3rd Sunday Ordinary Time
A Homily - B Cycle - 2005-2006
First Reading - Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel - Mark 1:14-20
Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
On the 22nd of January in 1973, I was just a few weeks old. This was the day that the culture of death received legal recognition in our country. This is the day that Roe v. Wade became law. Tomorrow, thousands will gather in Washington for the March for Life to protest against 33 years of legalized abortion in our country. There's a connection between the events tomorrow and our first reading. You'll recall in our first reading how the prophet Jonah is ordered by God to go through the city of Nineveh preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In our own day, Nineveh still exists. Tomorrow, Washington, DC will be our modern-day Nineveh. When I was in the seminary, I recall seeing statistical birthrates from 1973. When Roe v. Wade became law, I was just a few weeks old and the birthrate was at a particular level. After the Court's decision, you noticed a significant decline in the number of live births. Half of the children that should have been born in my generation never were born. They were killed in the womb. Statisticians now tell us that by the year 2030, more than 50% of American women will have had at least one abortion. This is where the culture of death is leading us.
The culture of death has reared its ugly head in many other ways. We remember Columbine, Colorado and September 11, 2001, in more recent memory. The culture of death attacks in very overt ways such as these, but in the case of abortion, the attack is much more subtle. Those who have no voice in the womb scream silently for protection. They have no defense against those who would rather end their innocent lives. And most of us stand idly by, as if nothing is wrong with this picture. It is believed that Edmund Burke, (1729-1979), an Irish philosopher and statesman once said that, "All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." By and large, for 33 years, Catholics in the United States,, from top to bottom, have remained silent. And while there are notable exceptions, the majority of Catholics, from the bishops down to the layman in the pew, have remained conspicuously silent. There is hope, however. The pro-life movement is the largest grassroots movement in American history and there are so many persons who work so tirelessly for life. And who constitutes the overwhelming majority of participants at the March for Life? The Catholic youth of America: college students, high school students and other youngsters. Many of them make incredibly long bus trips from all over the country and march in difficult weather conditions to protest this great injustice in our land. They have sisters and friends who have had abortions and they know that women deserve better.
All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. By and large, this has been our response - silence. Year after year, this issue comes and goes. It is written off as a political issue. And yet, it is primarily a moral issue and deals more with conversion and our lack of it in our country. Critics of our pro-life stance say that Catholics are single issue voters. People ask, "What about the war? What about capital punishment? What about taxes and education and welfare?" All of these aforementioned issues, while important, are all negotiable issues. You can be a Catholic in good standing and be on either side of the question of the war. The principles of the just war theory are infallible - the application of that theory is never infallible and in fact, the Catechism clearly states that it is up to civil authorities, guided by the theory, to make prudential judgments regarding the justice or injustice of a war. The same could be said of capital punishment. Capital punishment, while highly discouraged because of most countries' ability to detain a prisoner, is not an intrinsic evil in and of itself. It can be used in certain circumstances and these are well enumerated in the Church's social doctrine.
But when it comes to the attack on innocent children in the womb, this is never negotiable. Abortion is always an intrinsic evil, regardless of the circumstances and it is never morally licit. There are more than 3,000 abortions performed in this country each day and in 33 years, this holocaust has killed more babies than Hitler and Stalin did combined in the last century. And all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
When election time rolls around, I am often struck by the fact that both political parties say that abortion will not be used as a litmus test for a candidate's suitability for office. And yet, last week, in Washington, these very same politicians, in hypocritical form, tried to derail the Supreme Court appointment of a good man and a public servant over what? Abortion! This is the height of hypocrisy. Abortion was on trial last week in Washington and who were the grand character assassins of a Catholic judge? Catholic Senators! The very politicians who will never use abortion as a litmus test for a political candidate's suitability used the very same issue to practically defame a good man. They treat abortion like a sacrament and all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
What is so alarming about this landscape of the culture of death is the fact that it would appear that history will repeat itself in our country. If you look back to the fall of the Roman Empire in the late 4th and early 5th century, you'll notice that when abortion and euthanasia became socially acceptable, the moral fiber of the empire broke down. When the most innocent and defenseless have no rights, the end is near, for only the strong survive in that kind of culture. Remember what happened with Terri Schiavo? Only the strong survive in Florida, it seems. How much longer will it take for the American experiment to understand this reality? We have a chance to correct this gaping flaw in our land, but silence and inactivity cannot be a part of the solution.
I want to offer a few suggestions
for what YOU can do:
1. pray and fast for this intention - tomorrow is day of reparation; a day of penance, especially for our silence and our inactivity
2. contribute financially to those on the front lines
3. volunteer time in advocacy work
4. voting - a very important way to speak for those without a voice in the womb; it has to be our #1 issue.
Why must this be our primary issue? Look at the foundational documents of the United States. All of the constitutional protections fall under three categories: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and these are not in random order. Without LIFE itself, liberty and happiness have no context in which to exist. How can one concern themselves with liberty and happiness, if they are not even guaranteed the right to be born? This is why this issue is so crucial. When life is not a guarantee, life becomes very, very cheap.
And even if we had all the Supreme Court we needed to overturn Roe v. Wade, what we'd still lack is conversion. We need to do more than enact good laws. We need to move people in the Culture of Life to see that considering things like abortion shouldn't even be a part of the discussion. Many of my family and friends in the Philippines don't really understand us because of the fact that we'll go to the ends of the earth to defend and promote liberty, freedom, democracy and justice and yet - we can't even protect our own children! In the Philippines, abortion is illegal and highly frowned upon, culturally. It's not to say that it doesn't happen, but it is not socially accepted. Do you see how others see us? They can't understand how we can sacrifice our lives for people in other countries and yet leave our children prey to CHOICE. It is true; all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
The last topic I want to touch today is another area where the culture of death rears its ugly head. It's the general moral area that abortion falls under: contraception. And while many of you here are perhaps beyond your child-bearing years, what is very troubling and insidious is the fact that many baby boomers will say, "Don't have any more - they're too expensive. Don't have too many more because my retirement should not be the day care of their children." And while I understand that retirees want a certain liberty and freedom from "baby burnout" when you hear these attitudes espoused, you begin to see this lived lived out in my generation. I will ask couples preparing for marriage, "How many children do you want to have?" They will say, "2, 3 or 4 at the most." Wrong answer. The correct answer? "As many as God will give us." That's the answer. A woman once said to me, "I left the Catholic church because when the Church will pay for my kid's education and food, they can tell me how many kids to have." I replied, "I guess we should stop preaching against murder since we can't prevent them!" Ridiculous logic! It is not tenable logic for a reasonable person. I suppose that if people don't like our doctrine, we should just change it all to suit them! If our Lord had done that, we wouldn't have Mass since many abandoned Him when He taught on the Eucharist in John 6. And yet, the attitudes persist!
On the cusp of this Day of Penance, I ask you to enter into it with zeal and fervor. Pray for an end to abortion and pray that young parents will remain open to life. Rather than tell parents who have more than 2 kids to get control of themselves, tell them that you'll prayerfully support them because childrearing has never been more difficult. Parents of yesterday didn't have the internet and the widespread availability of pornography that we have today. These young parents need our support and prayers. When we have contraceptive attitudes, we become cooperators in the culture of death and the authenticity of our discipleship remains seriously questionable.
Pray, too, for the victims of abortion - the mothers and fathers of aborted children and their grandparents and siblings. We must reach out to these persons in love. They need to know that we are here to help them - that there are people in our diocese trained to reach out to them and assist them with their guilt, their grief and their pain.
In the end, we must pray for conversion in Nineveh. it's not just about laws, really. It's about authentic conversion, a true turning of the self to God, the Lord and giver of life.
Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!
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