March for Life: Be a witness

 

Bishop Paul S. Loverde

  Arlington Catholic Herald - Arlington, VA
  1/13/2010
 

Each year, thousands upon thousands of participants gather for the Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. As we prepare to join this peaceful witness on January 22, let us consider what it truly means to march for the end of abortion and other anti-life legislation. Certainly, it is more than an opportunity to gather together with friends, to travel to the capital or to take time off from work. The definitive action of marching is an undeniable statement, an absolute commitment that each one of us makes to defend the dignity of the human person, from the first moment of life at conception through its many stages of development to its last moment at natural death.

Since the time of the prophets, the Lord has been asking us to witness to the truth that He alone is God and, therefore, that He alone is the Lord of life. In the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, we recall the passage in which God reminds Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jeremiah 1:5). This profound statement speaks to us not only of the dignity of life in the womb, but also of the vocation that the Lord has for each one of us. Jeremiah’s call was to convert the hearts of the people of Jerusalem. Similarly, part of our vocation is to convert hearts in our nation, witnessing to our neighbors about the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

The Lord called, but Jeremiah responded with excuses, “I know not how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). Jeremiah’s excuses may sound familiar to us. Perhaps we too have said, “I don’t know enough to argue convincingly or persuasively for the dignity of life” or “The weather is too cold, enough other people will go to the March.” Too often, we do not heed the call of the Lord. Yet, if we do not become witnesses for life, who will?

Recall how the Lord answers Jeremiah’s excuses, “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:7-8). We must ask ourselves whether being pro-life is merely a personal viewpoint or if it something worth standing up for, worth staking our reputation on, even if others show disrespect or do not agree with us.

Have you been upset by the inclusion of abortion funding in Health Care legislation? March for life! Have you been troubled by an expansion of embryonic stem cell research? March for life! Have you been touched by the beauty of adoption? March for life! Do you accept the truth that supporting life is an essential part of our Catholic faith? March for life! Pope John Paul II unequivocally stated “…Everyone has an obligation to be at the service of life. This is a properly ‘ecclesial’ responsibility, which requires concerted and generous action by all members and by all sectors of the Christian community. This community commitment does not however eliminate or lessen the responsibility of each individual, called by the Lord to ‘become the neighbor’ of everyone: ‘Go and do likewise’ (Lk 10: 37)” (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, n. 79).

If we value life’s dignity, we can not be inactive, we can not be apathetic. I urge each of you to consider making a sacrifice to come to the March this year. Take a vacation day. Ask a friend to come along. Tell your coworkers where you will be on your day off. Give your employees the option to participate. Believe the Lord when He tells us to “have no fear” and consider witnessing to the truth about life at conception.

In his visit to the U.S., Pope Benedict XVI said, “Find the courage to proclaim Christ... and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in Him. These are the truths that set us free! They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world - including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother's womb” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Yankee Stadium, April 20, 2008).

The Lord knew each one of us before birth and called us to a particular vocation. So, too, has God created the unborn men and women that our laws do not protect. The Lord asks each of us to take action: to pray for the women and men scarred by abortion, to tell our legislators that laws should uphold the dignity of life and to witness to others through our words and actions that life is the most precious of all God’s gifts. As part of my response to the Lord’s call, I have committed once again to witnessing through my presence and prayers at the March for Life on January 22. I invite you to join me in person or, if that is truly impossible, in spirit, praying for our Blessed Mother’s intercession, as we unite together to march for life! “With humility and gratitude we know that we are the people of life and for life , and this is how we present ourselves to everyone” (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, n. 78).