls and monastic cells–places where we get glimpses and hints of the extraordinary that lies just on the far side of the ordinary…
(Letters to a Young Catholic, George Weigel)
The Church isn’t trying to artificially insert itself into the different facets of life. As the Bride of Christ, she seeks to be where Christ wants to be, which is everywhere. It could be easy to convince ourselves that Jesus doesn’t care much about business ethics or our literary choices or who shares our bed. We can separate those from that hour on Sunday as if Jesus can only see what happens in “His house.” Jesus, however, wants to be involved in our work, leisure, relationships, and daily habits because He wants to transform those areas into means of sanctification.
We want to give Jesus the areas of our life that are easy to surrender. Jesus wants the areas of life that we struggle to admit aren’t flawless. He wants them, flaws and all. When He spoke about taking up our cross and following Him, it wasn’t simply the cross of getting up Sunday morning and making our way to Mass. It was about allowing Him into every part of our lives–our thoughts, our dreams, our free time, our business practices, our interactions with other people, and, yes, our sexuality.
The Church is the Body of Christ and we are members of that Body. If one part is ill, we need to tend to it, for the sake of that part, but also for the sake of the whole. As members of the Church, we should embrace the fact that the Church desires wholeness and healing for all. Whereas most of us would be willing to accept medical attention when we are ill, we are often quick to refuse spiritual attention when our souls aren’t healthy. We become defensive if there is any indication that we are falling short of what God wants.
But the truth is so often we do fall short.
Instead of a jailer, the Church desires to gently correct us and lead us to the path we are to follow. And if that seems difficult to imagine or believe in the midst of our indignation, we should consider how people responded to Jesus.
Large crowds gathered, certainly. But sometimes people wanted to drive Him out of town or off a cliff. It is because He challenged them and called them to something to which they could only aspire by the grace of God. When the old Law said don’t murder, Jesus said we should not even speak angrily to others. When the old Law said don’t commit adultery, Jesus said don’t look at another person with lust.
These controversial words sparked anger and hated in the hearts of some who listened. It should not surprise us that the path the Church calls us to follow also provokes the same response at times. An angry heart, however, does not make the truth less true.
Christ did not come and reject the material world. Instead, He came and He sought to sanctify this world. He encounters us in our lives; He seeks after us. It should not surprise us that He means to make Himself known in every facet of our lives. From the bedroom to the boardroom, Christ is Lord over all. And His Bride is there, too, providing wisdom in moments of difficulty. If that concerns us, we should spend some time reflecting on why it does.
Each rule is provided out of love. How is the Lord seeking to reveal His love in the midst of difficult teachings?