Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

(II Samuel 5:1-7.10; Mark 3:22-30)

The bishops of the United States ask Catholics to do penance today. They do not prescribe a specific action but expect some form of self-denial. Perhaps Catholics might skip a meal or sacrifice dessert. The bishops’ motive is to express sorrow for the carnage caused by the Supreme Court decision barring laws that prohibit abortion. Undoubtedly they hope that communal action against abortion will end in, as Jesus says in today’s gospel, “(tying) up the strong man.”

Jesus’ words are puzzling. It is not clear at first to whom he is referring when speaking of the strong man or the one who plunders the strong man’s house. It may seem like the strong man is just and the plunderer of his house is doing evil. But this line of thought reverses Jesus’ meaning. The strong man represents the devil whose house is the world where he holds humanity hostage. Jesus comes as the thief who will release humans from bondage after he puts the devil under arrest.

“Abortion rights” has regrettably become the rallying cry of many struggling to uphold the dignity of women. The Catholic Church has repented complexity in the oppression of woman in the sense that both its human leaders and many of its adherents have openly demonstrated sexist behaviors. Church leaders like Blessed John Paul II have done all that they find possible to assure justice for women. Nevertheless, the Church must point out the contradiction in pro-choice proponents claiming a right to destroy a human being. It denies the most basic of rights – that of life itself. Ironically it has further led to the slaughter of a majority of women.