Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Dear Friends of Life,
Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,
The words we have just heard in our readings are no ordinary words. They are living words. They include the words of the prophet Habakkuk. Let us listen to these words again: “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint” (Hab 2:3).
The words of the prophet are compelling! The voice of the prophet is irresistible!
As we gather here in the Cathedral Basilica today during this Respect Life Month of October we join our voices to that of the prophet and testify to the power of these living words: “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint” (Hab 2:3).
This vision is the vision of life. It is the vision made fully known by Jesus, the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14), who is “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6).
This vision is the testimony that all human life is a precious gift from God, and that all human life has inviolable dignity from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.
The words of the prophet spread: “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint” (Hab 2:3). Today, there is a nationwide decline in both the number and the rate of abortions. More and more people understand the truth that the child in the womb is a human being. More and more people see the efforts of those in the Church to reach out to women and men, mothers and fathers who have been harmed by abortion. So often, women who have had an abortion and men who have been wounded by abortion keep their pain secret. We plead with them to come to the forgiving embrace of the Church and the compassionate counseling of the Project Rachel ministry and post-abortion healing. As we do so we hear again the prophet’s words: “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint” (Hab 2:3).
Today, there is growing nationwide awareness that the child in the womb is a human being. Americans oppose public funding of abortion by very wide margins: one recent poll found that 67% of Americans oppose federal funding of abortion in health care. We, as Catholics, will not be pressured to fund abortion, because “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint” (Hab 2:3).
While the word of life has spread, there are yet many places in our world that choose to remain hardened and refuse to hear the voice of life.
We must build on the growing awareness that the child in the womb is a human being. We insist that human embryonic stem cell research is unjust. We may never exploit and attack the embryonic human being for any reason, even if it could ease our own suffering. We do not attack the next generation to try to heal the pain of this generation. Instead, we find such firm hope in the promises of adult stem cell research.
Human life is threatened today in so many ways. In addition to the “tragic and widespread scourge of abortion” (Caritas in Veritate, 75), we also face proposals and policies in favor of assisted suicide, euthanasia, human cloning, the eugenic programming of births, illicit reproductive technologies, the unjust application of the death sentence, the blight of human trafficking, and even the denial that marriage is, and can only be, the permanent, faithful and fruitful union of one man and one woman. The prevalent secularism moves from being an ideology into being a lifestyle that simply abandons the sense of right and wrong. And in the midst of all of this the Word of Life, the word of Jesus, relentlessly arises through the Church. Pope Benedict XVI, in his most recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, proclaimed, “Openness to life is at the center of all true development” (no. 28). We hear in his words, the words of the prophet: “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint” (Hab 2:3).
Thirty-one years ago this very day, the now-Venerable Servant of God Pope John Paul II began his historic visit to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Thirty-one years ago today he stood in the heart of the City of Philadelphia, just a few yards from the steps of this Cathedral Basilica. From the center of Logan Circle he called for “full respect for all the fundamental rights of the human person, whose dignity is the dignity of one created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26).” His words remind us that “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint” (Hab 2:3).
Where does the vision come from? It comes from Jesus, the Word who is Life. When we choose life, we choose Jesus. We must choose life every day. We choose life in our workplace and office, in our schools and shopping centers, in our homes and on the road. In the Gospel proclamation, Jesus teaches us that “faith the size of a mustard seed” can uproot the largest obstacle (cf. Lk 17:6). The secret of the culture of life is the secret of the seed. In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Observed from the outside, the seed is something miniscule. It is easy to overlook. The mustard seed – an image of the Kingdom of God – is the smallest of seeds, yet it bears the whole tree within it. The seed is the presence of what is to come in the future. In the seed, that which is to come is already here in a hidden way. It is the presence of a promise” (p. 190).
The voice of Jesus fills our hearts today as Jesus speaks up for the voiceless. Jesus testifies on behalf of the defenseless. In the midst of pain and hardship, in the midst of the suffering of the Cross, Jesus makes a promise. Jesus takes on the burden of the neglected and the oppressed. This is also the mission and vocation of the Church in her pro-life outreach. When we meet the vapid relativism, hollow fallacies and empty inconsistencies of pro-abortion efforts, our task is not simply to argue for life, but to respond with life, to plant the seeds of truth by announcing: “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint” (Hab 2:3). The seeds of life are all around us: in the dedicated staff and devoted members of diocesan and parish pro-life leadership, in those who stand faithfully and pray in witness to life, in those who arrange for, organize and board buses every January to go on prayerful pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., in those who speak up in defense of life even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient to do so. In all of these we hear again that “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint” (Hab 2:3).
Dear brothers and sisters: today we gather in prayer so that we may be nourished by the bread of life. Sustained by the Holy Eucharist, “the true bread from heaven [which]… gives life to the world" (Jn 6:32-33), and guided by the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our words will not be ordinary words. Our voice will become irresistible, because we will speak with the power of love, the love of Jesus for humanity. And as we do so, we will take another step, cross another threshold, as we sow the seeds of the Culture of Life and advance the Civilization of Love. And we will do all of this in the name of Jesus. Amen.