Pro-Life Leaders’ Mass
Franciscan Monastery – Washington, D.C.
Jan. 20, 2022
Our gathering gives me an opportunity to offer you my warmest thanks for all that you are doing to advance the cause of life. I share with you, not only words of gratitude but also genuine encouragement, encouragement drawn from the Scriptures and the opportunities that lay before us. My hope is that this will offer us fresh joy and energy as we look to the future. So, without further ado, let’s begin with the reading from 2 Corinthians.
II. 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5-7
Reading between the lines of this passage from St. Paul, we can see that the Corinthians had criticized the Apostle severely. Somewhat defensively, Paul declared that he had renounced “shameful hidden things,” and that he had not acted deceitfully or falsified God’s Word.
Most likely, rival missionaries had made such false accusations against Paul – about his behavior, his administration of funds and about his preaching.
Perhaps you can relate to St. Paul’s situation – I know I can! As missionaries of the Gospel of Life and as co-workers in the vineyard, we are not exempt from trenchant criticism, on the left and on the right. Some may accuse us of being cultural warriors, partisans and lacking in compassion.
Others may accuse us of being too weak because we refuse to be tendentious, or because we choose prudence and the long view, instead of a quick hit.
St. Paul never succumbed to discouragement, and neither should we! He declared that he did not preach himself or his own self-interest; rather, he proclaimed Christ Jesus as Lord, and himself as the Lord’s servant. As he did so, the glory of God shining on the face of Christ shone through him, through his words and deeds, and thus he shed light upon a darkened world.
All this Paul did as “an earthen vessel,” a weak and fallible human being, just like us. Clearly, Paul drew his encouragement, not from his talents or his efforts, but rather his encounter with the Risen Lord.
Our encouragement comes from the same source: the Risen Lord. We encounter him in word and sacrament, in private prayer, in the support of family and friends, in the support of our co-workers and most especially in the faces of the poor and vulnerable … in mothers and their babies.
The terrain is difficult but Christ is our strength and he has already won the victory. So let us close ranks around Christ, be united in him, and thus support one another!
The Gospel reading from St. Luke brings us to the origins of our mission to go forth and to preach, proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel of Life.
Here we encounter Jesus sending out 72 disciples on their first missionary journey. Jesus does not equip them very well for their maiden voyage: no moneybag, no sack, no sandals. (Think of that the next time you feel your budget is too skimpy!) Jesus does tell them that the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. There is also a sense of urgency in Jesus’ words, urgency about the mission, even as he gives them wise advice, namely, to look for someone in the community whose home might serve as ‘a base of operations’ for the mission. The rest, the Lord would take care of, as in his Name they cured the sick and proclaimed the Kingdom.
Given the challenges his disciples faced, the Lord’s instructions were astonishing. Yet, is the Lord not saying something similar to us today?
The culture of death far surpasses the earthly resources we have at our command. Its proponents have more funding, more political power and more technology, not to mention the sympathetic ear of the media establishment. Compared to that, we truly do not have a moneybag, sack or sandals!
Perhaps here the Lord is telling you and me not to try to defeat the culture of death on its own turf or using its own strategies of striking fear and rousing anger. The Gospel has never gone forth through the tools of fear and anger, but rather through charity, overcoming evil with good and death with life. So let us reject the tools of the culture of death. Let us not “fight fire with fire.” Instead, let us immerse ourselves in the Gospel of Life, allowing the Incarnate Lord Jesus to shed his incomparable light on us and on the dignity of every human life, on both mother and child, on the frail elderly, and on all those who are vulnerable and struggling.
Like St. Paul, we need to let the glory of God shining on the face of Christ to shine through us, setting in sharp relief the dignity and worth of each person, especially the most vulnerable and voiceless among us, the unborn.
Our witness and advocacy before the world becomes even more convincing, when, flowing from our prayerful encounter with the Risen Lord, there emerges from our lips words of truth, compassion and peace, and from our hands works of charity that enflesh the words we preach. Here I think of the witness of the Sisters of Life in their love for mothers and babies, the wonderful USCCB program, “Walking with Moms in Need,” the ministries of our pro-life pregnancy centers, the dedicated service of diocesan pro-life directors, the unstinting leadership and support of the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, the efforts of Catholic Charities and other Catholic social service agencies to provide for mothers and their children after they have been born . . . and, of course, the post-abortion healing ministries pioneered by the Church.
In these and in many other ways that are part of your daily life and ministry, our witness and advocacy to the gift of life becomes convincing, even to a jaded world.
In fact, this may be truer than we think. Recent studies confirm that Catholics who struggle with the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life are often convinced when they see the Church both defending the child and loving the mother, and when they see the Church affirming the beauty and dignity of every human life. And we may say to ourselves, this is precisely what we’ve been doing for decades!
Yet, as today’s Gospel says, “the harvest is rich!” – Although we are few in numbers, we have a lot of work to do in helping fellow Catholics, especially those who are conflicted about Church teaching, to understand the many ways the Church reaches out in love to protect and defend vulnerable unborn children and also their moms and families. There lies before us a God-given opportunity to spread the Gospel of Life!
This task is urgent, especially in light of the impending decision of Dobbs v. Jackson. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, in whole or in part, we must be ready to be a united and clear voice in support of state laws that would protect the unborn, all the while redoubling our efforts to create a society where no woman has to choose between her future and her unborn child. This requires us to enlist many more of our fellow Catholics to the pro-life cause, and with their help, to expand our ministries to moms and families in need.
A Future Full of Hope
With the resurging pandemic and all the other challenges ahead of us, it may seem as though 2022 is just one in a series of discouraging years. But dear friends, the Lord gives us another perspective. The Lord is not sitting on his throne trembling at what may come next. He was not panicked as the waves of the Sea of Galilee threatened the disciples’ boat. No, he awakened and calmed the seas. This is true for our times as well. He is with us. We are not alone. He is our peace. And he has given us work to do.
Dare we hope that, in his plan, this year may see remarkable changes of heart, real advances for the Gospel of Life, preached and borne witness to in love? Let us go forth from this Mass with genuine hope and renewed strength! For this too is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!