Closing Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Jan. 29, 2021
Anchoring Our Pro-Life Mission in the Eucharist
Usually, this morning Mass concludes an all-night Eucharistic Vigil here at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Because of the pandemic, our Eucharistic Vigil took the form of a virtual Holy Hour and we are very grateful to those who made that such a beautiful experience. In addition, many dioceses and parishes sponsored virtual and in-person Eucharistic Vigils. All these extraordinary efforts, in the midst of this pandemic, testify to the importance of anchoring our pro-life mission in the Eucharist…in Eucharistic Adoration leading to the celebration of Holy Mass, the “source and summit” of our faith.
The Eucharist unites and strengthens us in our efforts to secure justice for the unborn, and to create a culture wherein every human life is cherished, nurtured and protected from the moment of conception until natural death.
What wisdom do we absorb as we pray in silence before our Eucharistic Lord? How does the Lord’s Eucharistic radiance illumine our minds and brighten our hearts, especially in these days so challenging for the Pro-Life Movement? How does our wholehearted participation in Holy Mass equip us for our mission? In answer to these questions, let me offer an observation about the Eucharist itself, coupled with a few brief lessons from the Scripture readings just proclaimed.
Entrusting Ourselves to the Lord’s Eucharistic Radiance
Praying silently in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, do we not we sense the closeness of our Eucharistic Lord? In such moments, the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with wonder and awe at the mystery of the Incarnation, that mystery so much at the heart of God’s plan for the salvation of the world.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, God’s only-begotten Son assumed our human nature, our humanity – He was formed in Mary’s womb, just as every baby is formed in their mother’s womb, going through all the stages of gestation, until his birth at the stable in Bethlehem. This alone sheds a most beautiful light on the dignity and humanity of the unborn. What’s more, by assuming our humanity, Jesus created a bond of solidarity with all humanity and with every person at every stage of his or her existence. As St. John Paul II taught us, by the Incarnation, the Son of God, in some way, united himself to every person without exception.
Thus did God the Father make his only Son radically available to us. Without losing his divinity, God’s Son drew close to us by becoming one of us, and that closeness of Jesus to us and to the world continues in the Eucharist.
Contemplating the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, we absorb more deeply the immense love of God that we celebrate in the liturgy, and we draw from this experience of God’s tender love the joy and the strength we need to be Jesus’ disciples and those pro-life missionaries whom the Church and society-at-large need so desperately.
Eucharistic Adoration, followed by the celebration of Holy Mass, is like a school that forms and equips us to place our humanity at the service of the least of these, the tiniest of human beings and the most vulnerable of all. Gazing upon the Lord in his Eucharistic smallness, our minds and hearts are prepared to exercise a preferential option for the smallest and most helpless among us.
What lessons can we draw from the Scriptures proclaimed this morning?
Let’s begin with Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he urges us, “Have no anxiety.” If our minds and hearts were not anchored in the Lord’s Eucharistic love, we might be tempted to say, “St. Paul, are you kidding? Have you seen the Executive Order rescinding the Mexico City Policy?
Do you know that the cancel culture portrays all pro-life advocacy as hate-speech? Friends, I’d suggest that we give St. Paul the benefit of the doubt. After all, Paul addressed his letters to early Christian communities facing persecution. He offered consolation and encouragement to those beleaguered Christians, and today, his encouragement should be ringing in our ears as we march for life – if only virtually.
And let’s face it, anxiety is highly overrated! It is not the same as zeal or commitment. Anxiety – experienced as worry, nervousness, and upset – does more harm than good. It betokens a lack of trust in the Lord and his providential love. It suggests that we are in charge, more like independent contractors than disciples.
Anxiety frays our relationships with others, including our pro-life partners, and corrodes that unity so necessary if the pro-life cause is to succeed. Anxiety incites us to engage in behaviors counterproductive to the cause of life, and, worst of all, it hinders us from discerning the Lord’s will amid the challenges we face.
“Peace Beyond All Understanding”
What is the antidote, the remedy to that “high anxiety” we might be feeling? St. Paul answers that we should pour out our hearts to the Lord in prayer, not prayer that is gloomy or desperate, but prayer shot thru with joy and thanksgiving.
The Lord has not forgotten us; the Lord has not abandoned us. Rather, he remains with us, most especially in the Eucharist, and he continues to exercise the power of his love in our midst to this very day. That very fact should not only console us but also embolden us to pray and work for the cause of life, perhaps as never before. And as we pray, trustingly and joyfully, do we not experience a newfound peace – not the peace the world gives but the peace of Christ beyond our power to imagine.
Let us make no mistake: we do not manufacture the peace of Christ. In today’s Gospel, the disciples were upset over Jesus’ impending departure but Jesus promised the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would remind them of his teaching and empower them to spread it with courage.
For the peace of Christ is not a mere good feeling, but is rather the amazing experience of a love that is stronger than sin and death. As our Eucharistic Lord draws close to us, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit are renewed in our hearts, and thus we can hear Jesus say to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
Don’t Overlook Natural Virtue
St. Paul’s conclusion to his letter to the Philippians will also serve as my conclusion. Paul urges those early Christians, beleaguered as they were, to pay close attention to whatever was true, honorable, just, pure, beautiful and praiseworthy in the ambient culture, that is to say, the Greco-Roman culture, a pagan culture.
Right in the midst of a culture filled with idols and decadent living were signs – signs and indicators of God’s own truth and love. Similar signs and indicators of God’s truth and love exist in our secular culture. For example, our culture gives a lot of credibility to science. Well, science attests to the humanity of the unborn child, psychology attests to the interior pain often associated with procured abortions, while almost everyone has a soft spot in their hearts for a newborn child.
What’s more, many people in this very secular world are searching for something better, more hopeful and more beautiful than the culture of death. Our prolife teaching and witness strikes a responsive chord in many hearts because it is founded on the bedrock of reason and natural law – that law written on our hearts, even of those who deny that natural law exists!
Our mission is to reach those who are searching, because, in their hearts they sense the stunningly beautiful truth about the inviolable dignity of each human being. Our mission is not to preach to ourselves but to connect with & speak persuasively to those who have not yet understood the truth, justice and love of our cause.
Dear friends, thank you for your commitment to the cause of life. And may the peace of Christ, which exceeds all understanding, fill your minds and your hearts this day and every day – and may God bless us and keep us in his love!
To watch the closing Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, click here.