Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
October 28th, 2012
Year B

Learning about God is a question of supreme importance. This is precisely why Pope Benedict has inaugurated a Year of Faith, so that we can enter into a deeply intellectual dialogue with God and come to truly know Him in mind and heart. The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies two principle means of coming to know God: in the world, and in the human person. Concerning knowledge of God by means of the world, St. Augustine notes: “question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . All respond: ‘See, we are beautiful’ … Who made them if not the Beautiful One who is not subject to change” (Sermo 241, 2: PL 38, 1134). With regard to the human person, the Catechism states: “with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God's existence…(n. 33).” Hence, by means of the human mind, man can come to know of the existence of a personal God (CCC# 35). Yet, to enter into real intimacy with God, man must rely on the light of grace, the light of Divine Revelation, in order to come to true faith, grow in grace, and progress in virtue.

This progress, however, is hindered by blindness, blindness of soul due to the effects of sin. Fr. Robert Barron comments on this blindness: “Physical blindness is, for Mark as well as for John, an evocative symbol of the terrible blindness of the soul which all of us sinners experience… when the imago Dei is covered over, we see within the narrow spectrum of our fearful desires. Blind Bartimaeus, sitting helplessly by the road outside of Jericho begging for alms and attention, expresses this hopeless and darkened-over state of soul. When he hears that Jesus of Nazareth is in the vicinity, he begins to cry out, “Son of David, have pity on me”… Bartimaeus continues to shout, until finally Jesus calls out to him. This is the summons that echoes from the very depths of one’s own being, the call of the magna anima, the invitation to rebirth and reconfiguration.”

The remedy for which is greater knowledge of God, coming to know Him and understanding His teachings and how they inform our conscience and instruct us in becoming more and more the imago Dei in which we have been created. As such, we turn our attention to an area of debate that is need of greater understanding: Physician Assisted Suicide. Understanding the flaws in this bill will help us to know the true meaning of the words dignity, mercy and compassion and thus be able to comprehend human nature and be able to see more clearly the image of God in each other.

The first area of concern is that the bill has many flaws. Here are a few examples: Patients with a prognosis of six months or fewer to live could choose to end their lives, even though the majority of doctors admit that they cannot accurately predict life expectancy. Patients could choose to end their lives without ever talking to a spouse or family member. Supporters of the initiative call it a “compassionate choice” but leaving families in the dark and patients on their own on this profound matter strikes me as anything but compassionate. Patients could obtain the drug without ever being evaluated for depression, a diagnosable and treatable condition that is common among cancer patients. Studies by the National Cancer Institute and others have shown that about a quarter of all cancer patients are depressed; the National Institute of Health estimates that 30-to-50 percent are depressed. Patients could obtain a lethal prescription without talking to hospice and palliative care professionals, who are trained to help people with ongoing diseases (some terminal, some not) to manage their symptoms and minimize pain.
Permit me now to reflect on those three words I mentioned earlier: dignity, mercy and compassion.

Dignity: Supporters of this bill call it “death with dignity.” It is the complete opposite. To treat a person with dignity is recognize him, to help him come to know himself as having been created in God’s image and likeness. The secular world today is a proponent of the autonomous god of the self to the point where we think that we have authored ourselves. The one, however, who recognizes God as his creator is able to see, both in mind and heart, the sanctity of life and that each life is to be treated with respect.

Mercy: In a recent letter to the editor in the Ottawa Citizen Newspaper, Jeanette Hall wrote about her experience of this issue. She voted in favor of Physician Assisted Suicide when it came up in her state of Oregon. She was later diagnosed with cancer and given 6 months to live. She asked her physician to help her commit suicide. Fortunately, her doctor did not believe in it and encouraged her to seek other treatments. She did. Twelve years later, she is still a blessing to her family. Physician Assisted Suicide is what Bl. Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical ‘The Gospel of Life’ calls false mercy. He highlights Jesus words in St. John’s Gospel: “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10).” Living life to the full is not lived in despair, rather it is lived joyfully in God’s friendship, it is lived in the hope of eternal life, no matter how many days we have left on earth.

Compassion: Supporters of this initiative call it “compassion and care.” People with terminal illnesses think that they are a burden to family and friends. Compassion, however, does not let one think that he or she is a burden to family and friends. It is exercised by entering into the suffering of another so that St. Paul’s words may ring true: when one member of the body suffers, all suffer with it (Rm 12:26). Again, Bl. Pope John Paul II notes in the “Gospel of Life” that “true compassion leads to the sharing of another’s pain and does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear (ev 66).”

Thus, true compassion is born from love. To truly love is to show care for those who suffer, to enter into that suffering so as to recognize their inherit dignity as having been created in God’s image and likeness. And to recognize a person’s dignity, even in the midst of great suffering, allows a person to experience God’s merciful love. As such, God’s divine love is made manifest. We ought therefore, to support palliative and hospice care in order that a terminally ill person may live life knowing that they are being consoled with the comfort of Jesus through the care and compassion of others.
Today, may we have the courage, like the blind man Bartimeus, to cry out to Jesus for sight. May He remove our blindness and open our minds and hearts to greater knowledge of truth so as to lead us to greater love of Him and our neighbor.





Fr. Jon Reardon




Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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