WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Infertility and God
By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
Life comes where there was only death. Manoah's barren wife bears Samson. Saint Elizabeth, who is beyond child-bearing years bears Saint John the Baptist. Zechariah is astonished and shocked at the announcement of fertility by the Archangel Gabriel in the temple. These are an icon of man, who has been rendered lifeless and infertile by sin, yet in the coming of Christ eternal Life Himself is in man's very midst.
HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - "Father, I have been healed!" Believe it or not, this is not an uncommon thing for me to hear. As a priest there are a lot of people who talk about the mighty things the Lord has done for them - healings from cancer, from emotional trauma, from addiction, or from some kind of brokenness that God reveals his love through their healing. However it seems that one of the most common miracles are with regard to bearing the issue of human life: childbirth among complications, healthy pregnancy amidst difficult prenatal diagnosis, and even fertility despite bareness.
It is so common that when any gloriously reputed and renowned doctor tells a woman, "Oh no, you shouldn't get pregnant," or "you'll never have children," or "it would be better if you never exercise any fertility," I always advise to get a third or fifth opinion. It seems there is no greater temptation for those in the medical field to play God than with regard to matters of life, sometimes pronouncing with all their "omnipotent" knowledge a definitive decree about a certain woman's uterine condition.
Don't get me wrong. Doctors are great. They just seem to overstep their bounds the most in this area, an area which God too seems to overstep the physical laws and intervene with supernatural healing. If a doctor has used his medical authority to prophetically declare to you that "thou shalt never have children again," please don't hesitate to find another opinion.
In today's mass, we find the Lord addressing the area of infertility. Life comes where there was only death. Manoah's barren wife bears Samson. Saint Elizabeth, who is beyond child-bearing years bears Saint John the Baptist. At Christmas, the Virgin Mary bears miraculously the Son of the Eternal Father, conceived not by man but by the Holy Spirit. All of these are an icon of man, who has been rendered lifeless and infertile by sin, yet in the coming of Christ eternal Life Himself is in man's very midst.
Infertility is a mystery. It is not easy and for many couples is very painful. Nowadays more than ever many couples are reporting to be infertile. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes it is because the woman damaged her fertility through oral contraceptives, which besides having a 12-17% rate in causing breast and cervical cancer, diminishing libido, and can even permanently disrupt a woman's menstrual cycle, also have the effect of causing high rates of infertility. Another reason is the introduction of estrogen and progestins into certain process meats such as beef and chicken to keep them soft and supple, are ingested by men, whose reproductive organs are adversely affected. And at other times, there doesn't seem to be any medical explanation for it, but just a trial that is endured.
As a result some people turn to the immoral practice of In-Vitro Fertilization, which not only removes the life-giving act of conception from the love making act, but also is illicit in the fact that fertilized embryos are wontonly destroyed. AND HERE IS THE CRAZY PART: only one in five attempts are successful - 20%. Yet 80% of all couples who try to conceive using Natural Family Planning, are successful, a method which is not only moral and right in the eyes of God, but also helps the couple to inculcate a high degree of respect and marital intimacy in the level of communication and the depth of what is communicated. The other astonishing fact here is that the divorce rate of contraception and IVF is well over 50%, while those who practice Natural Family Planning according to the mind of the Church have a divorce rate of %0.02 (for more info visit http://nfpandmore.org )
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2377) reads: "Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that 'entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.'"
There are two things we need to take away from today's Mass. First, don't contracept and don't IVF. It's not only bad but a life and love killer. Second, is to know that amidst a spiritual desert or spiritual infertility, God will intrude and bring forth abundant life. Also for those couples who may never know the joy of having their own children, we must remember the glory of adoption. It is by adoption that every soul brought into heaven is adopted into the Son of God through baptism, and that this is a very real and wondrous mystery of giving a child a second chance at a beautiful life. If a couple opts not to adopt they must also remember that their marital love bears within it a certain fruitfulness in the apostolate of helping the sick, the poor, the friendless, and any in need of love.
May the prayers and intercession of the ever-Virgin Mary, who miraculously bore the Eternal Son of God, pray for all couples who have felt the pain of infertility, that they may know the God who brings life amidst barrenness.
Father Samuel Medley, SOLT, is a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, and is currently based in Hythe, Kent, United Kingdom. He is a speaks to groups around the world on Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Visit his homily blog http://medleyminute.blogspot.com or his blog on sexual ethics http://loveandresponsibility.org
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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