U.S. bishop encourages married couples to be open to life, reject contraception
TYLER, Texas, June 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, included a powerful message about the truth of God’s plan for human life in his homily Sunday on the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
We need God in every aspect of married life, he said, in the marital act and beyond, and that means being open to the gift of life.
Coupling the sacrifice that John the Baptist made for marriage with the perennial and prophetic teaching of Humanae Vitae in the lead-up to the document’s 50th anniversary, Bishop Strickland effectively articulated God’s call for chaste love and repentance when it’s not achieved.
Catholics who are contracepting must refrain from presenting themselves for Holy Communion, he said as well, until they align their lives to God’s plan.
“God’s mercy is always with us,” Bishop Strickland said, “but His mercy calls us away from falsehood and to embrace the truth however challenging it is for all of us to live chaste lives.”
St. John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, are ancient models for modern couples, the bishop said, because they listened to the voice of the Lord and not the world with regard to their marriage and their son.
“The world told Zechariah and Elizabeth they were crazy for doing God’s will in their marriage,” he said. “Sadly, the world today, much like the world of Zechariah and Elizabeth, tells Catholics they are crazy for doing God’s will in their marriage.”
Observing God’s Commandments in every aspect of married life is difficult and challenging, the bishop said, but it bears beautiful fruit.
When people ask why God must be part of the marriage act, they’ve unknowingly touched on the very heart of the issue, he added.
“It’s not that God needs to be part merely of the marriage embrace,” Bishop Strickland said. “Rather, God needs to be part of your whole marriage, 24/7.”
“You need God in your married life,” he said. “The marriage embrace is only a part of your life together as husband and wife. God is present and desires to lift up all aspects of your married life. And to many couples, He is shut out of their most intimate moments.”
Today, many people acknowledge that God should be in the marriage, he added, but they still close the door on the most important moments of their life together.
The marriage embrace uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy also renders them capable of generating new life, of participating with God in his creation, said Bishop Strickland. “How beautiful that is.”
He then detailed how artificial contraception impedes God’s plan for life.
“A marital act which intentionally impairs the capacity to transmit life frustrates God’s holy design and beautiful plan,” the Texas bishop said.
Quoting Pope Paul VI’s groundbreaking document, promulgated July 25, 1968, Strickland shared how any action taken during sexual intercourse to prevent procreation is intrinsically wrong and immoral.
“Those are challenging words the world heard 50 years ago,” he said, “but they bring a beauty of what God desires to us for every married couple to every person.”
In the 50 years since Humanae Vitae was first issued, a long list of artificial contraception methods have been developed, the bishop explained, acknowledging that the Church has not done well in teaching Catholics about the corresponding evil with contraception.
“I must say they are all intrinsically evil and wrong and gravely sinful,” stated Strickland. “I’m well aware that the Church has failed to effectively teach this truth and as your bishop I’m committed to sharing this beautiful teaching for the world today.”
He expressed hope for Catholics to learn more about the beautiful truth the Church teaches and embrace it with open hearts.
“This is God’s plan for all humanity,” said Bishop Strickland. “As Catholics, we can lead the world in believing that we are guided by God’s revealed truth, the truth that bread and wine become the body and blood of the Son of God at this altar, and so many other doctrines and dogmas that are important for us to flourish in God’s plan.”
The bishop was then forthright about the need for Catholics using contraception to recognize and examine this sinful act, to repent and forgo receiving Communion until they do so.
“Catholic couples who continue to use the methods of artificial contraception need to examine their hearts and recognize that this is sinful,” he said. “They should not receive Holy Communion without going to Confession and until they discontinue the use of artificial contraception.”
The Church considers it responsible for couples to refrain the marital embrace when necessary through the means of Natural Family Planning, the bishop said, but they must do this while always ultimately seeking the will of God and embracing the children that God brings them as the greatest gift and the fruit of their love and the marriage.
“When making the decision to refrain because they find it necessary, there is a painful sting to this,” he noted. “It’s called a sacrifice. And they can offer this as the bread and wine are brought to the altar of sacrifice.”
Catholics can join this and all sacrifices to the bread and wine as it comes to the altar at Mass, said Bishop Strickland, the bread and wine then becoming the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, God’s divine Son.
“This supernatural truth is what nurtures us from the heart of our Catholic faith,” he said, “And we must proclaim it to the world.”
All Catholics are called to live a life of Christian purity, he said, included him as a celibate priest, and all unmarried people.
“We all live in a world where this is difficult, where continence and chastity is scoffed at,” stated Bishop Strickland. “But we know what God has revealed and we joyfully embrace that challenge.”
“Living Christian marriage is hard. It’s painful,” he acknowledged. “There are many sacrifices, but we know that really living Christ’s way is to take up our cross and follow Him, and to see that cross blossom into a staff of new life and hope.”
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His Passion and suffering is wondrously powerful, the bishop said, and called for Catholics to tap into that power for their lives.
“Human Life — Humanae vitae — is our most sacred and precious gift,” Bishop Strickland concluded. “Let us pray, brothers and sisters, that we might cooperate with God’s grace facing the cross facing the challenges and joyfully embracing His call of life.”