Respect Life Sunday 2007
Bishop Michael Burbidge
Bishop of Raleigh, NC
Saint Francis of Assisi Parish, Raleigh October 7, 2007 (Hab. 1:2-3; 2:2-4; 2 Tm. 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk. 17:5-10)
On this occasion of the closing liturgy of the 25th anniversary of your parish, there will be a prayerful reading of your mission statement after the homily which includes the words, “We reach out in a special way to those who hunger and thirst for human dignity.” At this Eucharist in which we gather to give thanks to God for the abundant blessings He has showered upon your parish these past twenty-five years and to ask for His continued guidance, I also take this opportunity to thank all who have served and continue to serve and worship here for the countless ways you witness your love for the Lord Jesus and His Church. In particular, I express profound gratitude for the longstanding and ongoing commitment to the ethic of life, which you preach in word and deed ever mindful of the words of your patron, “There is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is the preaching.”
This closing anniversary liturgy appropriately coincides with Respect Life Sunday, which is celebrated today throughout the Church in the United States. It is a call to recognize; to respond; and to renew.
(1) As we celebrate our many blessings, we must also recognize the darkness in our midst. We must recognize the sad fact that abortions continue to claim the lives of children each and every day. We must recognize that we live in a world in which war, violence, injustice and prejudice are rampant. We must recognize that right in our midst the prisoner, the immigrant, the victim, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the needy and those who feel abandoned are seeking our assistance. We are like the prophet in our First Reading and cry out, “Lord, there is violence and destruction before me...strife and discord.” But it was not enough for the prophet to recognize and name the problems; the prophet was called to action.
(2) So too we must respond. As disciples of the Lord, as our Second Reading tells us, we must stir into flame the gift of God we have and be a light in the midst of the darkness. We have His Spirit dwelling within us; we have His truth and His promise that Light has conquered the darkness. We must be on fire with our love for the Lord, for the proclamation of the Gospel of life and in our service to those in most need. Your parish provides so many opportunities to reach out to those who hunger and thirst for human dignity and I am inspired to know the great number of parishioners who participate in these various endeavors and the countless number of people who benefit from your compassion and care. On this Respect Life Sunday, I repeat the request that I have made to all throughout the Diocese: as individuals and/or as a family, please pray the Rosary today with the special intention for the end of abortion. Our respect for the dignity of each person must also be reflected in the way we speak and treat those closest to us (spouses, parents, children and family members). And if you are going to respond on behalf of human life, others must see the respect and reverence you show yourself by treating your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit; avoiding substances and patterns of living that are destructive and behaviors that keep you from being a person who lives the life worthy of your calling.
(3) In our desire to respond to the needs of others and to be the light in the midst of the darkness, it is essential that we renew our faith in Christ Jesus, the Light who has conquered the darkness. Sometimes when we try to make a difference in our world, we can easily be overwhelmed: There is so much to do. And that is true if we try it alone. Thus, those words we heard in our Second Reading give us the reminder we need----we must do so “with the strength that comes from God.” The Lord tells His disciples that with the faith of a mustard seed you will be given incredible power to accomplish great things. Sometimes our faith is not as strong as we would like but the reality is you have the gift of faith. And it is that faith in God’s power that will allow you to be an effective instrument in uprooting the injustice and evil in our midst. You may not always see immediate and visible results, but you are reaffirmed in knowing that if placed in God hands, all things are possible. Pray daily the words of the disciples, “Lord increase my faith.”
At this Eucharist, which unites us as brothers and sisters, we pray for ourselves and one another. We pray for the grace to recognize those in need. We ask for help in order to respond to others through lives of generous service. We pray that we will be renewed in our faith and seek always the strength that comes from God. In this way, we will stir into flame the gift of God that we have and, thus, be His light for all of the world to see. Congratulations on this blessed occasion in the life of your parish and, through the intercession of Saint Francis of Assisi, may the Lord shower abundant blessings upon you today and always. Amen