Eighteen months ago I was held up at gunpoint in my neighborhood by two teenage boys. After doing my exercise bicycle inside I usually come outside to walk for a period of time to get my heart back in place. When they approached I recognized the quick triggered gun immediately. I had recently spent five days as a juror in Baltimore City in an attempted murder trial and was very familiar with that weapon. When they held it to my head I opened my car and gave them about $10 from my glove compartment and they walked away. About two blocks later the older of the two shot himself in the leg. When I went to court the two teens, both minors, were known to the State’s Attorney.
I was in danger with the gun pointed at my head but I wasn’t defenseless. I could have done something. I’m not sure what, but I wasn’t completely out of control. The one in four children in their mother’s wombs who are killed by abortion are defenseless. The elderly patient in a nursing home bed is defenseless. When children are abused, neglected and forced to live on the street they are defenseless. Today we pray for those who are defenseless and for those who through lack of values or care or respect put defenseless lives at risk.
The readings are very appropriate for our celebration today of Respect Life Sunday. In the Book of Numbers the Lord came down and spoke to Moses taking some of the spirit that was on Moses and bestowing it on the 70 elders. Two others who were not there, Eldad and Medad, also had the spirit come to rest on them. When confronted, Moses said “Are you jealous for my sake?” Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets? Today, would that all the people of the Lord were prophets for the Gospel of Life?
In our Letter from James we hear about the rich, the stored-up treasures and the complete insensitivity to others. James tells us you have murdered the righteous. He offers you no resistance. Once again, we recall the defenseless child and the elderly person and so many in between. Things that would have appalled us fifty years ago, many in our society have gotten used to. We are a secular society and that has skewed much of our thinking. Each of us needs to have our minds and hearts changed if they have gotten callous, careless because of society. Bad laws are a result of minds and hearts gone awry. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict reminds us in God is Love, his First Encyclical, that we are called to make God’s love present in the world. He tells us that not only Bishops help form consciences in political life and among all believers and stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice, but he emphasized it is a responsibility of all Catholics to work for a just ordering of society.
In our Gospel we have a repeat of the first reading. John says to Jesus “Teacher we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied “Do not prevent him – for whoever is not against us is for us.” Once again, we need everyone to help chip away at any hardened callous insensitive hearts. We need everyone to talk about and live out the Gospel of Life. We need everyone to respect each other person. As we do that, as we love each of God’s creatures, every man and woman, every brother and sister of the Lord, we set an example that hopefully would help others to do the same and realize that this is our primary call as Christians to love one another, to love our brothers and sisters, to love the Lord’s brothers and sisters. By our example let us show where our hearts and minds are. Young people have been stepping up with their enthusiastic involvement. Each year at our Mass at the MCI Center we are packed – 20,000-25,000. We are making headway. Let us model that life for those who have not been blessed as we are to recognize God’s life in all creation. Let us continue in prayer and action to be concerned about those who are defenseless.