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Reflections on Life

Guest editorials, commentary, etc.

The LORD Is Our Shepherd in Natural Family Planning

Homily by Father Paul C.B. Schenck
July 22, 2012: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Jeremiah 23:1-6; 2 Ephesians 2:13-18; Gospel of Mark 6:30-34
Responsorial Psalm: 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6


Today the prophet warns:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.

The tone of the prophet is displeasure and disapproval. This was obviously not God’s original plan. God wanted the sheep, the people, brought together. He wanted wanderers to be returned to the fold, he wanted those left alone to be reunited with others who cared for them. He wanted the shepherds to bring them together and reassure them. But they were scattered and driven away.

How is it that the Good Shepherd brings the people of God together? How does He do it?

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The better translation is: I shall lack nothing.

Today we “want” everything. This is not what the Psalmist means. The Psalmist means that the Good Shepherd provides what the sheep, His people, actually need. Not what they think they need. Not what they “want.” He provides what they lack

What do they need? They need identity, meaning and purpose. They need to know who they are, what their lives, their existence means, and what their purpose is.

Saint Paul tells us today that God’s purpose in creating us and calling us in Christ is: that He might create in Himself one new person in place of the two.

Today we begin Natural Family Planning week in the Church. I can hear you saying, “Oh, oh… here comes ‘the talk.’”

But, what is Natural Family Planning? It’s realizing the totality, the fullness, the completeness of human life, which begins with woman and man sealing their married love with a generous personal embrace of life – two persons committed to one another in such a way that they become “one” and welcome, with open hearts and lives, the gift of their children.

I hear you saying: “Whoa! Whoa! Time out! Time out!

“If we were ‘open’ every time – we’d have a barrel full of monkeys!”

Aha! The Church teaches, and the popes have affirmed, that sometimes the responsible thing to do is to space your children – to be fair and just and provide the best care. Not so that you can get what you want, but so that you can provide what your children need.

To make that possible, without violating the Law of Love, the Church teaches Natural Family Planning. This is a way that husbands and wives, lovers of God, each other and their children, can respect each other’s “nature”; that is, who God created them to be – and yet plan their families so that each can receive what they need, so they will lack nothing.

This is a very important principle, something every couple should learn – even those past child bearing years – that the Church urges couples to responsibly plan their families by spacing their children – but to do so in a way that honors who they are, respects each other, obeys God and welcomes their children.

Today’s Gospel tells us:
When [Jesus] disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Natural Family Planning shows us how to avoid putting chemicals and devices between ourselves and God, between our love for each other as spouses, and between us as parents and our children. It also helps us to understand ourselves and each other, especially our significant other, our spouse and our children.

Let’s not do as the prophet warns: drive each other away. Rather, let’s draw ourselves together – with God, with our families, with the Church.

As we celebrate the gift of God’s love and of life and as we welcome with open arms all of God’s sheep, we ought to renew our vows to God, to each other and to our children and our children’s children; so that the Lord is our Shepherd, and we shall lack nothing.

+ Amen.

Note: The second icon depicts Saints Anne and Joachim, examples of faithful matrimony, parents of Blessed Mother Mary and grandparents of Jesus Christ. Their feast day is July 26. The icon above is a close-up from “The Meeting at the Golden Gate” by Giotto di Bondone.