The Holy Hormone Homily
Nov 8, 2017
The other day a 7 yr old asked me: Why does God love children more than adults. I do not know about the more part but God certainly has an extra super special love for Children. Jesus insists: 3“Truly I tell you, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like a little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
From the moment of one’s conception, there is a radical dependency beginning with one’s mother to grow and have the growing life sustained; not only for the duration of being in the womb but for many more years to come.
There is also a radical trust on the part of the child. Children do not suffer anxiety over-load since they total confidence in their parent’s care for them. There is hardly a worry of where they will lay their head each night, whether they will be fed, clothed or simply just held.
In today’s Psalm, we hear about one of the more instructive images that is meant to convey not only how our attitude toward God must be, but also the nature of our created being: The weaned child. Even Saint Paul uses this image today: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.
Is there any more intimate and more contented image than a child being nursed? Is there anywhere a more tender and more beautiful bond than what is shared between a mother and child…a bond so precious that Jesus Christ, a nursing infant Himself, chose to experience?
This is because we have been created for permanence and union. The very nature of God is permanence and union. The Divine Persons eternally united in a bond of permanent family love we call the Holy Trinity. We are extensions of the one who created us; therefore, God creates us with permanence and union in mind, and as in God’s case, the ideal vehicle that nurtures and strengthens these bonds of love and peace is the family.
Before there can be that nursing child, there must first be a man and woman who loving each other so intimately together with God create this gift of new life. However, it is crucial to understand the nature of this togetherness.
Respecting the nature of fire, we light it and contain its power within the confines of a fireplace; however, if I decide to set that fire to my living room couch, the entire house is threatened with destruction. One of the more fascinating ways that we can appreciate the nature of our being and the permanence and union God desires for us is revealed to us in biology.
In our bodies, more so in women, there is a hormone that is produced that is referred to as the bonding hormone or love or God hormone. Oxytocin. This hormone is released on three occasions: sex, giving birth and nursing. Do you notice the pattern here? Are there any more intimate and more powerfully bonding experiences than these?
In Wedding ceremonies when we hear that the two shall become one flesh…this is not some poetic way of representing the marriage between a man and woman. There is a union that takes place not only emotionally and spiritually but physically as well. In order to strengthen this bond and make it more permanent, the couple engages in marital love-making.
We have heard of the term body-language. This is absolutely true and the language of love making is the language of Divine Love. That is why when after a couple is officially wed, the next statement we hear is what God has joined together no one or nothing must separate. The wisdom of God and the wisdom of the Church regarding the delicate gift of sexuality is crucial here.
When people indulge sex outside of marriage, their hearts and souls receive the message from their bodies, especially by way of oxytocin, that there is a permanent bond of love in place…this sadly is a lie. And the heart-aches this lie causes are awful as we see in any number of relationships that having gone bad…all but destroy a person’s life.
There are some pains that God did not wish for us to experience. A break-up is literally the equivalent of tearing one’s soul from one’s body. The two becoming one flesh in Holy Matrimony then creates the ideal and stable environment within which a child can then be born.
And once again in giving birth and nursing, oxytocin is released to ensure that the bond between mother and child becomes stronger and stronger. It is an investment and outpouring of love that increases each person’s capacity for intimacy, tenderness, self-donation and self-sacrifice beginning with husband and wife.
This is why there is absolutely no worse pain than losing a spouse or child. What God has joined together nothing must separate. And yet we do experience those and similar life-shattering separations, either by way of broken relationships or death.
Why would God create with permanence and union in mind only to have these types of hurtful outcomes occur? This condition of pain and separation is the result of sin. There is nothing more contrary to the nature of God than sin and division, this is our free-will choice not His.
But rather than allow us to be enslaved to our misery, He applies the permanently healing remedy of His Son Jesus Christ. As incredible as the union is shared between the members of the Holy Trinity, it is even more incredible how the power of that eternally unifying love is entrusted to us through Jesus Christ.
Beginning in the womb of His own Mother, Jesus Christ united God’s divinity with our humanity in His now sacred human body. Then like a mother sacrifices her body so that the child within her may grow, relying on her blood to give him oxygen, nutrients and life by way of the umbilical cord that unites the two, Christ pours out His blood for us at Calvary by way of the Cross…two intersecting beams of wood that should remind us of the intersecting natures of God’s divinity and our humanity in the one person of Jesus Christ.
How beautiful it is that on the night of the last supper, when Jesus explained to His disciples the nature of His impending passion, of all images He used, He used that of a woman or mother in labor: You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21A woman has pain in childbirth because her time has come; but when she brings forth her child, she forgets her anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
No one will take your joy away. There it is the entire point of our existence: permanence with God and each other in everlasting life. And the guarantee of this permanence is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When rising from the dead, He destroys our greatest enemies, the ones who sought to permanently separate us from God and our departed loved ones…Satan, sin and death. However, more than an event that is celebrated Easter Sunday, that power is given to us…resides within us…and like the love-making between spouses…the weaning of a child…must be nurtured and kept alive and strong through frequent reception of the sacraments and daily prayer.
When Jesus gave His disciples the teaching on the Eucharist, He said: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life within you… Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
As spouses give themselves so completely to each other as to become one flesh, one heart, one family…and as a mother gives herself so completely as to give birth to her child and sustain that child’s life through that same body by nursing…so in the Eucharist…we become one flesh with Christ and through Christ we are forever bound to the Holy Trinity and each other as part of one family who the prophet Malachi reminds us has one Father, one God who created us.
As much as the heart does, the body speaks the language of authentic and permanent love…but it must be spoken with profound reverence within Holy Matrimony and Holy Communion.