Anyone who has seen the news this week, must have been struck by the devastation in the Mediterranean Sea, where so many people; many of them women and children; being lost as they desperately sought a new life. We do not know the reason why they sought a new life in another land, but we do know the motivation of those who allowed so many to go onto a boat with inadequate facilities; their motivation was money. In their desperation to make money, they forgot to be human and treated fellow human beings as cargo, or a commodity. Their attitude bears a close relationship to that of the slave traders from centuries ago squeezing in as many bodies as they could to enhance their profit. Many of the times previously these dealers in human life may have managed to get their cargo safely across the sea, this time, however, we have a disaster of Biblical proportion.
When times are hard people do desperate things. In the Old Testament the Israelites moved to Egypt when famine struck, they settled there and multiplied, the local rulers in fear enslaved these people, forcing them to work long hours doing dangerous work. These people, who had moved away from the Lord, cried out for help; God heard them and sent Moses to set them free.
Many centuries later, the descendants of those same people found themselves enslaved again, this time in their own land. The Romans had invaded and imposed their will on the Jewish people. This led to an increase in poverty and the problems associated with poverty – illness, malnutrition, crime, fear and untimely death. This time God sent His Son to rescue the Jewish people. But not all of them listened. In our Gospel today we hear about a few of those who did listen. Jesus taught people to be compassionate, Jesus led by example, He even asked for forgiveness to those who were executing Him.
There have been times in my life when I have felt distant from God, times when I didn’t come to Church or even pray. But God kept calling me back, either through the people I met, or through my wife and children, God did not give up on me. On those returns when I went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I was welcomed back, never condemned. During this week ahead, if you feel that God is not close to you, I’d like you to think again. God is always close in our relationship. Ask yourself, am I close to God?
Our Scriptures today, remind us that God is always there. He rescued the Israelites from slavery and then sent His Son to recue their descendants, those who listened were saved, and sent out to widen the Chosen people to the whole world. Those original Apostles sent out as shepherds to the world to guide and teach have their own descendants now. It is not by their blood and DNA that they can trace these descendants. Their descendants are the bishops of the Catholic Church today, and the blood they demonstrate their descendance by, is the Blood of Jesus Christ. The bishops of today still teach the Good News, they are our Spiritual fathers as successors to the Apostles.
Both of those chosen by God to rescue the Israelites in our Scriptures today were threatened with death when they were babies. Under the Pharaohs rules, male children were to be killed, but Moses’ mother found a way of protecting him. Our Blessed Mother, Mary was an unmarried mother, potentially put at risk of divorce or stoning and the new born Jesus, was at risk of slaughter at the hands of Herod, and many other innocent children died in Bethlehem.
This Sunday is designated as the Day for Life in the Catholic Church in the British Isles. The Church teaches that life is to be nurtured from conception to natural death. In England and Wales, Day for Life is celebrated on the third Sunday of June each year. This year it falls on 18 June. For the first time, it will be celebrated in Scotland and Ireland on the same day.
The theme is ‘Listen to Her’ and focuses on post-abortion trauma and the impact of abortion primarily on women, but also men and others.
Each year a message is released, usually by the Church’s Lead Bishop for Life Issues, offering a reflection on the year’s theme. The 2023 message is unique in that the bishops’ have given it over to a Catholic woman who has had an abortion to share her experiences. Often the voices of women who have had an abortion are silent in Church and in society. The hope is that this will help break this silence and offer further opportunities for healing and reconciliation. [The message is in the link below.] The young woman is called Jane, she very bravely gives her testimony, and it is really worth reading. Jane could be any woman sitting amongst us, we don’t know. We thank Jane for her bravery in sharing her story and pray that her story helps anyone else contemplating abortion to reconsider and to seek help from a pro-life source. Or if there is anyone trying to cope with the grief or guilt following an abortion alone, that they are encouraged to reach out and seek help.
As I said at the beginning, there are some people who see human beings as commodities. The lives lost in the transport of their human cargos are disposed of indicative of our throw away society. Since the legalisation of abortion, the unborn child has also become a commodity and is not being seen for the beauty it is. Now some in society are pushing for Euthanasia, the killing of people who are close to the end of their lives. The advocates of this say they will put in safeguards to protect the vulnerable. But as we have seen with abortion, the safeguards are eroded over time, with some places now permitting the abortion of healthy babies up until birth.
How can this be right?
They are asking doctors, nurses and midwives to do the opposite of what their vocation called them to do; and now, if they speak up they risk losing their jobs.
As Catholics we are called to protect life, killing another human being is wrong, regardless of whether we use the word, kill, abort or euthanise. These other words are deliberately used to deceive, and as Catholics we know who the great deceiver is. As Catholics we are also called to be a safe place for those who have listened to the great deceiver, it is not our job to condemn, we are all sinners. We pray for those who have had abortions and we pray they find God’s forgiveness.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
CCC 551, 761-766: the Church prefigured in Old Testament community
CCC 783-786: the Church a priestly, prophetic, royal people
CCC 849-865: the apostolic mission of the Church
CCC 2270-2283: Abortion and Euthanasia
Please keep in your prayers this week
- The success of the pastoral area formation programme ‘The Wild Goose’ which we are using as part of the Year of the Holy Spirit.
- The success of the Diocesan Life in the Spirit programme which is running online on Thursdays.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation.
- Those preparing to be ordained to the priesthood or diaconate.
- Those considering an abortion, that they be guided by those around them in prayer.