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Respect Life Mass homily

 

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

 

January 18, 2003
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Readings:

Heb 4:12-16
Psalm 19
Mk:2:13-17

Every lifetime has a few moments that become larger and more important as the years pass and we see them more clearly in perspective. 

No husband ever forgets when he first met his wife.  No mother ever forgets the birth of her first child.  No priest ever forgets celebrating his first Mass.  Looking back, everything in life flows from these pivotal moments, these turning points -- and how we live out their consequences defines who we become.

For good or for ill, the same is true for nations.  We remember July 4 because it established a new order of human dignity and freedom.  And we remember Roe v Wade because it wounded and continues to undermine both. 

Thirty years ago next week, the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand.  Today we’re living with the consequences.  Today we can thank Roe v Wade for the killing of 40 million unborn children; tens of thousands of broken marriages; and hundreds of thousands of emotionally damaged women and men. 

But those are just the obvious results.  There’s much more ahead, because we’re becoming a nation that no longer remembers the words to explain why things like cloning, infanticide and physician-assisted suicide violate the sanctity of life.  We’ve forgotten the language of right and wrong on exactly those issues that define what it means to be human.

Nations are living organisms.  If we poison the roots of the tree, we get bad fruit.  In 1973, Roe v Wade seemed to be about abortion.  In 2003, we know it was really about the nature of the human person -- and the callousness and inhumanity of the Roe decision have worked their way into every aspect of our public life, just like a drop of ink changes every molecule in a glass of water.  We’re no longer the nation we once were.  Because of this bad court decision, we are now a different nation.

The question we face today is:  What are we going to do about it -- because none of us as Christians has a license to give up on the world.  Our job is to “make disciples of all nations.”  The answer is right here in this Mass in our Scriptures.  In the first reading, St. Paul tells us that, “the Word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit . . . ” 

God speaks, and creation begins on His word.  In the first lines of the Bible, God says, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  In the New Testament, God speaks again -- and His “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

These are more than just beautiful phrases.  When St. Paul says today that the Word of God is “living and effective,” he wants it to take root in our lives like a seed, because if we help that seed to grow, we’ll become -- in our own way, in our own actions -- part of Christ’s body and an echo of God’s word made flesh. 

The word of God gives light; it cuts away the darkness in our lives like a sword, it penetrates our hearts and separates what’s true from what’s false.  It becomes flesh in the choices we make and the people we touch through our witness.  That’s our mission to the world.  That’s why you’re here today.  God wants to speak again, now, through you, through us, through our faith and courage.  Let there be light   He means you – the light of His truth shining through your lives, and as long as it does, the world has hope; the world is not dark.

Whenever I begin to think that 30 years is a long time to struggle about an issue, I remember a fresco of the Eucharist painted on the wall of a catacomb beneath the streets of Rome.  It’s one of the earliest examples of Christian art we have, and it was done in secret nearly 200 years before the persecution of the Gospel ended. 

The early Christians trusted in God despite generations of persecution.  They kept the faith, despite the cost of their own suffering, and their confidence wasn’t in vain because as our Psalm today reminds us, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.”  That’s why Paul urges us to “hold fast to our confession.”  The Word of the Lord is trustworthy.  If God can convert the heart of Rome, He can convert the heart of the Supreme Court, and He can light the darkness in the American soul.

But He wants to do that through us.  In the Gospel today, Jesus says to Levi, “Follow me.”  And Levi got up and followed Him, and everything changed for Levi in that moment. 

Everything in life flows from these special moments -- and how we live out their consequences, determines who we become.

In our work for the unborn, in our witness for the sanctity of life, in our worship in this Mass today, and in the public march that follows it, Jesus is saying, “Follow me.”  How could we not say yes, when our answer decides everything.

 

 

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