A Man Who Heard the Lord

(Homily for Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B)

Bottom line: Our failure to listen can hurt others and ultimately destroy a society, but, take hope, Jesus can open our ears.

Today we see Jesus performing a beautiful miracle: opening a deaf manís ears. He performed the miracle not just for that one man - but for you and me. He wants to open our ears. We might be able to hear sounds, but still be deaf. And sometimes we can be more deaf than a person we suppose cannot hear.

A recent study bore this out. It involved a British woman, injured in a car crash which apparently left her in vegetative state. The doctors used an MRI scanner to see what kind of brain activity she had. They asked her to imagine things like coffee with cream or playing tennis. To their surprise, even though she could not speak, she showed brain responses the same as an ordinary, alert person. This was not an isolated study. Studies done in this country had similar results. For example, a husband spoke to his wife who was in a coma. When he reminded her of a toast given at their wedding reception, the MRI scanner showed clear and distinct brain activity.

These studies made me think. I have often visited families whose loved one is in a coma. Everyone assumed the person couldn't hear. They treated the person the way they would treat an infant or a pet. I have done it myself. Maybe the one in the coma hears and understands better than I do. It made me think that before praying for that person's recovery, we should first pray for ourselves - so that we could have some sense what the other person is experiencing. Lord Jesus, open our ears. Help us to hear.

Our failure to listen can have bad results - as individuals and as a society. Last week I told you I am concerned about the direction our society is going. I see us something like the ancient city of Troy. Its strong walls made it invincible, but the Greeks brought them down by a trick - the Trojan Horse. They built a wooden horse and filled it with Greek soldier. In spite of warnings, the Trojans took it inside their city. The Trojans lost everything because they would not listen.

We are facing something similar in our country today. We are a great nation; we seem almost invincible. But we can be brought down if we donít listen to prophetic warnings. I could mention many things, but I would like to focus on just one: our government's decision regarding the Morning After Pill, also called Plan B or Emergency Contraception. The FDA ruled that it be sold over the counter, with no prescription required. Like the Trojan horse, people are saying that Emergency Contraception is a wonderful gift. They tell us we should all welcome it and celebrate it. There are a few voices against it, but the promoters have pretty well drowned them out. In fact, the loudest complaints are coming from those who want the drug available to everyone, no matter what their age.

I am not going to get into this whole debate, but I want to ask this question: Who is this drug most likely to protect? The answer is clear: Emergency Contraception will protect male predators. You can see this especially with teenage pregnancy. According to various studies, between one half and two-thirds of minors who get pregnant have an adult man as the baby's father. In many jurisdictions, this is called statutory rape. The man, being over eighteen, will be able to go into a pharmacy and purchase the drug, no questions asked. It solves his problem, but it leaves behind a trail of destruction. The destruction happens not only to an underage girl. Any woman who takes this drug will experience lasting damage - spiritual, emotional and perhaps even physical.* And she - and the dad - will live with the knowledge that they may have deliberately destroyed their offspring.** Emergency Contraception is a Trojan Horse in our society. We may not feel the impact immediately as did the people of Troy, but it will come sooner than we imagine.

The Morning After Pill is a symptom of a bigger problem that affects all of us. We want quick solutions and donít think about the consequences. Still, this does not have to happen. There is reason to hope people can open their ears and listen to what God is trying to say to us.

I would like to tell you about a man who did listen to God - and gave his own life to help avert a disaster. You may have heard about him. His name was Tom Burnett; he was the one who led the group of passengers on Flight 93. Some time before September 11, 2001, he shared something with his wife Deena. Tom told her he had started going to daily Mass during his lunch hour because he felt God was calling him to something. He didnít know what it was, but said that it would affect many people and it had something to do with the White House. These premonitions became reality on the morning of September 11. Returning home from a business trip, Tom boarded a plane headed for San Francisco. Also on the flight were four young men, filled with a terrible bitterness. They took over the plane and redirected it toward Washington, D.C. Tom Burnett made quick phone calls to his wife. After she told him what had happened in New York, he informed the other passengers they were on a suicide flight. He spoke to his wife one more time. He told her they were going to storm the cockpit, but they were waiting until they were over a rural area. He then spoke these final words: "Don't worry. We are going to do something."

Tom Burnett was an extraordinary man - in a very extraordinary circumstance. But his heroic act of diverting Flight 93 did not happen in a vacuum. His courage - and his amazing calm - happened because he had been listening to the Lord, trying to understand what Jesus was saying to him. We too can ask Jesus to open our ears so that we might hear him.

In this homily I have tried to give some examples of deafness: How we can be deaf to a person in a coma, thinking that they don't hear, but in reality we are deaf. I have also talked about how a society can become deaf - not only the ancient Trojans, but we can fail to listen to serious warnings. But there is hope. If a man like Tom Burnett can listen to the Lord, so can we.

Of course we need to ask God's help to keep our ears open. After 9/11 people changed: We became more serious about our lives, attendance at church increased and people treated each other more courteously. That lasted about four months and then we went back to our old ways. On this fifth anniversary of 9/11, it is a good moment to ask the Lord to open our ears - and help us keep them open.

**********

*I say physical because (according to Planned Parenthood's website) this drug is the equivalent of up to forty ordinary birth control pills - which of course do require a prescription.

**There is a lot of obfuscation about whether the drug prevents implantation (thus killing a newly conceived human) or whether it only prevents ovulation and/or transportation of the sperm. It seems to me that one question cuts through the fog: If an ovum is present in the fallopian tube, how long does it take for the sperm to hit its target? The medical websites I have found, say it can happen from five minutes to a half an hour . Proponents of Plan B boast that the drug is "effective" if the first dose is taken within three days (72 hours) after unprotected intercourse. The question is: Effective for what? I will let you draw your own conclusions.

And even abstracting from abortifacient potential of Emergency Contraception, studies indicate there is serious doubt whether it will reduce the overall abortion rate.

Earlier Version: March of Folly

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for 23rd Sunday, Year B):

2012: A Work of Liberation
2009: Hearing his Voice
2006: The March of Folly
2003: Lord, Cleanse My Lips
2000: What is Friendship with Jesus?
1997: Real vs. Imaginary Jesus

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Birthday Thank You's, Free Money, Some Judicial Endorsements)

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