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The Word on the Week

Able to be Heard

You may have missed noticing the removal from office of former UCD Students’ Union president Katie Ascough this week. She is a pro-life advocate in the debate around the 8th Amendment to our Constitution which currently preserves the equal right to life of both mother and un-born child.
So what did Katie do that was so wrong? Is it not possible to hold pro-life views at our Universities? Is it like heresy, OK to hold such views – so long as you do not utter them?
In Katie’s case she had a page of abortion information removed from the student union’s freshers’ magazine, Winging It, following legal advice that it may have been illegal. The students voted in favour of its retention apparently ignored the legal advice. Katie was removed from office.
In another university – Oxford – a group Oxford Students for Life issued an invitation to an Irish Journalist and a Barrister to each make a presentation of ‘Ireland and Abortion’. After making some introductory comments but before getting into the subject about 15 protesters disrupted the proceedings. They shouted pro-choice slogans and maintained their disruption for some 40 minutes.
It seems that the words in the Simon and Garfunkel song apply every bit as much today:
“All lies in jest, when a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
Oz Guinness, the son of missionary parents, who got his doctorate from Oxford, once related the difficulty he had obtaining a hearing. It was in the days when women’s rights were a hot topic and his female audience prejudged his talk. They thought it would not be to their liking.
The noise started immediately. Oz requested silence and sat down. After some 10 minutes the noise abated and Oz, after commending them for being obedient women, got on with his talk!
Of course hearing requires hard work to grasp what is being said. Much easier to repeat a slogan monopolising the air waves in a mindless way.
Jesus recognised a deeper problem as instanced by his quote from Isaiah “He that had ears to hear let him hear” (St Matthew Chapter 13 verses 13/15).
As in Isaiah’s time the people were unresponsive. Because of their disobedience God had made them deaf to the message. It was the same in Jesus day. Their hearts were hard. They heard the message but that openness of faith which is the gift of grace was not present and it did them no good.
An old illustration of this is that of the sun. It shines on both the clay soil and a piece of wax. It hardens the former but soften the latter.
The same circumstances existed for St Paul (Acts Chapter 28 verses 25/27). St Paul’s preaching had reached its end, he was in prison in Rome, the Jews had come to his cell, he had preached all day but few were convinced. He reminded them of Isaiah and turned his attention to the Gentiles for the last two years of his life.
Have you received the message of Christ crucified into a grace softened heart?