16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Until I get time to archive these properly on the main site I will post this one here. I don’t know if I will archive them all. Please understand there are references to previous homilies and I won’t be able to explain them all. I think you get the general gist. I also adlib a bit from the standard text as I find things that work better. This was the first draft.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

During the course of the week I heard that some of our younger parishioners were saying I looked like the Hulk. Now granted I am wearing green, I am larger than your average Joe (or Father Joe). I also am no Brad Pit but I didnít think I was quite that ugly. One thing I am quite certain of is that I am not that mean or angry. Believe it or not there is a point here but your going to have to wait to the end of my homily to get it.

Last week I told the story of my younger years when I had a Camaro and thought that diesel fuel looked more appealing to me than the more expensive unleaded fuel. I offered the advice that when the car maker and designer says unleaded fuel only Ė you should believe them. It takes a certain kid of Gas to make a car go. It also takes a certain kind of spiritual gas to make us go. The ones God has appointed to tell us what that is are the Pope and Bishops with the final authority going to the Pope.

In this weeks readings we hear a stern warning against shepherds who would mislead their flocks and scatter them. God knows it takes a certain kind of gas to make us go and he intends for us to know what it is so we can be happy. If a doctor tells you to drink poison and he kills you wouldnít you want him held responsible? God doesnít want you poisoned either with bad teaching. He wants you to know the truth. And those who spread false teaching will be held accountable. There will be a day of reckoning and woe to those who failed to teach what the Church teaches. That is one reason why I intend to tell you the truth even if at times it makes you think I am mean.

You would think with such strong words that no Bishop or priest would ever take the chance of passing on a false teaching that contradicts what the Church has taught. But some have. One of the most obvious examples in the United States is the Churchís teaching on artificial contraception. The Church teaches clearly, forcefully and infallibly that all acts of artificial contraception are intrinsically evil and grave sin.
Why do I bring this up? This is Natural Family Planning week in the Church. Most Catholics in the United States donít understand the Churchís teaching on this and why it is sinful. They think the Church is behind the times and if they follow the Churchís teaching it will be too burdensome. As I said the Church knows what kind of Gas it takes to make your spiritual car go. Let me explain three of the many reasons why the Church teaches so strongly against this.
1. The most popular forms of contraception tend to be abortifacient rather than contraceptive. What this means is that they donít prevent conception but rather cause an abortion. Life begins at conception and any means that gets rid of a fertilized egg is an abortion which is the killing of a human being. This includes the most popular method the pill. Many types of the pill donít prevent conception but rather prevent implantation in the womb. This results in the death of a child. Most doctors donít tell you this. Most people wouldnít risk it if they knew they might be killing a child. Do you really want to risk that.
2. Artificial contraception objectifies women. It basically treats her fertility as a disease that needs to be cured. A healthy woman is supposed to be fertile for about 10 days a month. If you want to love someone you must love all of them. Not just parts. You canít say I this and that part of you but not this part. Treating a healthy woman as someone who has disease for the purposes of gratification reduces her to an object and not a person. To use another person as an object is a grave moral sin. True love demands a complete giving of yourself and receiving of the other. You canít accept just the parts of them you like.
3. Contraception is dangerous. Using the Pill causes an increased risk in cancer. If you use it over 5 years there is a 60% greater chance of cervical cancer. 10 or more your chances are doubled. A study of 100,000 women showed you are 25% more likely to develop breast cancer. I could go on. Since its introduction in 1962 has there been an increase in these types of cancer? Of Infertility? Of Abortion? Of Divorce? The Church warned of these and no one listened.

There are more reasons for sure and I would like to explain them each to you but that would require too much time. What is the alternative? Natural Family Planning. Let me offer you some reasons for considering it.
1. It is the most effective method for regulating births. God knows how our bodies work and he knows how to give us effective methods of timing births that donít involve us chemically altering our bodies. Study after study shows that those who use NFP faithfully are more successful at timing births. 99.6%. All that and it is natural and non-evasive. More important you cooperate with God and the way he designed you.
2. Couples who use NFP communicate more and have happier marriages. Responsibility is shared. The divorce rate in our country is above 50% right now. For new couples getting married there is a 64% chance of getting married. Statistics show that couples who use NFP have a divorce rate of less than 5%. It isnít surprising to me that if you cooperate with God and the way he designed you instead of change it you have a more fruitful life. It isnít surprising to me either that a relationship canít last in which the woman becomes an object.
3. It does not involve any unnatural method that views fertility as a disease. Rather it cooperates with the way God made us and not surprisingly it does so with more effectiveness than our man made methods. Women shouldnít have to be chemically altered or treated in order to have a successful marriage. They should be able to be accepted for who they are in their entirety. Anything else simply isnít loving them for who they are.

There are many reasons why we should listen to the Churchís teaching. Most of all because God designed us and made us and he knows what is best for us and will make us happy. He has revealed that to us through the Church as he said he would. If you donít understand or donít agree would you be willing to find out more? I would be happy to try to help and to put you in touch with people and materials that can allow you to understand it better. As it says in the scriptures woe to me if I donít try to teach you the truth. I might be big, I might be dressed in green but I promise you I wonít be angry and I wonít be mean. I truly want you to be happy and I know that can only happen by putting the right gas in your tank.

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10 Responses to “16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)”

  1. Dman Says:

    Beautifully stated!

  2. JoEllen Says:

    Great homily, Father Todd. People need to hear this message. P.S. Thanks for the medals. I’ve been giving them to my nieces. JoEllen Klein

  3. Josh Says:

    Aha!

    Father, you do an excellent job at (if you’ll excuse the cliche) grabbing the bull by it’s horns.

    Of all the homilies that I have heard, the ones that I come back to in my own mind are those that shake us a little bit. That grab us by the shoulders and force us to look at what we are doing, so that we might fall back in to line with the Church.

    Keep posting your homilies as time permits — if you’re starting out this good, who knows how far you will go ūüėČ

  4. Mike Says:

    Fr. Todd – great homily! NFP is a blessing that more Catholics need to embrace. My wife and I recently began using NFP after 4 years of marriage when a pill related medical problem shook us to the bone. God truly works in mysterious ways.

    I can tell you without a single doubt or reservation that NFP is gift from God – a true blessing that will benefit all marriages. As Catholics we need to hear the Truth – stated clearly as you have. Yes NFP is often difficult, especially at first, but we offer this difficulty to God as a small cross to bear on our way to seeking the Truth.

    Keep up the great work. The future of the Church, especially in these days, lies in the hands of the Priests who are willing to speak the Truth – even if it hurts.

  5. Lisa Says:

    Great sermon Father. Wish we would get one at our church, but it isn’t going to happen. We have a fine man for a pastor and he says the most Spirit filled Mass I have ever participated in. When he looks at the Eucharist, you know that he is looking directly at the Body and Blood of Christ. But at the same time, I know that NFP will never be the topic of a sermon. So I do appreciate you posting yours. I emailed it to several friends. So see, you are making ripples far beyond your little pond in SD. God bless.

  6. Eric C. Bales Says:

    It seems the narrow focus was picked up by you, ironically enough. The homily was not about NFP, it was about recognizing the wisdom of the Church in helping us make moral decisions by telling us what is good for us and what is bad for us.

    Fr. Todd merely chose to speak on sexual ethics, a very important topic. The specific (narrow) focus was the Church’s position against contraception. This is the one area that lay people most greatly reject the wisdom of Holy Mother Church.

    It would have been an error (bad homily that alienates) only to say: Contraception is wrong so says the Church because x, y and z. Now don’t do it. Peace be with you.

    That didn’t happen.

    Fr. Todd spoke one why the Church holds contraception to be wrong (citing only a few points, and with brevity) and then explained what the alternative is. That is, what the “good fuel” is for our lives. After all, the choices we make in sexual ethics dramatically effects our spiritual lives.

    Fr. Todd then went on to say three benefits from using NFP. The NFP said ntohing of the technical aspects. (Nothing about taking your temprature, external observations, finger testing the mucas, the difference between regular mucas and peak-type mucas–none of the technical details).

    I was dis appointed to read your own thinking on the proper role of who should speak on NFP. Implicit in your words was the idea that only people who have sex should talk about NFP–religious priests, specifically diocesan priests, have no business talking about NFP. They don’t have sex, what would they know about it. Why would anyone take them serious since they’ve taken a vow of Chastity?

    These were the words between the lines that jumped out at me. And, for the record, I find those who think this way to be in error. If we had more priests who WOULD talk about NFP, its benefits and were knowledgable in how it works then more of the “fiathful” would practice it. Maybe, just maybe, more would even embrace the Church’s rejection of contraception.

    The other areas that you find benefit to applying the message of the harm from corrupt shepherds are well noted. But in America where the populace seems quite obssessed with sex without consequences, the homily could not have been more timely.

    Further, admonishing without providing the correct alternative (the role of the Church, the original and central theme of the homily) would be a mistake. A mistake into which Fr. Todd did not fall.

    Speaking personally, I find it more beneficial when a strong homily is given by a priest who is courageous and not afraid to tackle big issues. Especially ones that many faithful would think a priest has no business.

    That’s just me.

  7. Gigi Says:

    What a wonderful homily! I am so glad I finally clicked onto your site after a short respite (ordination). Our new Bp’s June column in the diocesan monthly newspaper spoke about how he hoped to inspire and teach his priests to be better homilists. He asked for comments and/or suggestions – and received a bundle from me.

    I told him the Faithful need to hear what the Church teaches, particularly in the areas where statistics show Catholics do not believe what their Church teaches (abortion, contraception, confession, Real Presence, the error of voting for pro-choice politicians, etc.). I suggested teaching what the Catechism says on these subjects when it is pertinent to the Gospel of the day or a special day or week (e.g. “Right to Life” Sunday) .

    In my humble opinion, you have hit a homerun with NFP. And, I might add, it was very well said. I agree with others who have commented – I would love to have your homilies online.

    Pax,
    Gigi

  8. Todd Says:

    Peace, Fr Todd.

    Thank you for posting this; it is a dangerous thing. I also appreciate the enthusiasm of your ministry experiences. As a person trained in NFP, I recognize the truth of what you say in your text here. I considered not commenting, but in rereading your sermon today I changed my mind, hopefully not for the worse.

    A better homily would have used NFP as an example, and drawn a general conclusion that other parishioners could have used for their spiritual life. The technical aspects of NFP really dominate the spiritual message here. And they were nothing that lay practitioners of NFP could not have communicated. Does the message mean more when lay people hear it from their peers?

    I also think you need not apologize for your message. If you believe this material and believe it is your place to use the homily time to make your point, just say it without preamble. You will alienate people with homilies like this. People who agree with you will not be challenged in any way and they will appreciate confirmation in their way of thinking (and maybe hope you don’t preach next week on tax fraud or unjust wars or something they might trip over).

    Speaking personally, I would have found more beneficial a stronger connection if the Scriptures admonishing leaders were applied across the board to parents, employers, spouses, student leaders, older siblings, etc., rather than a narrow focus on NFP.

  9. Denise Says:

    Yes! Homilies online!
    This was a very courageous and well said homily, Fr. Todd. I applaud.

  10. Harry Says:

    Fr. Todd,
    I was surprised when you told me one of your first homilies spoke about artificial contraception. I am humbled by your courage and wish I had your skill in rhetoric. The faithful of Sioux Falls are blessed to have you (and if I know you the unfaithful won’t be unfaithful much longer).

    -Harry

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