My dear friends, it is important that we gather for this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, on this 48th anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in this country.
On that day 48 years ago, the Supreme Court determined it was a right to engage an inherently evil action, the killing of innocent preborn children.
61,628,584 million innocent babies have lost their lives
Since that day, 61,628,584 million innocent babies have lost their lives. Sadly, during the past 48 years abortion advocates have become more radical and more intolerant, especially in these last years.
The façade of making abortion safe, legal and rare has been reduced to only keeping it legal. The killing of one’s child has been exalted as heroic and brave by many pro-choice advocates, including by many in this new Administration in the White House.
Even the most modest regulation of abortion facilities for the protection of women’s health is vigorously opposed, especially by Planned Parenthood.
Deep sadness in our hearts
So today, we gather with deep sadness in our hearts as we reflect upon this reality.
How can a civil society allow such a thing? I believe that it is an important question for this country to reflect upon and answer. St. Mother Teresa called abortion the greatest threat to peace in the world. And she was right. And it still is the greatest threat.
The Church sets aside today as a day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. It is also a day of penance for all violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.
Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life
To help us in our observance today, we are celebrating the votive Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life. Thank you for being here. Thank you for joining us via livestream. As our prayers and the prayers of others across our country storm heaven today, we pray “Lord, in your great mercy, answer them.”
Four months after our Holy Father assumed his role as pope, he spoke these words to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, as he prayed that the Day for Life [the event for their gathering] will help ensure that human life always receives the protection that is its due.
I have always found them to be a beautiful expression of the reality of what we celebrating today. You may have heard them as well. He said:
Masterpieces of God’s creation
“Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
In other words, all human lives are “masterpieces.” We all know what a masterpiece is….something extraordinarily beautiful. Right? Every life, no matter the situation, born or unborn, healthy or unhealthy, normal or handicapped, old or young, are masterpieces.
We are incredible works of art! Art that only God could have thought of and designed.
“The Lord has called you from birth, from your mother’s womb he gave you your name,” Isaiah tells us. “You are his servant through whom he shows his glory.” These words are not just some nice reflection or a nice idea. They reveal the truth about God and the truth about all human life.
Your life, my life, every life reveals the glory of God.
Almost 26 years ago, Pope St. John Paul II wrote that the Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus’ saving message to the world (EV 1). In taking on human flesh, dwelling among us, and sacrificing his very life for our redemption, Christ reveals the profound dignity of every human person.
This God-given dignity does not change with our stage of life, our abilities or disabilities, a level of independence or dependence, or any other varying circumstance. Rather, it is rooted in the permanent fact that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, created to share in the very life of God himself.
The human person is a “manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory” (EV 34). And we must reflect this truth in how we act and in how we treat one another. And we must never be too afraid to proclaim this truth, but with love and compassion and mercy.
Because this is what pro-life people do, don’t we?
Our society is in chaos right now. It is filled with violence of every form. And there seems to be no end in sight. It would be easy to give up and to give in. But I know that you are not going to do this. Life is too important! The Pro-life cause is too important! Many innocent babies are counting on us. So what do we do? Yes, we pray. But that is not all.
As I said earlier this morning, in the words of Pope St. John Paul II, “If faith does not become culture, it is a faith that is not fully accepted, not intensely conceived, not faithfully lived.”
Generate a culture of life
Our task is to live our faith so intensely that we will generate a culture of life, a society that welcomes the weak and the poor, that makes a place for every child at the table of life, where people are more important than money, and where the sick and the dying are cherished and cared for. A faith lived in the power of the Holy Spirit has the power to change lives, one at a time.
Jesus reveals in the Gospel that children are very special, people to be treasured. To Jesus, the little ones were an icon of himself.
"Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
Each child is an icon of Jesus
When engaging others, we courageously share that each child is an icon of Jesus. That each person is an icon of Jesus. When we receive any person in our midst, we receive Jesus, and therefore the Father of all Creation.
We must courageously share that Jesus came into the world as a little child, who would grow up, and then give his life away for them. Why? Because he loves them so much. No matter who they are or what they have done, no matter how imperfect they may be, no matter how useful or productive they may seem to be in the eyes of the culture, Jesus loves them so much.
Many things may push women to believe that abortion is their only option. We know this is not true. But in the moment, she doesn’t. During challenging periods in our lives, we all need the care and support of others to help us place our trust in God.
For a woman who is pregnant amid difficult circumstances, the real, tangible support of others can help her see a path forward. These mothers often find themselves afraid, vulnerable, abandoned, and in need. Knowing she is not alone may help her to open her heart to God’s plan and choose life for her child.
What is our role in helping moms in need?
We just celebrated Christmas a month ago. Remembering the Christ Child in the manger, we must ask ourselves what is our role in helping moms in need?
To respect human life also means being there for those in these types of situations – helping them to see that life can be different – for them and for the life in their womb. Besides ongoing prayer, being part of the nationwide effort “Walking with Moms in Need” is a way to get involved. More information may be found on our diocesan website or on their website at – www.walkingwithmoms.com.
In the end, it is everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, are what builds a culture of life. As a human and Christian family gathered here today, we grieve the loss of so many innocent babies over these past 48 years.
And yet, even in our grief, we know there is hope. But we also know that as Christians, we must give hope to others, especially those in need. Let us go, therefore, and not be afraid. God is always with us encouraging us on.
In the words of Pope Francis when he was still archbishop of Buenos Aires, “All of us must care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth…to give life is to open (our) heart, and to care for life is to (give oneself) in tenderness and warmth for others, to have concern in my heart for others.
"Caring for life from the beginning to the end. What a simple thing, what a beautiful thing. So, go forth and don’t be discouraged. Care for life. It’s worth it.” [from a homily in 2005 by Cardinal Bergoglio celebrating Aug. 31 feast of St. Raymond Nonnatus, patron saint of expectant mothers, newborns]
God bless you all.
Bishop Robert D. Gruss