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June 12, 2016

Three men went out for a coffee.  The first two discussed how much control they had over their wife.  The third one kept silent.  Finally he spoke.  “I had troubles with this issue for a long time, but last night, finally she crawled to me on her hands and knees.”  “What did she say?” The others asked.  “She begged me,” answered the man, “Larry, come out from under that bed and fight like a man!”

Last week the Pope talked about the courageous women in the church and in our society.  Last Sunday’s readings also mentioned the two miserable widows who got their dead sons back.  Today’s Gospel reading gives us another chance to talk about the presence and importance of women in the Church.  After her encounter with Jesus, the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet is no longer a sinner but a close follower of the Lord. All Gospels note that along with the Twelve, there were several women who accompanied Jesus including Mary Magdalene, Johanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, and a certain Susanna. They followed the Lord even to the Cross when others deserted him.  We are all quite aware of the impact of women in our Church from the very beginning. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as well as St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Edith Stein, St. Marguerite d’Youville, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and so many more were true women of God. We are aware that most of the ministries in our parish, as well as most of the parishes in Canada, are led by devoted, fervent women (We need you, men, where are you?). 

You may also know that many of our women are not treated properly. I have heard some racist and sexist comments right here in the church and at the office area.  Many of our women are not given the respect that is the natural right of all women.  Many suffer abuses from childhood to adulthood. Every day we read and hear in media about wives and girlfriends of celebrities and sports figures being assaulted.  In some other cultures, women are always less important than men.  Look at India.  Look at Iraq. Look at Vietnam.  Look at China.  With one-child-policy, many baby girls have been aborted or killed when they were just born in the most populous country, China.  Abuse against women is rampant in our society. It has to stop. We all know that it is the sign of a coward for a man to use his physical strength to hurt a woman, but there are many, many cowards among us. One time, I was in a courtroom. The case considered a man who was charged with hitting his former wife. During the jury selection process, one of the attorneys asked the women in the room to stand up if they had been abused. About two-thirds of the women present stood up. How sad!  There is no place for physical abuse, emotional abuse or sexual abuse in our society, or in our Church. No woman has an obligation to put up with those abuses.

Many women have been scarred throughout their lives by sexual abuse (sometimes by the clergy). The number of girls who have kept secret the actions of a relative or close family friend is mortifying. There is the secret, hidden abuse against women which, basically, has generated the most funds of any business on the internet. That is the abuse of pornography. All men know that sexual abuse is wrong, and yet, so many men participate in this abuse by paying the abusers, the pornographers.

A large number of our women, our young girls, enter a marriage as virgins. As well there are also many serious, committed young men among us who likewise treasure their virginity. But sadly, some of these girls become the victims of venereal disease as a wedding gift from their new spouse. The concept that an unmarried man can "play around" with others before marriage is an insult and a physical attack on women in general and on the particular woman with whom he eventually seeks to make a life. Is there anyone out there telling young men that not only it is wrong for them to have sex outside of marriage, not only it is wrong for them to expose themselves to various sexual diseases, it is doubly wrong if they plan on sharing their sickness with others!

A final word about a sad situation is that there are many of our young ladies suffering from the trauma of miscarriage. We need to care for our women suffering miscarriages. As a man, you will never know what it is like to feel a child growing inside of you. You will never know what it is like to experience the transformation of your body to nurture a baby. So, how then can you possibly know what it is like to lose the baby? Only those who have had miscarriages can understand what the mother is going through. Therefore, it is so terribly wrong for you or for anyone to say to a mother something such as, "Well, the baby may not have lived long after birth," or "You're young, you'll have another baby," or "It was God's will." God does not will that evil happens in the world. Bad things result from a world that has chosen the death of materialism over the Lord of Life. The innocent suffer. Yes, maybe the woman will have another baby but another baby will never replace this baby. A member of a family has died. The baby is unique and can never be replaced.

What can we say? What can I, as your pastor, do? What we can and must say to a family who has lost a child through miscarriage is the same as what we say if a family loses a child in an accident: "I grieve with you for your loss. I pray that God will give you peace. Your child will always be a member of your family, now at peace with God. Let your other children know that they have a brother or sister with the Lord, watching over them."

This Sunday my writing in the bulletin is intended for adults only. I would not present it as a homily out of deference for the little children in the congregation. I feel a deep responsibility to call people to respect and treasure the mysterious creatures of God, the women. Isn’t that what Jesus demanded from Simon the Pharisee in the Gospel (Lk 7:36-8:3)?