Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) is one of those books from the Bible which was not accepted by the Jews or some Protestant denominations. In today’s readings, it serves as a warning. Don’t try to bribe God with presents because he will not accept them. Do not put faith in wrongly motivated sacrifices because God is impartial. 35:16 can be translated in two ways: “Whoever wholeheartedly serves God will be accepted,” or “Whoever does a service for neighbor will be accepted,” his petitions will carry to the heavens. This is interesting when you consider Jesus’ response to the question of which is the greatest of the Commandments.
In today’s Gospel, the Pharisee is an expert on Mosaic Law. He knows what to do morally and he sincerely feels good about himself, but he is dishonest with himself. His prayer is steeped in hatred. He places himself above others and judges others in the way that only God can judge. He has found the sense of sin for everyone but himself.
The tax collector collects money for occupying Roman forces and draws a commission from what he collects. He is seen as a collaborator with the foreign forces. He knows that he is a sinful man for undisclosed reasons and he asks for God’s mercy. He sees himself as one in need of God’s forgiveness. Some translation quote him as saying, “have mercy on me, the sinner” as if he were the only sinner in the world. The tax collector’s true vision of himself will prevent God’s judgement on him. Today’s lesson is the humble receive God’s mercy while the arrogant do not.
Society is moving away from science into a pseudo-science which has become very dogmatic. Presently reparative therapy for homosexuality is being attacked especially now that Dr. Robert Spitzer, a former proponent and practitioner, has claimed that what he was doing was faulty. This has cast doubt on people with this problem who want to change, making them feel that they are trapped in this lifestyle without any hope.
Same-sex attraction is a complicated reality. In France a priest and psychoanalyst, Tony Anatrella, has identified three types of same-sex attractions.
The first he calls “accidental homosexuality.” Here children or adolescents engage with someone their own age or a little older in a relationship out of curiosity or as a way of reassuring themselves of their own sexual identity. This becomes more complicated when it involves siblings or cousins.
The second he calls “reactional homosexuality.” It is generally caused by psychological problems such as maternal fixation, non-identification with one’s father, low self-esteem or timidity with the opposite sex.
The third he calls “structural homosexuality.” It is experienced at an early age giving the person the impression that he or she was born that way. These people develop intra psychic conflicts and can become full of themselves, have a tendency to be vindictive, and not take responsibility for their behaviors. On the other hand they may also experience low self-esteem, guilt and self-hatred for attractions that do not suit them.
Reparative therapy should only be entered into willingly. Forcing someone into it or by parental mandate can be very harmful especially for a minor. While accidental and reactional homosexuality have the best chances of addressing same-sex orientation through reparative therapy, it may not always be a “cure,” but it can help to rediscover the heterosexual orientation.
While structural homosexuality is not amenable to reparative therapy, therapy may benefit addressing issues caused by compulsive sexual behaviors that stem from neuroses.
Therapy can help, not only homosexuals, but ourselves, to recognize and cope with our vices, especially self-seeking, disproportionate self-love or hatred, lack of self-discipline, unhappiness, and ingratitude. Therapy may also help us to experience our need for God who loves all of us in spite of our sins and failings so that we can ask for forgiveness, Penance, healing and holiness.
For further information, please refer to Fr. Benedict Guevin, OSB’s article “Homosexuality and Reparative Therapy” in Ethics & Medics, Volume 38, Number 9, September 2013.