Homilette for Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

(Genesis 9:1-13; Mark 8:27-33)

Remember the campaign question, “Where’s the beef?” It did more than inquire into political benefits. It hinted at the human craving for meat. We see this predilection for the flesh of animals in the first reading today.

Noah has just emerged from the ark with representatives of all animal species. They have journeyed together for at least forty days and more likely a year. They have shared a common diet which certainly did not contain any meat. Then Noah, without being asked, sacrifices some meat to God. No doubt, he thinks that since humans have a taste for meat, God would savor it as well. God then makes a concession to humankind. Because of their liking, humans may eat the flesh of animals as long as they respect their life blood.

Also, God demands that human society execute murderers. As much as abolitionists might like to overlook the command, the imperative is clear. “If anyone sheds the blood of man,” God says, “by man shall his blood be shed...” Then how can the Church teach that capital punishment is no longer to be practiced? A few considerations are in order about Pope John Paul II’s 1995 appeal to end the death penalty. First, he never claimed that the death penalty is intrinsically evil, only that that governments which are able to remove murderers from society without executing them should do so. Second, he allowed for governments which cannot safely put away murderers to execute them. Third, he proclaimed the need to stop killing criminals as urgent today to counter the culture of death that has become so prevalent with mobsters and abortionists getting away with murder. We might say that the pope is asking God to make a concession as He did in allowing humans to eat meat. As early humans were likely to have rebelled if they were not allowed to eat meat, so too will members of our society continue killing one another gratuitously if we do not provide cogent example of not killing anyone.