Acts of the Apostles 16:1-10

From Cilicia Paul went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra. Here there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess who had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek.

As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to respect them.

So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers.

They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.

One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, “Come across to Macedonia and help us.” Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.

John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

“If the world hates you,
remember that it hated me before you.
If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
because my choice withdrew you from the world,
therefore the world hates you.
Remember the words I said to you:
A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted me,
they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word,
they will keep yours as well.
But it will be on my account that they will do all this,
because they do not know the one who sent me.”


On Thursday, I heard an elderly Methodist bishop say that the teachings of the church can and must change according to the times, and I was distressed at hearing such a thing. His pronouncement on this, and on other things that distressed me equally, was met with loud applause by people looking to hear things like that to justify their beliefs.

For hundreds of years, all Christians condemned the practice of contraception. Some 80 years ago in 1930, the Anglican Communion changed its policy on contraception. Most Protestant groups followed suit. When the first oral contraceptives appeared in 1960, some voices in the Catholic Church argued for a reconsideration of the Church’s position on contraception.

In 1963, Pope John XXIII commissioned a group of non-theologians to study questions of birth control and population. His successor Pope Paul VI added theologians, doctors, and women to the commission. In 1966, the commission produced a report, stating that artificial birth control was not intrinsically evil and that Catholic couples should be allowed to decide for themselves about the methods to be employed for birth control.

What did Pope Paul VI do? Like any apostle, he prayed about it and opened himself to the Spirit of Jesus speaking to him. The result was an encyclical titled “Humanae Vitae” (1968) which re-affirmed the traditional teaching of the Roman Catholic Church regarding abortion, contraception, and other issues of human life. In addition, Pope Paul VI included four predictions about the effects of contraception on society, all of which have been proven accurate in the subsequent 40 years.

In today’s first reading, we see Paul, an apostle, travelling wherever the Spirit of Jesus led him to preach the Good News. In addition, wherever he went, he reminded the Christians to respect the instructions given by the apostles and elders. Have we, as Catholics, respected the instructions given by our bishops, who are the direct successors of the apostles?

In today’s gospel reading, we see Jesus reminding us that as Christians, we do not belong to the world, and we are therefore persecuted by the world. Indeed Pope Paul VI was persecuted by the world, and even by members of the Catholic Church, for not caving into pressure. He chose instead to listen to the Spirit of Jesus. And we know that this Spirit was speaking the truth, since all of Pope Paul VI’s predictions of the effect of contraception on society have come true.

Have we, as Catholics, been faithful to the Spirit of Jesus? Have we fought against the use of contraception among our friends and family members? Or have we caved in to the pressures of the world and decided that it is easier on us to be loved, rather than hated, by the world?

Dear Jesus, we ask for the grace to resist the terrible temptations we face in living our lives as Christians in defense of life. We ask that we may remain close to you, and always listening to how your Spirit is revealing you to us in our lives. We also pray for all Catholics who support the use of contraception and abortion, that your Spirit may reveal the truth of the harmful effects of contraceptives in their lives, in their marriages and families, and in their society. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Humanae Vitae and Theology of the Body.

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