|January 22, 2019, Holy Hour for Life|
We gather today to pray for greater respect for life from conception to natural death, for those who have been wonded by abortion, for those facing death and terminal illness and for holiness within the Church so that we might better transform our culture from one of death to a culture of life. Thinking about transforming our culture is a really daunting thought in the face of news report after news report about school and other shootings, the fact that over 60 millions babies have been aborted since 1973, and more than 1.5 billion (billion with a B) worldwide since 1980, and repeated assaults on the sanctity of life through attempts to legalize suicide.
Our culture uses a variety of strategies to deflect our attention from the fundamental issue of the sanctity of life. Abortion is just "reproductive rights" or legalized euthanasia is about "dying with dignity". Today's Gospel reading reminds us that life is sacred because it comes from God. Every human being from the moment of conception in the womb to that last moment of natural death is a creation of God who is made in God's image. And each human being is so loved by God that He sent his only Son into the world as one of us, as a human being, to make it clear in humanly understandable terms that God loves each one of us and is determined not to lose even one of us.
Our first reading calls us to action, reminding us that God has called each one of us who has been baptized before our birth, to be a light to the nations. Those last few lines remind us that it it not just to think we are called to raise up those just around us but to raise up all of creation, to be a light to all the world in proclaiming God's truth to it. For those of us that God has chosen to be baptised as Catholics, we have also been anointed as priest, prophet, and king to go forth and continue Christ's mission of bringing God's love to the world.
I would just like to reflect with you for a few minutes on one aspect of how we are called to be a light to the nations in the context of so many stories of death. I would suggest that too often our reaction to our culture's dismissal of the sanctity of life is to be angry with those who perpetrate such lies. And I would further suggest that, as understandable as that might be, that we become much less effective in being a light to the world when we act on that anger.
Listening to news stories of shootings such as the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, can make us angry with the shooter, with the NRA, with a Congress that cannot seem to do anything to control guns. Stories about the number of babies aborted or about pro-abortion legislation being paased can make us angry with the people who promote abortions or polititians who support abortions, especially those who are identified as Catholic. And so on; and as I said this is all too understandable. Or we get angry at polititians at the death of children in detention centers on our southern border. We even get mad at God sometimes at stories like the deaths resulting from the tsunami in Tailand back in December. As I was preparing for this Holy Hour, I got to thinking about how God thinks about all of these deaths.
There is a Jewish midrash story about how God and the angels reacted to the freeing of the Hebrew people from slavery at the Red Sea. The book of Exodus tells us that after the Hebrews saw the waters of the Red Sea flow back and wipe out the entire Egyptian army chasing them, and they realized that they were free after 400 years of slavery, Miriam, Moses' sister started singing a song of gratitude and praise and triumph to God, and all 600 thousand Israelites joined in. The angels are all hanging on the edges of their clouds listening and they turn to God and say, "Isn't that such a tremendous song of triumph and praise that the Israelites are singing to you?" And God replies, "All I can hear is the cries of the drowning Egyptians".
Jesus came to gather all of us back to God; to lose no one, not even those who we get angry at for their sins against the sanctity of life. I can't help but wonder if what we are being called to is to witness to our conviction about the sanctity of life by the way we live our lives. We are called to witness by deepening our prayer, perhaps starting right here, right now. We are called to pray for the victims of abortion, and assisted suicide, and all forms of violence agains human life certainly. But I suggest we are also called to keep in our prayers those who seem to deny the sanctity of human life. To pray for their conversion of heart but in the same tender, loving way that God holds each of them in His heart.
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, or advocates abortion. And we are called to love that person as Christ loves us. That's God's plan.
The will of our Father in heaven is that no one will be lost. Let us pray as if everything depends on God; and act as if everything depends on us.