When the Lord gave the command to take away the stone so that He could call Lazarus to walk out of his own grave, Lazarus’ sister Martha expressed a concern: “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Notice how we worry about small things when God is about to do great things. He works through us to end abortion, but we worry that we will lose friends; pastors worry that they will anger parishioners; politicians worry that they will lose votes; we all worry that there will be a stench. It’s time to stop limiting the power of God. As Mother Teresa said, let’s give God permission, so that He can work mightily through us to end abortion and bring about a culture of life.
In his Letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “If the spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also.” The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of life, and to accept the call to follow Christ is to accept the call to welcome, nourish, defend, and celebrate life. We are the people of the One who conquered death, and that is why we fight against the power of death as it manifests itself in evils like abortion. To stand with Christ is to stand with life, not to justify what takes life.
The Church’s pro life work is not based on political ideology, but on the truths Christ has revealed to us.
In Psalm 1:30 we read, “For with the Lord is kindness, and fullness of redemption.” He does not give us only the redemption of some or most aspects of our existence; He gives us the fullness of redemption. He does not only destroy our sins, He destroys our death. He does not only raise up our souls, He raises up our bodies. He does not only restore our relationship with Him, He restores our relationships with everyone else. The Lord gives us fullness of redemption, which means He frees us from all that oppresses the human family, and that is precisely the connection between our faith and our pro-life work. When we labor to end the oppression of children in the womb, we are bearing witness to what the fullness of redemption means.
In the 37th chapter of Ezekiel the Lord declares, “O My people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” The Lord is promising that He will return the exiles to their own land, and He is also promising the future Resurrection from the Dead and our entrance into the promised land of Heaven. Through Ezekiel, God is proclaiming that He is the God of Life, and that we are the People of Life. That is why we are pro-life. To believe in God and to work for salvation means we work against anything that destroys life. The God who promises to open our graves does not want us to send children into their graves. Let the evangelizing work of the Church speak strongly for life!
I often point out that our youth are not simply the “future leaders” of the pro-life movement. They are leaders here and now, in more ways than one.
Often I am asked to speak about the role of youth in the pro-life movement, and to encourage parishes and pro-life organizations to focus more on recruiting youth for this cause. In fact, this is not a difficult task. Youth understand the pro-life message better than many adults, and the most common response they give to the question, “Why are you involved in trying to stop abortion?” is “Because it could have been me.” They are aware that they were not protected in the womb, and could have been killed. They are survivors and they know it.
But most important for us as adults is to understand what will happen when we recruit more youth into the pro-life effort.
They will challenge us. They will remind us of things that we have perhaps forgotten, and will even be able to teach us a new way of activism, and even a new way of thinking.
There is a characteristic young people have when confronting fundamental moral issues like pro-life: they think in straight lines. Unaccustomed to the layers of complication that the years of the more experienced leaders bring, young people can frame certain questions with a simple and direct clarity, and while they always need to be open to learn from those with more experience, they also need to be listened to. We need to let them shape our own thinking.
Young pro-lifers, when made aware that killing is taking place in the building down the street, will say, “Well, let’s go down there and stop it! We should go there and tell them we are not going to leave until the killing stops! If that’s where the babies are that we need to save, what are we doing here?”
Then, when told that a particular candidate for office is in favor of keeping child-killing legal, our youth will declare, “Well, we have to tell people not to vote for that person!”
When they understand the clarity of Gospel teaching about the sanctity of life, they will say, “All the pastors need to preach about this and sign their people up for pro-life activity! It’s more important than anything else!”
Is there not truth in this “straight-line thinking?” Sure, we can teach our youth about the “how-to,” which is not always so simple, but we can also learn to re-focus our attention and energy on fundamental things which, in the end, simply have to be said and done. Maybe we’ve become too complicated; maybe we’re making the “it’s not so simple” lines into easy excuses for cowardice or a lack of confidence.
When we plan pro-life activities, let’s have young people join in our board rooms and strategy sessions. They may not always be in a position to have a vote, but let them have a voice. Their clarity and directness can be refreshing!
Lent teaches us the meaning of love. Jesus endures His passion and crucifixion for each of us, giving Himself away that we might have life. Abortion, on the other hand, is the opposite of love, because it takes life. Love says, “I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person.” Abortion says, “I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself.” Strangely, the same words are used in both cases. Supporters of abortion say, “This is my body, I can do what I want.” Jesus says, “This is My body, given up for you.” The same words are spoken from opposite ends of the universe, with totally opposite results. Let us resolve to live those words as Jesus did, giving ourselves away for the good of others, born and unborn.
On April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II was called from this world to the next. John Paul II was the Pope of Life. He provided the Church and the world with profound reflections about the origins of human life in the loving mystery of the unity of man and woman. He wrote about love and responsibility, and he called the Church to understand that God’s choice comes before our choices.
He provided the pro-life movement with the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life. In it, he declared that the attack on children in the womb is an attack on God Himself, and that when the state no longer protects these children, the disintegration of the state itself has begun. May the example and teaching of John Paul II hasten the Culture of Life.