Homily From the 27th Week of Ordinary Time - Year B
Can anyone (under the age of 40) tell me what this is? This is a sock darner. Can anyone (under the age of 40) tell me what darning a sock is?
The reason why virtually everyone under the age of 40 doesn’t know what sock darning is, is because we don’t darn socks anymore. Darning a sock, is sewing the hole back together. Today, when you get a hole in your sock, what do you do? You throw it away.
But back in the day, people had a lot less money. You couldn’t just “buy another” all the time. Decades ago, people saved, reused, and repaired everything. My mother saved every plastic Cool Whip container we ever emptied and used it for something else. You couldn’t throw away the bows from Christmas presents. They were still good, so they were reused rather than toss them in the trash.
These simple things were costly, so we saved them. Socks weren’t thrown in the trash, they were darned. It seems ridiculous today, but not very long ago, people took the time and effort to sew sock holes shut.
I wonder if today, some people look at themselves like a sock with a hole in it? Actually, I don’t have to wonder, because I know it to be true. Sometimes, people are so deeply wounded, the hole in them is so vast, that they think they are beyond repair.
I saw this about four years ago in the seminary when I was assigned to work with a group called Bethesda Healing Ministry. Bethesda is, as it says, a healing ministry, for women and men who are suffering the wound of an abortion experience.
We would meet every other week in a safe and confidential location. A dear lady named Judy, who is a licensed counselor and nurse, was, and continues to be, the facilitator of the group. She and a small team of loving, compassionate women, a couple priest chaplains, and two of us seminarians would meet at a former convent and open the doors to any woman or man, who wanted to begin the healing process.
When they came through those doors, the first thing they would find was a smile and a friendly greeting from a total stranger that would soon become a very dear friend. Then they would be invited to sit down with us and enjoy a delicious dinner. After dinner, everyone would go into the chapel for a short period of silent, personal prayer. Then we would gather in the living room and begin our meeting. Once someone got to that point, the journey became much easier.
Up to that point, for virtually everyone, it had been excruciating. So many times, we would hear how people labored for months, even years, to take that first courageous step through the doors of Bethesda. Some would drive to Bethesda and park their car in the lot, only to pause and drive away. Some would even get as far as the front door, their hand practically on the doorknob. Yet, still afraid and ashamed to turn the knob and walk through the door.
Because they thought they had done something so terrible that God did not love them anymore. They thought God would not forgive them. They thought they would not forgive themselves.
How wrong they were. How surprised they were to hear that God indeed still loves them and can never stop loving them. How surprised they were to hear that God always forgives the repentant heart. How surprised they were to hear that Jesus would take the time and effort to heal them. How surprised they were to come to understand they were not hole-filled socks to be thrown away.
Today, many of the women and men who have suffered an abortion experience now serve as companions and friends to newcomers to Bethesda.
I would like everyone who is suffering the wound of an abortion experience to know: you are not broken beyond repair. You are the beloved daughters and sons of God. And Christ is waiting to offer you healing.
In 1995, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote to women who have had an abortion in an encyclical called Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) and said the following:
“I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.”
To my sisters who have had an abortion: You are beloved daughters of the Father. You are children of God. And as Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them.” (Mk 10:14) Do not prevent yourselves from receiving the Father’s loving care, mercy and healing.
One way you might receive healing is by calling your priest. As I said, I know from the testimony of the women from Bethesda how very difficult taking that first step can be.
However, trust in the Lord, know that you will be given complete confidentiality, and
Another way in which you might begin to experience God’s love and mercy would be to attend a “Mass of Healing” here at St. Vincent’s on Wednesday, October 17th at 7PM. You may know that every All Souls Day we offer a Mass for all our parishoners for whom we had a funeral over the past year. Well, on October 17th, we will offer a special Mass of Healing for mothers and fathers who have lost a child through an abortion experience as well as for mothers and fathers who have suffered loss through miscarriage. No one will ask you your name. No one will ask you your circumstance. You will be welcomed with the love of Christ.
We do this because God loves all His children and welcomes them into his embrace. Not only those children lost through abortion or miscarriage or any other untimely death. But also His children who need his healing. And you will be received as the children in today’s Gospel were received by the Lord: “Then he embraced them, and blessed them, placing his hands on them.” (Mk 10:16) There is no sin more powerful than His love. And there is no hole He cannot repair.