19th/20th June 2021

posted 21 Jun 2021, 01:14 by Parish Office

Homily for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Day for Life (19 & 20/6/21)

What comes to your mind when you think of water? Is it a refreshing drink on a hot day? A utility bill that needs to be paid, where they seem to keep on putting up the price? Rain falling on the garden, whether too much or too little? If you were a sailor, then it would also represent your livelihood – think about Brexit and fishing quotas. But for many a sailor, a storm at sea can also mean the chance of shipwreck and even drowning – water can represent both life when fishing goes well, and death in the event of a storm.

The disciples in today’s Gospel would have had similar concerns. Water means food, but also the risk of storms. They also would have thought of the Crossing of the Red Sea back in the times of Moses – God worked a miracle and parted the waters, saving the Israelites, but then He released the waters and they returned back to their place, drowning the pursuing Egyptians. Now the disciples have first-hand experience of being saved by God from water – Christ stilled the storm, showing His authority as God. No human power, even today, can still a storm. “They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’”

But in the second reading, the words of St Paul remind us of another way in which water is used – the waters of baptism. Through baptism, “there is a new creation” – our old life of sin is washed away, and we are given the grace of God to live a new life. He says, earlier on, that living as a Christian means that we live now for Christ, rather than just for ourselves. We move from a selfish way of life to one that is focused on God, and that also includes others as well.

As we know, when we came into existence, God performed a new act of creation and created our soul, giving us a dignity higher than all creation. We all inherit Original Sin from the first human beings who chose to rebel against God, but with baptism we are made part of God’s family, the Church. So the value of a human being, no matter how ill or crippled in any way, is greater than any horse, hippopotamus or elephant. It’s not our size, or our intelligence, that gives us that special status, but rather the fact that we are children of God, with an immortal soul created by God at the moment of our conception. Human beings, when they reach the end of their working life, are not to be taken outside and shot.

Today is our Day for Life, focusing on caring for the sick and dying, and the respect owed to life. Compared with the abortion issue, we have done very well, given the circumstances, in keeping full-blown euthanasia out of our laws and our country. But, every so often, they keep on trying again. As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t believe in keeping life going at all costs. If treatments are too burdensome, with little hope of any real benefit, then we are allowed instead to let nature take its course, and recognise in humility that we can no longer stop the dying process. That is when palliative care comes in, which means good pain management. It’s often said that people who are terminally ill want an end to pain, not to end their lives. In hospices for the dying, where there is good pain relief, there is no need for euthanasia.

But what if pain relief might shorten someone’s life? Is it still allowed? There are two things here. Firstly, I heard of a medic who once got rather annoyed with this statement, saying that good pain relief doesn’t shorten life, it actually prolongs life, because if someone is agitated and in great pain, the whole stress of it all can shorten someone’s life. But even in cases were pain relief could shorten life, it would depend on the intention. If the intention is to accurately gauge the right amount of painkiller to control pain, then that is perfectly fine (this is sometimes referred to as titrating pain relief). On the other hand, if the intention is to give a massive overdose to finish someone off, then that would be an act of euthanasia and clearly wrong. No one has the right to decide to kill people off. We can’t say that the ends justify the means. We don’t have absolute ownership of our lives, and we certainly don’t have ownership of other people’s lives. Our lives are given to us by God, on trust, and later on, after having come from God, we return to God. We don’t own our lives like we might own a Biro, which we can throw away when it doesn’t work anymore. People are not things. Our value is not determined by what we do, earn and make. Our lives are given us by God and each life deserves respect, generosity and service. We don’t become less of a human being because we can’t do certain things for ourselves. In the past, we perhaps treated things as more like people: you can’t throw the kettle away, get someone to repair it. Now, we seem to sometimes treat people like objects – we don’t want it, it’s a nuisance, so get rid of it.

I could go on about this, but I’ll stop. The important thing to remember in all of this is that we are all children of God. And that changes everything.