5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 58:7-10
Psalm 112:4-5, 607, 8-9 (4a)
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Matthew 5:13-16
February 8, 2020

Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earthYou are the light of the world.”

Who is He speaking to?  Who is the “you”?

Sometimes we hear Jesus speaking to one specific person.  For example, there are times when Jesus is speaking specifically to Peter.  Other times He speaks to a category of people, like the Apostles.

Who is He speaking to today?  We find the answer at the beginning of today’s passage, “Jesus said to his disciples.

That means us.  In speaking to “his disciples”, Jesus is speaking to everyone past, present, and future who follow him.

So, we hear him say to us, “You are the salt of the earth.”  What does this mean for us?

We use salt to add flavor to food.  Salt can make food taste better.  We are the “salt of the earth” in that we are called to help make the world a better place.  Think of the words “thy kingdom come” from the Lord’s prayer.

What about Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world”?  Jesus is the light of the world.  We receive that light in our baptism.  We are called to share the light, the light of truth with the world. 

We can share the light by sharing Jesus’ words.  We can share the light by doing good deeds, doing “works of mercy”.

We hear of some of works of mercy in our reading from Isaiah today, “share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked..”  We find a more complete list of the Corporal Works of Mercy in Matthew 25:31-46, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty.

One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is to “visit the sick”.  We also have Spiritual Works of Mercy scattered throughout the Bible.  One of the spiritual works is to comfort the afflicted.  What do you do to help the sick and the afflicted?

I want to return to the idea of sharing the light of the truth of our faith.  In hearing the call to share the gospel, our diocese has the practice of each year having a public policy weekend to advocate for an issue being debated in our government.  Often it is an issue before our state government but it can also be on a national level.  It is an opportunity to hear what our faith says about important issues.  We are invited to sign petitions about the issue.

This year’s issue relates to the works of mercy to visit the sick and comfort the afflicted.  This year’s issue is Physician Assisted Suicide.  This is certainly a difficult issue that becomes personal and emotional when someone we care about is dying.

What is Physician Assisted Suicide? 

Well, first we should know that it used to be called “active euthanasia” but there was confusion trying to distinguish “active euthanasia”, the deliberate ending of human life, from “passive euthanasia”, which is to stop extraordinary means of treatment when death nears and allowing nature to take its course.”

“Physician Assisted Suicide” is when a patient is terminally ill with no hope of a cure prescribed a medicine by a doctor for the individual to take on their own that will kill them.”

Some people in favor of assisted suicide have begun calling it “aid in dying” as if dying was the goal we strive for. 

They speak of a person having dignity in dying, meaning they get to choose the time of their death and can do it while they still have their dignity, often meaning they can still take care of themselves, not really on others.

Our faith (and I personally) do not see this as “dignity”.  In fact, I think it robs the dying person of their dignity because it says that the person is no longer any good to us when they are sick so they might as well end their life.

People in favor of assisted suicide also talk about in terms of alleviating suffering, something we all seek.  However, death is not the only way to alleviate suffering.  Our faith very much believes in pain management (palliative care).  We are to do what we can to make the sick comfortable and ease their pain.  This is idea of hospice care and comfort care houses like Teresa House

We help those dying in the pain to find comfort, to be present to them but we leave the time of their death in God’s hands just as Jesus did when He suffered on the Cross for us.

There is a bill before our state government to legalize assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill.  There are questions about its protections to make sure one is not forced to consent to assisted suicide.  There is no safeguard to screen for depression or other mental illnesses that could affect the person’s decision.

This flies against the fact that our mental health laws allow for police and social services to intervene when an otherwise healthy person seeks to kill themselves because of mental health issues but the same is not true here.

There is also the problem of the “slippery slope”, meaning that over time the definition of those who can choose assisted suicide becomes broader.  This is proven to happen in countries that have had legal assisted suicide for years. 

Last year I heard of a case where a twelve-year old had a terminal illness but wanted to live.  Since he was not of legal age, it was for his parents to make the decision.  The courts allowed them to choose to end his life against his own wishes.

There has also been at least two cases where a person with a terminal illness sought to get their insurance to pay for new medicine but the insurance turned them down because the medicine is experimental and costly.  However, the insurance company offered to pay for the person to receive medicine for assisted suicide.

These are very difficult issues.  I remember my mother’s final days were spent on a ventilator as they tried to treat her lung cancer after she endured several years of emphysema.  Assisted suicide was never an option (I still feel the same way today) but important decisions needed to be made in emotional times.

What was my prayer then?  I simply asked God to take care of her.  If that meant she died, so be it.  If it meant a cure, so be it.  I put it in God’s hands.

So, I encourage you to stand up for life and sign the petitions against assisted suicide (aka “aid in dying”).  If you are not able to do this in your own parish, you can do so online at www.dor.org/petition .   

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