Last week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. The major problem of concern to many at the time was global overpopulation and the scarcity of natural resources. The many man-made solutions that were being proffered to solve the problem included artificial contraceptives, abortion, and sterilization. Everyone expected the Catholic Church to follow suit and adopt such measures after many Christian denominations had joined the bandwagon of those who had made artificial contraceptives morally right.
Paul VI shocked the world when he gave in this document God’s solution to the challenging situation in marriage and family life. In the divine solution, married love was to be fully human, involving free will, mind, body and soul. It was also to be total, a complete and mutual gift of self between the man and woman in marriage, and a sharing in the pleasures and responsibilities of married love. Married love was to be faithful and exclusive until death and open to the gift of new life. In short, there was no place for artificial contraceptive in God’s plan for marriage and family life.
The Pope and the Catholic Church were mocked for this teaching in the face of the sexual revolution of the time. Dissident Catholic theologians boldly rejected and resisted this teaching, strongly arguing for the Church to adopt the widely accepted man-made solutions that by and large dismiss the dignity of the human person, the lofty vocation of married spouses to participate in the creative plan of God, the sacredness of the conjugal love, the power of divine grace for self-control, etc.
Fifty years later, having experienced the consequences of ignoring his words, we have come to realize the prophetic nature of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. The world has experienced all the evils and more that this Pontiff’s document warned us would be the consequences of artificial contraception. We are seeing the marital infidelity and the decline of moral standards that Humanae Vitae warned us about. We are experiencing the lack of respect for women, their dignity and their health and the forced use of contraceptives by governments and public authorities.
What is the lesson from this little history surrounding Humanae Vitae? First of all, purely man-made solutions do not work, they do not endure, and they do not leave us satisfied. Secondly, there is a God-given solution to every problem in this world. Thirdly, God has the power and desire to solve these problems but He wants to do so through those who know and love Him enough to listen to His own solution, trust Him and act on His words. In short, He is looking for those like Pope Paul VI who would mediate His own solution to the world’s problems.
There is a similar problem of a large population and little resources in the Gospel passage (Jn6:1-15). There are over five thousand men and they have only five barley loaves and two fish. We are told that “Jesus Himself knew what He was going to do.” But He is waiting for His beloved disciples to listen to Him, trust Him and act on His words. In trying to solve the problem, the disciples proffer a man-made solution that involves earning money and buying bread, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” Man-made solutions always fall short and leave us disappointed.
Jesus’ solution to the problem is not what they expected at all — they were to surrender the meager bread and fish to Jesus and have the crowd recline. With the multiplication of the loaves and fish, they had enough to eat and enough left over to fill twelve wicker baskets. It is God’s own solution that works, endures and satisfies us.
We see this same lesson in the First Reading (2Kgs 4:42-44) where Elisha feeds a hundred people with twenty barley loaves. Despite the hesitation of his servant, Elisha became a channel through which God’s solution was made present because he was ready to listen and mediate God’s solution to them. He knew and insisted on acting on God’s words at those moments, “For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”
The Responsorial Psalm assures us, “The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.” God knows every single one of our needs; He has a solution for all the problems and difficulties that we face in our personal lives, in our families, communities, Church and world. But He would not intervene and solve these problems without the free collaboration of those His loved ones who wish to bring to this world His own solution and not our own human agendas. Divine solution to humanity’s problem are always mediated through men and women of faith.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are no strangers to personal and communal problems. We have personal, psychological, spiritual, relational problems. Our families are facing all forms of financial, medical, and relational problems. The Church is plagued with scandals, dwindling numbers, shortage of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, etc. Our communities and countries are not spared myriads of problems.
In addition, there are so many man-made solutions to these problems, solutions that pretend to be pragmatic but fail to take into consideration our fundamental relationship with God, our utter dependence on Him for everything, our fulfillment in God alone, and God’s own desire and readiness to help us out. Drug dealers and addicts are being hunted down and killed here in the Philippines because some people believe this would solve the drug problem. Some people would advocate the slaughter of the unborn infant to solve the problem of a child conceived in rape. Many today link global warming with overpopulation and call for population control through artificial contraceptives and abortion on demand. All these solutions do not solve the problem, fail to stand the test of time, and leave us dissatisfied.
In the midst of all these man-made solutions of our times, we are challenged to embrace our vocation as mediators. Let us be clear about this point: “There is only one mediator between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus.”(1Tim2:5) But the Holy Spirit has “taken what is Christ and declared it to us.”(Jn 16:14) Hence, in Jesus Christ, through Him and in Him alone and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we too have become mediators in the One and only Mediator, bringing to this world His own love, truth and grace as well as His own solution. We do this by being fully aware and engaged in the world’s problems, bringing them to Jesus in prayer of surrender, listening to His words, placing our trust in Him completely and then acting on His words no matter what this world may think about us.
At the wedding of Cana in John’s Gospel, there was a problem of many guests and no wine. Jesus knew what He was going to do but He was waiting for someone to bring the needs to Him, listen to His words and act on them. His Mother Mary stepped to the plate with a simple request, “They have no wine.” Jesus’ response to her is hard for us to understand but Mary knew Him very well. She sensed the love and care behind His mysterious words. She did not ask the guests to contribute money for wine or to borrow grapes and wine making paraphernalia. She had no time for man-made solutions but she listened to Him and then asked the guests to do the same and listen and act on His words, “Do whatever He tells you.” They had the best wine in abundance because Mary embraced her vocation as a Mediatrix of all graces.
We encounter Jesus Christ in today’s Eucharist, the One who knows all our problems and who knows exactly what He is going to do. He wants to meet all our needs in this world and to bring His own solution into the world through us who know and love Him. With Mary and through Mary, let us be the mediators that we are called and gifted to be and make God’s solution present in our world, the only solution that works, endures, and leaves us satisfied.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!