Sunday, October 21, 2018

Re-defining ‘Service’ and Other Words

(Twenty-ninth Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on October 21, 2018 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33:4-22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-ninth Sunday 2018]

Kermit Gosnell was an abortionist in Philadelphia for more than thirty years.  He’s been called “America’s #1 serial killer”—and with good reason.  He utilized some of the most gruesome procedures imaginable to perform late-term abortions.  (Abortions, incidentally, are illegal in Pennsylvania after twenty-three weeks of pregnancy—but that didn’t matter to Gosnell.) 

As for his clinic, it was a disgrace.  It resembled a pig sty more than a medical facility.  Investigators described it as a “house of horrors”.

In 2013 he was convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of three of his infant victims, and of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 41-year-old woman, who died during a botched abortion.  He was also found guilty of twenty-one counts of illegal late-term abortions, as well as a host of other charges.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Even many who identify themselves as “pro-choice” were horrified at what went on in Gosnell’s abortuary.  Of course, science teaches us that human life begins at the moment of conception—which means that every abortion that takes place in every abortion mill is “horrific.”

A movie came out last week about all this which I highly recommend.  Unfortunately, it’s only playing in one theater locally—the Marquee Cinema in Westbrook (about a 40 minute drive from here).  The film is entitled “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.”  One of its stars is actor Dean Cain, who played Superman in the TV series, “Lois & Clark”. 

And it’s not filled with gore.  As one commentator has noted, the movie “stays true to the trial record without having to resort to gratuitous graphic imagery.”  Thus it’s rated PG-13 and appropriate for a younger, teenage audience. 

So if you’re looking for something to do in the next few days that will make you very glad that you’re pro-life, take a ride to Westbrook and see this film.  It will be time well-spent.

I thought of Kermit Gosnell and his tragic story when I was reflecting on the words of Jesus in this gospel text from Mark 10, especially where our Lord says, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus came, as Scripture says, so that we might have life and have it more abundantly.  That’s why, as Philippians 2 tells us, “He emptied himself … and was born in the likeness of men … and humbled himself … accepting even death, death on a cross.”

Jesus came into this world to serve his Father and to serve us, by giving his life for us for the forgiveness of our sins.

Well, Kermit Gosnell also came to “serve”—at least that’s what he said.  He maintained many times that he ran his abortion business in order to serve women—especially poor, inner city women.

But his idea of service, and Jesus’ idea of service, are polar opposites!

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, served by offering his own life; Kermit Gosnell served by taking lives (of babies—some of whom were already out of the womb, and of at least one woman in a botched abortion). 

To Jesus Christ, serving involved the giving of himself to others (and the giving of himself for others); to Kermit Gosnell serving involved taking from others—especially their money (the movie makes clear that he got filthy rich from the dirty deeds he performed in his abortion mill).

Jesus Christ came to serve others by giving his life as a ransom for them; Kermit Gosnell came for the service of himself, and to destroy as many innocent lives as he possibly could in the process.

Those are two very different understandings of what it means to “serve,” proceeding from two very different definitions of the word “service”.  One of those definitions is rooted in the truth, the other is rooted in a perversion of the truth—since it equates service with murder.

Kermit Gosnell, in effect, tried to legitimize his sin (the sin of killing babies) by perverting and re-defining a word. 

Which is something that happens a lot in our society these days, with a lot of words besides "service"!

Think of how people have tried to re-define the word “marriage” in recent years to justify certain sinful behaviors; or how they’ve tried to re-define the word “gender” to include 60 or more possibilities.

Think of the prevailing cultural notion of love—which involves the approval of another person’s actions, even if they’re objectively sinful.  As we all know, if you openly disapprove of certain activities in our society right now, you are immediately labeled a “hater”—as if “hatred” and “disapproval” are synonyms.  Well they’re not (as I said in a homily I gave a couple of months ago); neither are “love” and “approval” synonymous.  For example, all good parents love their children—but they certainly don’t approve of everything their children do.

Nor should they when their children do things that are wrong!  Love and approval are not synonyms—at least in the real world they aren’t.  But they’re being re-defined as such in the alternative universe that some people are trying to create for themselves and for the rest of us.

That’s the same universe that Kermit Gosnell currently lives in with his warped understanding of what it means to “serve” women.  I don’t know about you, but personally I’d rather live in the real world with Jesus Christ and try to serve others as he served them.

Because I know that that will help to make the world a much better place for me, for women, for unborn babies—and for everyone else.