Watch a video with homily suggestions
The focus of this Sunday’s Gospel passage on Eucharist provides us an opportunity to preach on any of the numerous connections between our Eucharistic Faith and our pro-life commitment. An article on these major points is included at the end of this email.
What can also be pointed out is that the Flesh of Christ as our food reminds us of Jesus telling his disciples that his food was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). Now, two chapters later, he tells us that our food is his body and blood, and that this gives us life just like the Father gives him life. It follows, therefore, that our participation in the Eucharist is geared toward our doing the will of Christ. “Try to understand what is the will of the Lord,” Paul therefore urges in the Second Reading, giving us some concrete examples. Our defense of life is one major aspect of union with the will of God.
The Pro-life Commitment is Eucharistic
-- Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
Our commitment to defend our pre-born brothers and sisters is shaped by our faith in the Eucharist as a sacrament of faith, unity, life, worship, and love.
The Eucharist is a sacrament of faith. The Consecrated Host looks no different after the consecration than before. It looks, smells, feels, and tastes like bread. Only one of the five senses gets to the truth. As St. Thomas Aquinas’ Adoro Te Devote expresses, "Seeing, touching, tasting are in Thee deceived. What says trusty hearing that shall be believed?" The ears hear His words, "This is My Body; this is My Blood," and faith takes us beyond the veil of appearances..
Christians are used to looking beyond appearances. The baby in the manger does not look like God; nor for that matter does the man on the cross. Yet by faith we know He is no mere man. The Bible does not have a particular glow setting it off from other books, nor does it levitate above the shelf. Yet by faith we know it is uniquely the Word of God. The Eucharist seems to be bread and wine, and yet by faith we say, "My Lord and My God!" as we kneel in adoration.
The same dynamic of faith that enables us to see beyond appearances in these mysteries enables us to see beyond appearances in our neighbor. We can look at the persons around us, at the annoying person or the ugly person or the person who is unconscious in a hospital bed, and we can say, "Christ is there as well. There is my bother, my sister, made in the very image of God!" By the same dynamic we can look at the pre-born child and say, "There, too, is my brother, my sister, equal in dignity and just as worthy of protection as anyone else!" Some people will say the child in the womb, especially in the earliest stages, is too small to be the subject of Constitutional rights. Is the Sacred Host too small to be God, too unlike Him in appearance to be worshipped? The slightest particle of the Host is fully Christ. Eucharistic Faith is a powerful antidote to the dangerous notion that value depends on size.
The Eucharist is also a Sacrament of Unity. "When I am lifted up from the earth," the Lord said, "I will draw all people to myself" (Jn.12:32). He fulfills this promise in the Eucharist, which builds up the Church. The Church is the sign and cause of the unity of the human family.
Imagine all the people, in every part of the world, who are receiving Communion today. Are they all receiving their own personalized, customized Christ? Are they not rather each receiving the one and only Christ? Through this sacrament, Christ the Lord, gloriously enthroned in heaven, is drawing all people to Himself. If He is drawing us to Himself, then He is drawing us to one another. St. Paul comments on this, "We, many though we are, are one body, since we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:17). When we call each other "brothers and sisters," we are not merely using a metaphor that dimly reflects the unity between children of the same parents. The unity we have in Christ is even stronger than the unity of blood brothers and sisters, because we do have common blood: the blood of Christ! The result of the Eucharist is that we become one, and this obliges us to be as concerned for each other as we are for our own bodies.
Imagine a person who receives Communion, accepts the Host when the priest says, "The Body of Christ," says "Amen," and then breaks off a piece, hands it back, and says, "Except this piece, Father!" This is what the person who rejects other people may as well do. In receiving Christ, we are to receive the whole Christ, in all his members, our brothers and sisters, whether convenient or inconvenient, wanted or unwanted.
As St. John remarks, Christ was to die "to gather into one all the scattered children of God." Sin scatters. Christ unites. The word "diabolical" means "to split asunder." Christ came "to destroy the works of the devil" (1Jn.3:8). The Eucharist builds up the human family in Christ who says, "Come to me, feed on My Body, become My Body." Abortion, in a reverse dynamic, says, "Go away! We have no room for you, no time for you, no desire for you, no responsibility for you. Get out of our way!" Abortion attacks the unity of the human family by splitting asunder the most fundamental relationship between any two persons: mother and child. The Eucharist, as a Sacrament of Unity, reverses the dynamic of abortion.
The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Life. "I am the Bread of Life. He who eats this bread will live forever. I will raise Him up on the last day." (See Jn.6:47-58) The Eucharistic sacrifice is the very action of Christ by which He destroyed our death and restored our life. Whenever we gather for this sacrifice we are celebrating the victory of life over death, and therefore over abortion. The pro-life movement is not simply working "for" victory; we are working "from" victory. As the Holy Father said in Denver in 1993, "Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for life is already decided." Our work is to apply the already established victory to every facet of our society. Celebrating the Eucharist is the source and summit of such work.
The Eucharist is the Supreme act of Worship of God. Two lessons each person needs to learn are, "1.There is a God. 2. It isn't me." The Eucharist, as the perfect sacrifice, acknowledges that God is God, and that "it is [His] right to receive the obedience of all creation." (Sacramentary, Preface for Weekdays III). Abortion, on the contrary, proclaims that a mother's choice is supreme. "Freedom of choice" is considered enough to justify even the dismemberment of a baby. Choice divorced from truth is idolatry. It is the opposite of true worship. It pretends the creature is God. Real freedom is found only in submission to the truth and will of God. Real freedom is not the ability to do whatever one pleases, but the power to do what is right.
The Eucharist is, finally, the Sacrament of Love. St. John explains, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us" (1Jn.3:16). Christ teaches, "Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down his life for his friends" (Jn.15:13). The best symbol of love is not the heart, but rather the crucifix.
Abortion is the exact opposite of love. Love says, "I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person. Abortion says, "I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself." In the Eucharist we see the meaning of love and receive the power to live it. The very same words, furthermore, that the Lord uses to teach us the meaning of love are also used by those who promote abortion: "This is my body." These four little words are spoken from opposite ends of the universe, with totally opposite results. Christ gives His body away so others might live; abortion supporters cling to their own bodies so others might die. Christ says "This is My Body given up for you; This is My Blood shed for you." These are the words of sacrifice; these are the words of love.
In Washington in 1994 Mother Teresa said that we fight abortion by teaching the mother what love really means: "to be willing to give until it hurts...So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child."
Gustave Thibon has said that the true God transforms violence into suffering, while the false god transforms suffering into violence. The woman tempted to have an abortion will transform her suffering into violence unless she allows love to transform her, and make her willing to give herself away. The Eucharist gives both the lesson and the power. Mom is to say "This is my body, my blood, my life, given up for you my child."
Everyone who wants to fight abortion needs to say the same. We need to exercise the same generosity we ask the mothers to exercise. We need to imitate the mysteries we celebrate. "Do this in memory of me" applies to all of us in the sense that we are to lovingly suffer with Christ so others may live. We are to be like lightning rods in the midst of this terrible storm of violence and destruction, and say, "Yes, Lord, I am willing to absorb some of this violence and transform it by love into personal suffering, so that others may live."
Indeed, the Eucharist gives the pro-life movement its marching orders. It also provides the source of its energy, which is love. Indeed, if the pro-life movement is not a movement of love, then it is nothing at all. But if it is a movement of love, then nothing will stop it, for "Love is stronger than death, more powerful even than hell" (Song of Songs 8:6).
Priests for Life makes available a music video called "This is My Body," showing how the same words are used to promote life and death. Order at www.priestsforlife.org/store