Deacon Gary Newton – Homily 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today is Respect Life Sunday. This is a time when we take pause and reflect on the gift of life from God and how we are charged with protecting this gift from conception to natural death. This should be a joyous topic as it should focus on embracing God’s gift of life to us, our children and all humanity. Living life to its fullest is heaven on earth.
Life is full of choices. To make a sound decision we weigh the various pros and cons. We do this when deciding what brand of something to buy, what town to live in, what school to go to, what career to choose, and what food to eat. We could go on and on as it seems almost anything we do requires discernment of choice. But with most of these we can always change our mind when the choice does not live up to our expectations.
Some choices we make are intended to be permanent. They are considered some of the happiest times of our lives. In the Gospel Jesus talks about marriage. A choice with no back door, but when you marry you don’t expect to need a back door. We all know that there are times that things don’t work out as expected. So what is one to do when marriage doesn’t work out? Moses’ answer was to allow divorce but Jesus stated he did that due to the hardness of their hearts. It’s important that we recognize that Jesus is arguing against a culture where divorce was easy and not challenged. He goes on to say that no human being can separate what God has joined.
So what is different today? Like Moses the Church today allows divorce, but unlike Moses the Church does not allow remarriage because the couple was joined by God. The definition of divorce, as viewed by the Church, is only a civil divorce, since Jesus stated: “…no human being can separate.” It means you are not living together any more even though you are still married, but you are also still in full grace with the church. No sin has been committed. If it is determined by the Church that the marriage was not valid from the start then it is annulled which simply means that since it was never valid, the couple was never joined by God. So they were never married and are therefore free to marry.
One of the other happiest times of our lives is having children. Creating life in union with God is one of our greatest gifts. But, there are times when a pregnancy is unplanned. This can be a very stressful time of life and the father or mother may need help in deciding what to do. Reaching out for counseling such as Catholic Charities is a great place to start. Our choices in life should always be life giving. They will help the parents discern what God’s plan is for them and their baby. It may be to keep the child or give the child up for adoption, but should not be to end the life of the child which would be the case with abortion.
During the Respect Life month of October we are called to remember how precious life is to God. Not just children but the elderly as well. Neither the life of a child nor the life of the elderly should be terminated by human beings. From the Wisdom Books, Job 1:21 states: “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!”
There are many Catholics that do not see the wisdom expressed in the Bible and are not in full agreement with the Catholic Church’s teachings on these topics. As strange as this may sound, the goal of my homily today is not to try to convince everyone to follow the Church’s teachings. The goal is to have those that disagree to seek why the Church teaches it. There are 2000 years of soul searching wisdom encompassing our Church that has been guided by the Holy Spirit who we also need to properly enlighten us on our ongoing personal journey of faith.
Many look at what we call the Church as administrative rules that are outdated and not worth debating. But I implore everyone to seek the truth. There is our truth, what we personally believe to be the truth, and then there is God’s truth, which we need to strive to make our own.
Do you remember the Gospel verse Matthew 7:7 that states: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”? What I challenge all who question the Church’s teachings is to seek out why the Church teaches what it teaches. In the course of your journey you will find that it is based on the teachings of Christ, the Bible and inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
On the flip side I would ask that those that still question the Church’s teachings to examine what is the source of your current beliefs. What are they based on? We must be honest with ourselves as to what forms our opinions. I am convinced that in earnestly seeking the will of God, not man, we will come to a faith filled understanding.
For those that contemplate abortion, suicide, or considering to participate in the ending of anyone’s life for whatever the circumstances, we need to help those struggling with these decisions to see the choices that lead to life, and natural death. That God is part of the answer as it is He that created the life in question.
I am not trying to say that I have the answer to any or all circumstances that lead people to be faced with these hard choices, but what I do believe, is that if you do not include God in the decision process, you will not find peace, for the decision of life or death lies solely with God.
God creates life. He sent His only son to save us from our sins because our life is eternal and He wants us with Him for all eternity. Each life is precious to Him. If we respect and protect God’s gift of life in every human being He created from conception until natural death, we will be copartners with God, truly living out His gift to us being made in His image and likeness. We will share in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and live for all eternity in His loving presence in heaven.