27th/28th October 2018

posted 29 Oct 2018, 05:04 by Parish Office

Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (27 & 28/10/18)


Today’s Gospel is a bit of a contrast from what we heard two weeks ago.  The rich young man was someone who wanted to follow Christ, but he knew that something important was missing.  When he was told that he needed to give up his riches and follow the Lord, he went away sad.  It was too much for him to give up.  Today, instead, we have someone who is living in poverty because of his condition.  Like the rich young man, he wants to be put right.  He wasn’t always blind.  Have you noticed that he said to the Lord, “Master, let me see again?”  On this occasion, his faith is strong enough, he is healed, and he follows Jesus along the road.


I’m sure you’ve all heard it said before that those who are poor seem to be more unhindered in following the Lord than those who are rich.  Sometimes, as a country grows more wealthy, its citizens fall away from God.  Matthew 6:24:  “You cannot be the slave both of God and of money”.  We can look at what has happened in this country, or over in Ireland.  Yes, there are other complications as well, including ministers of the Church who have betrayed the Gospel and given bad example.  And yes, despite America being so prosperous, there are various rich people, as well as poor, who follow the Lord.  But as competition from material things grows, practice of faith can be weakened.  If you come from a poor family, then embracing the religious life and taking a vow of poverty is not such a bit step as if you are well-off and have a well-paid job.  A priest, who used to have a rather well-paid job, once said to me that when he arrived at seminary he was faced with having just a small room to call his own.  He thought to himself, “What have I done?”


All is not lost.  Bartimaeus had a longing for the days when he used to be able to see.  I’m sure there are people who have a longing for the days when they had faith, or their faith was more fervent.  But to return to following the Lord means they have to give up things.  Maybe it’s ill-gotten gains.  Maybe it’s other forms of sin in their lives.  Do they have the resolve of Bartimaeus, or will they walk away again, like the rich young man?


Western society has grown in wealth over the years, but at what cost?  In the past year or so, the BBC has been celebrating the Pill, and the fact that it has led more women into the workplace, although they also had another website where women spoke of the side effects and failures of the Pill, and how many of them gave up on it because it made their lives intolerable.  I was reading recently about a doctor who was involved in this whole area, and  performing sterilisations and IVF, and who put her conversion down to a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the prayers of Discalced Carmelite nuns.  She had a large poster in her office proclaiming the “benefits” of the Pill.  The sisters never mentioned it, but one day when they left after an appointment, she happened to notice it, and feeling ashamed, ripped it down.


When she discovered the fact that the Pill sometimes works, perhaps a low percentage of cases, by causing an early abortion, she was shaken to the core.  “What have I been doing to my patients?” she thought.  In all her years as a doctor, she had never performed abortions.


The early forms of the Pill did used to work by suppressing ovulation.  The trouble was the side effect of substantial risk of blood clots, which could be fatal.  So they changed the formula.  It now works in four ways:  it thickens cervical mucus to create a barrier, it suppresses ovulation, and it causes changes to the movement of the fallopian tubes.  If all of these fail and a child is still conceived, then we have the fourth method.  The progesterone in the Pill thins out the lining of the womb, so that a week-old child cannot implant, and so is passed out of the body.


The doctor I was reading about, Dr Martha Garza, now promotes something called NFP.  She said that professors in her medical school used to dismiss NFP as the rhythm method.  But it’s not that.  The rhythm method was unreliable, and even back in the sixties it had been replaced by something better.  And things have improved further since then.  There are good, moral alternatives available.


When Dr Garza presents these things to people, she is careful to point out that she is not there to judge, as she used to be involved in all of this herself.  She just wants to point out the harmful effects of artificial contraception, and the risk-free method of NFP, which she says is safe and easy to learn.  She also shares her conversion story, and how it led her to change her practice at great personal, financial and professional risk.


Despite all the odds, God’s grace is still at work in our society.  People are searching, and whether it’s people hearing about Christ for the first time, or people returning to Him, all over the world, that conversation with the Lord, “What do you want me to do for you?” and “Lord, that I may see again”, is still taking place.