Man of Contradictions

(Homily for Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B)

Bottom line: Although Darwin's theory reduced man to level of an animal, yet he implicitly recognized human worth and dignity. We see that dignity in today's Gospel.

To begin this homily I would like to say something about Charles Darwin. This month many celebrated his 200th birthday. He was born the same day as Abraham Lincoln - February 9, 1809. And this year is 150th anniversary of his famous book - The Origin of Species. Darwin was one of the most influential modern thinkers - but he was also (like many of us) a man of contradictions. His theory tended to reduce humans to the level of animals yet Darwin himself had high moral ideals. for example even though he observed that some animals make slaves of others (therefore to enslave seems natural) Darwin himself strongly opposed slavery.* He implicitly recognized that humans have a worth, a dignity no other animal has.

We see that human dignity in today's Gospel. When they brought a paralytic to him, Jesus showed great compassion for the man. And he saw that - in spite of his great limitations - the man had a certain freedom, but he had abused that freedom. He had committed sins. So before he cured the physical paralysis, he wanted to cure the spiritual paralysis. He said, "Child, your sins are forgiven."

By forgiving the man's sins, Jesus recognized his human dignity: that he had a freedom, a responsibility, an accountability, a Stewardship. To explain this let me make a comparison. I have a puppy (not so small - he weighs about 70 pounds) who I love a lot, but he is also a responsibility. Once Samwise got out of the yard (unbeknown to me) and ran through the neighborhood, tipping over garbage cans, chasing cats and scaring people. The neighbors were upset - but they didn't blame Sam. They blamed me! And rightly so. I (like you) have a responsibility, a Stewardship, a freedom no other animal can have. That is the glory - and the burden of being a human.

Because we have that freedom, we can foul things up - and we often do. Look at our world. When I fail, it is easy to blame someone else. Or say that is simply the way I am. I can't help my temper. I am a Norwegian. There is word for that - baloney. Baloney. Our dignity come from accepting responsibility, admitting when we are wrong and accepting responsibility.

It is not a matter of a guilt trip. We have to distinguish between true guilt and false guilt. St. Paul speaks about a worldly sorrow that leads to death and a godly sorrow that leads to salvation. True guilt is a blessing; it is a godly sorrow that leads a person to God.

Next Sunday, as I mentioned in the bulletin, we will have a testimony on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. During Lent I want every adult and every young person to make a good examination of conscience and a confession of sins. It is a beautiful way to face one's responsibility and make a change. And to hear those wonderful words, "Child, your sins are forgiven."


*As Benjamin D. Wiker observes:

Today noted Darwin scholars Adrian Desmond and James Moore argue, in their Darwin's Sacred Cause, that Darwin's hatred of slavery "shaped Darwin's views on human evolution." Certainly an appropriate and timely addition to Darwin scholarship on this, the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth.

But before we do too much celebrating of birthdays and morally upright causes, we'd better take a closer look at Darwin's views and his legacy. Darwin hated slavery, and Darwin confirmed slavery as natural. He hated racism, but his theory of human evolution was fundamentally racist. His heart and head were in complete contradiction.

General Intercessions for Seventh Ordinary Sunday (from Priests for Life)

Earlier Version

Spanish Version

From the Archives:

Seventh Sunday, Year B, 2012: An Agressive Attempt to Deny Sin
2009: No Forgiveness for Darwin
2006: Forgiveness of Sins and Communion
2003: Who But God?
2000: Your Sins are Forgiven - Go Home

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C


(Best Practices in Parish Stewardship, Praying at West Seattle Planned Parenthood, Explanation regarding Married Man Ordained to Priesthood in Seattle)


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