Saturday, October 4, 2008

Respect Life Sunday

TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, Respect Life Sunday, October 5, 2008:

As we gather here, we find ourselves in the midst of “Respect Life Month” and in particular today we mark Respect Life Sunday. Today, as always, we are called to reflect on God’s priceless gift of human life. We acknowledge with gratitude the many blessings we enjoy as creatures made in the image of God – our capacity to make moral choices, to know and love God and to love and serve one another. On this day we also take stock of our nation’s progress in fostering a culture where every human life is respected and defended. Here, the outlook is decidedly mixed. God is very clear on what He would like. God calls each of us to revere all life; to see the inherent dignity in all life.

The great scourge of our age in this Culture of Death is, of course, abortion, which is perhaps the greatest attack on the dignity of human life in our time; in any time. Since the 1973 Supreme Court decision, there have been approximately 50 million legal abortions in the United States. There are on average 1.6 million abortions each year, some years that number is as high as 1.8 million abortions. Let us put that into some perspective. Our nation ends more lives each year through abortion than have died in all of the wars this nation has fought. All of our wars combined over the course of more than 200 years from the Revolution through the current conflict in Iraq have taken the lives of approximately 1.2 million Americans. That number alone is tragic. But just 35 years of legalized abortions have taken the lives of about 50 million Americans – 50 million unborn Americans. Just sit with that figure a moment.

Most people who make pro-abortion arguments cite the possibility of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother as reasons for supporting abortion. But, statistics show that 93% of all abortions are for social reasons or serve as a form of birth control. In other words, 93% of the 50 million abortions were for done because having a child would have been inconvenient.

Pro-choice people will often criticize priests for speaking out so vocally because they say, “What do you know? You’ve never been pregnant or had a child.” True enough. But, let me tell you what I do know from my experience as a priest. As a priest, the most common major sin that I hear in the confessional is the sin of abortion. As a priest, the most difficult confessions that I have heard have been from the women who have had abortions. In my experience I can tell you that eventually these women come to realize that the life within them was not a choice, it was a baby. And, I would add that these have also been some of the most incredibly healing moments I’ve witnessed in ministry. The healing power of God’s forgiveness to a woman who has had an abortion is an incredibly awesome and powerful thing to witness.

Our society wants to have us believe that we can be guided by the pleasure principle, by the convenience principle – and all of this at no emotional, no medical, certainly no spiritual cost. But, of course, there is always a cost. God reminds us that we are all precious in His sight – even the unborn baby. God reminds us that not even a law passed by our nation can take away that dignity.

We are also called to be conscious of the fact that being Pro-Life is about more than just abortion too. The beauty and the power of the Church’s teaching on the issue of life is its consistency. The Church usually phrases it this way: we are called to respect the dignity of all human life from natural conception through natural death and at all of the moments in between. This means that if we are to be truly pro-life, we are called to be concerned with the poor, with the homeless, with the immigrant, with the one who has no health care, who lives in danger, and yes, even with the criminal standing firmly against the death penalty. The Catholic upholds the dignity of all human life, not just some or sometimes.

In our world, however, we see what appears to be a never-ending assault on the dignity of human life: the death penalty rages forward; we see the possibility of cloned human beings, the inappropriate use of embryonic stem cells, we see an ever growing gap between the rich and the poor, we see any sense of sexual morality thrown to the wind, we see injustice on top of injustice – all of these things take precedence over God’s ways. God calls us to more.

Being pro-life is not an optional Catholic belief – it is at the very heart of what it means to be a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ. We cannot call ourselves Catholic and leave this church each week supporting a cycle of death – in any of its forms. We either believe in the dignity of each and every human being; created in the image and likeness of God; or we don’t. Being pro-life isn’t situational; it is the way of life that God calls us all to.

It all comes back to God’s Word and God’s way. Do we believe it? Will we follow it? Will we allow God’s Word to take route in our hearts and direct our lives? To be Christian, to follow God’s Word, is not easy – it challenges us into places we weren’t prepared to go, to hold beliefs that are not always accepted by other people; to hold beliefs that are even sometimes challenging for us to hold. But, when we trust in God’s actions, when we truly believe God’s Word and follow it, the results are amazing. The love that God calls us to is challenging, but it is not optional.

Brothers and sisters, you and I are here, worshipping at this Mass today, precisely because we believe in God, we acknowledge Christ as Lord, and we worship the Holy Spirit. God, from the beginning of Scripture to the end, is the God of life. He speaks of himself as the Living God. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "I am the Life." The Holy Spirit, as we say in the Creed every Sunday, is the Lord and Giver of Life. Therefore we, the people of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are by that very fact the people of life. To stand with Christ is to stand for life and to stand for life means that we stand against whatever destroys life.

God’s holy Word calls each and every one of us to this today and every day. God’s Word calls us to support life – all life – from natural conception to natural death and all the many and varied stages in between. We must all look deeply in our hearts and rout out any error that might be there. We must embrace the Culture of Life that God established in creation and see the sanctity of all life.

As we hear in Deuteronomy, God says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life.”

May God give you peace.

1 comment:

  1. I looked up your blog, Father Tom, because one of your parishioners told me what a wonderful talk you gave for pro-life Sunday. Having read it, I agree. And bless you for having the chutzpah to say it from the pulpit!