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Sanctity of Life Mass
January 22, 2005

Most Reverend Eusebius J. Beltran
Archbishop of Oklahoma City

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

You and I have gathered here together today as a people of faith. We believe in a good and gracious God and we know that He created us in His Image and Likeness. Therefore we have a great appreciation for our own lives and a profound respect for the dignity and beauty of every human being. We respect life and nurture and protect it from the initial moment of conception to the final moment of natural death. We gather then to celebrate this Mass in honor of the sanctity of all human life.

Because of our deep commitments to the protection and respect for human life, there is no need to try to prove to you that human life is sacred. You know that and your presence here testifies to this truth. Our coming here today is to celebrate the sanctity of life by thanking God for this gift. As a sign of our thanksgiving, we are reminded of the obligation we have to work diligently to overcome those attitudes and practices that infringe on the dignity of the human person. To be true to our responsibilities and to effectively communicate these beliefs, we must build on a foundation of prayer and sacrifice. Therefore, the USCCB approved the following particular law for the dioceses of the United States:

"In all dioceses of the United States of America, today, January 22nd, shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life."

In 1973, the United States Supreme Court decisions ushered in legalized abortion on request nationwide. By denying protection to unborn children throughout pregnancy, these rulings dealt a devastating blow to the most fundamental human right – the right to life. Since that time, further court decisions have basically "enshrined" the right and the availability of abortion.

This abortion culture has brought our legal system - and consequently our society – to the brink of endorsing infanticide. The euphemism of "the right of a woman to choose" is used routinely to justify partial birth abortion and killing outside the womb.

Some years ago, we struggled to convince society that human life begins at conception. Modern medicine and true scientific study have clearly demonstrated the continuum of human life from conception onwards and the inescapable reality of human life in the womb. However, our legal system and thus our national culture, is being pressed to declare that human life has no inherent worth. There are some leaders who actually claim that the value of human life can be assigned by the powerful and that the protection of the vulnerable is subject to the arbitrary choice of others. The lives of all people who are thus marginalized by our society are endangered by such a trend. This includes the deformed, the aged and the so-called problem people.

We, as Catholic people, know beyond a doubt that human life is our first gift from a loving God. Therefore, no government nor movement can legitimately deny the right to life or restrict it to certain classes of human beings.

We, as citizens of the United States, should be appalled by the fact that our nation is at risk of forgetting the promise made to generations yet unborn by our Declaration of Independence. That founding document states that our nation would respect life as first among the inalienable rights bestowed on us by our Creator.

Today, then, we who have gathered here in faith and in love must be renewed in our commitments to overcome all the evils perpetrated against human life. While we cannot go out and force a change of our laws or a conversion of opinions in society, we can effect a real difference. We can change our own attitudes. We can be much more positive by reflecting on the gift of life itself. We can daily offer prayers of gratitude to Almighty God for this great gift – human life – that He has given us. If our gratitude to God has a priority in our daily lives, we will likewise become more positively active in the many efforts of reform already underway.

Also, as the bishops remind us, along with our prayers, there must be sacrifice. Today is designated as a day of penance but there must be many more such days that we ourselves freely undertake. With the Lenten season almost here, I would like to recommend that every Catholic of this Archdiocese celebrate one day a week during the Lenten season as a day of prayer and penance. This prayer and this penance, rightly offered to God, will effect greater good than any other efforts we make. Remember, what is impossible for people, is always possible for God.

In that spirit of faith and trust, we have come to celebrate this Eucharist today. May Jesus bless us now and be with us always.

Priests for Life
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