Deacon Cornell's Homily


Genesis 9:1-7
John 6:35-40


January 22, 2009 Holy Hour for Life at St. Isidore Parish

We are in the midst of an eventful week. Sunday was declared National Sanctity of Life Day by outgoing President Bush, Monday we remember Dr. Martin Luther King and his accomplishments, since Tuesday we have been bombarded with media proclamations of a new hope and energy because of our new president, and sadly, tonight we note the 36th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in our country.

Tonight's readings remind us of the real reason for the sanctity of human life, and also what the real reason is to have hope, even in the face of a new president whose stated agenda is to increase abortion rights, and decrease the slight gains made over the last few years in keeping the government from funding abortion and other birth control efforts.

The reading from Genesis reminds us that ultimately the sanctity of human life comes from what a human being is. Humans are made by God in the image of God. And humans have God as their destiny. That is the reason human life is sacred. It does not matter what a person does or how much they produce or consume, or even what kind of quality of life they are having, as judged by humans. As the founders of our country expressed in the Declaration of Independence, no government has the power to decide otherwise. We need to remember that the fact that humans are made by God in the image of God is not true because the Bible says so. If that were the case, then the argument that we should not impose our religious views on others would at least be arguable. Humans are made by God in the image of God is the truth, the reality. The Bible only records that reality. Those that argue that this is just a religious belief and cannot be imposed on anyone else are like those who don't believe in science arguing that scientists should stop trying to foist their scientific law of gravity on those who don't believe in it.

Our gospel reading reminds us that not only did God create us but God cherishes us. And God's plan to establish the kingdom of heaven here on earth does not depend on human power. It is God who has decreed that none will be lost. It is God's power that guarantees that this will be done; here on earth as it is in heaven. So I have hope, because I trust in God's power. This doesn't mean I don't have anything to do. It is clear that God has chosen humans as the instruments of God's power. But trusting in God's power allows me to do what God wants in the way God wants it.

This past weekend in our Generations of Faith adult breakout session, we discussed how violence as a response to violence is so wrong yet so ingrained in our culture. It is so easy for us to hear that Genesis reading and think that those who are involved in killing deserve violence against them. We need to remember that the understanding of who God is in the Old Testament is not complete. Otherwise there would have been no need for Jesus to become human to deepen our understanding of God. Tonight's gospel passage reminds us that Jesus' example to us was one of loving concern for everyone he met, saint or sinner. Can this approach really deal with something as violent as the death of 45 million babies by legal abortion in the US since 1973? Let me tell you something that gives me hope that the answer is yes.

Just two years before he was elected president, Abraham Lincoln made the following statement about African Americans in a debate:

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

And yet before Lincoln was assassinated he not only abolished slavery, but gave his support to limited sufferage for blacks. From what I have read, God used Lincoln's unswerving dedication to preserving the United States to champion the rights of slaves. I don't know how many people's prayers or supplications were involved but as far as I know it was not the result of any demonstrations or violent confrontations.

I would suggest that we are called to fervent prayer and unswerving respect for human life in our own lives as the most effective way of cooperating with God's unfailing power. The most powerful message we can give is to live our lives in a way that our respect for the sanctity of all life shines like a beacon in the dark. Each one of us needs to treat the human being in front of us at any moment with the love Jesus models for us. Blessed Mother Theresa used to say that she couldn't deal with the masses. All she could do was feed one person. And so she started by picking up one person, and then another one and then another one until she had picked up tens of thousands. One at a time. We are called to love each person we meet, one at a time, whether that person is rich or poor, healthy or sick, powerful or powerless, a veritable saint, or someone who has undergone an abortion, as Christ loves us. That's God's plan.

The will of our Father in heaven is that no one will be lost. Let our lives make that clear to all who see us.

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