I just wrote a long post, having been subjected to yet another load of online abuse, which is still rumbling on five days after appearing on BBC’s Question Time, but deleted it, because these people aren’t worth the emotional energy. Rather than bore you all with the unedifying details, which frankly speak more about the perpetrators, who seek to tweet details of my personal life, I thought I’d go for something more spiritually nourishing, to act as a counter to this little parody currently being tweeted with glee.
Devastating satire at its finest, eliciting lots of comments along the lines of “she’s special, Twitter’s Mrs Mad, Question Time’s troll”. That’s right, going on national TV and proposing a viewpoint contrary to the liberal consensus is “trolling” and merits comments about my weight, my family and casting doubts upon my mental health. Someone really went to quite a lot of effort here.
Anyway, I was delighted to receive an email from the Very Reverend Leo Chamberlain OSB who will be familiar in Catholic circles as the former headmaster of Ampleforth school and Master of St Benet’s College Oxford.
He very kindly offered his support having seen the show and sent me a copy of Sunday’s homily, which he has graciously allowed me to reproduce below which not only caused me to take heart, but gives encouragement to anyone who is fearful of speaking up or challenging the liberal consensus, that seeks to jeer, ridicule and mock a woman who points out that every child has a biological parent.
The sentiment is very timely.
Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent A 2014 Fr Leo Chamberlain 1 Samuel 16:1b,6-7,10-13a; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-41
The idea that affliction, physical or financial, is a punishment of God – just as equally prosperity proves God’s favour – is still common. Both ideas are wrong. The HIV-AIDS epidemic indeed affected promiscuous homosexuals most, but to say that infection is a judgement of God is something different. Nor does God reward virtue with success. The psalmists spent a lot of time complaining about the opposite, that evil men thrived, and too often the good suffered. So the disciples in asking whether the man had sinned, or his parents, were asking the wrong question. Nor did this mean that the Father had set up a life of suffering in order to prove a point. The man’s blindness was a physical fact: Jesus saw him and his state gave the opportunity for his healing – and, as the gospel records, much more. We can hardly penetrate into the mystery of suffering in the world – save to recall the suffering of Christ himself.
Samuel had anointed David, and from then on the Spirit seized on him. In Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us creatures of dust. Jesus mixed spittle with earth and anointed the blind man. The man washed his eyes in the pool of Siloam at Jesus’ command. This was not just any old pool, but the pool from which the water was drawn to celebrate the great feast of Tabernacles, of the bringing in of harvest and the blessings of the Messianic age. We too, said St Augustine, are born blind from Adam. The Christian is anointed in Baptism and Confirmation. With the eye salve of faith, the Christian comes to the light in Christ and to the life of Christ.
There are different kinds of blindness in this story. Jesus said, I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life. In daily life, we say sometimes, I see. Or, he saw the light. The disciples had hardly begun to understand what Jesus meant. They didn’t see. The blind man washed and he could see. Actually, he could see more and more. It started with the gift of physical sight. He said it as it had happened, and stuck to the truth in spite of everything. I am the man. He could see. But others could not. The neighbours were blind to what had happened, and uncertain.
They took the man off to higher authority. He told the Pharisees the same– but it had all been done on the Sabbath. They asked the man what he had to say about his healer. The man saw more and more: he is a prophet he said. So they called the parents, and asked them. They confirmed he was their son and was born blind. But they had their own blindness brought on by fear. Such a healing was a sign of the coming of the Messiah, but they could not risk saying that. Ask him, they said. So
they asked him again, and he asked why they wanted to hear it again; they told him to praise God because they didn’t know where the man had come from. The man, who now saw almost everything, absolutely contradicted them – a very brave thing to do.
So they threw him out; and Jesus found him: Jesus came to seek out what was lost. This brought the final step. The man came to the light of faith. Lord, I believe, he said, and he worshipped him. The Pharisees refused. They were guilty because they refused the light. That is still the question for all who read the gospel.
St Paul wrote that now we are light in the Lord: be like children of light, in complete goodness and right living and truth. That has always had a cost. The man who had been born blind was driven out by the Pharisees. The elite of that day would not accept him, and would not accept Christ. The influential elites of our day have moved away from the pattern of life taught for so long in the Church. The consequences are becoming plain.
This weekend, the weekend of Mothering Sunday, a celebration if ever there was one of the central purpose of marriage, the bringing of the next generation into the world, the first so-called equal marriages have taken place. The new Act of Parliament destroys in law the foundation meaning of marriage. The many who oppose this devastating change in the law are being painted as homophobe and reactionary. They are neither. They simply want the law on marriage to reflect the meaning it has always had: marriage is a lifelong conjugal commitment between a man and a woman, open to children. It’s not about equality. On Thursday evening, in a late flick on the TV, I saw a part of Dimbleby’s Question Time. I wonder how many of you saw it. The question of equal marriage was raised. The only panel member to defend marriage was attacked from an audience overwhelmingly hostile. Finally a brave woman in the audience defended marriage. I now know she is a Catholic called Caroline Farrow. She was abused and mocked. Afterwards, as she left the studio, she was told she was disgusting and was spat at. There is a group, Catholic Voices, which you can easily find on the internet. They work to make the Catholic voice heard on the public square: she is a member.
Catholics today have an obligation to make sure they are not blind to what is happening, that they see things as Christ did. We should at least be well informed. There is some danger now that we might be blind like the man’s parents, and fail to speak for the truth out of fear or embarrassment. Always remember that Our Lord said, many times, Do not be afraid.