Bishop of Bridgeport
Saint Theresa Parish Trumbull
January 15, 2008
Introduction: Hannah Prays for a Son
In tonight's reading from the First Book of Samuel, we encounter Hannah who begged God for a son. Her prayer - deep and heartfelt and silent - was preceded by a flood of tears for she regarded the gift of new life, the gift of a son, as a great blessing from the Lord, a blessing she intensely desired. Hannah had suffered taunts because she was thought to be barren yet she approached the Throne of the God of Hosts with reverence and placed her request before Him.
Indeed, so great was her reverence both for God and for the gift of life that she did not dare to ask for two or three children but only for a son whom she vowed to dedicate to the Lord's service.
As we have heard, God answered Hannah's plea. Of her Samuel was born, a wise and strong leader of the Chosen People. And after Samuel, she bore other children for God answered her prayer with superabundant love.For her part, Hannah responded in a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, a beautiful prayer that foretells the Magnificat that Mary was to proclaim in the presence of her cousin Elizabeth.
As you recall, Elizabeth was once thought to be barren but now she was pregnant with John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. The souls of Hannah, Elizabeth, and Mary rejoiced and exulted in God for the gift of their children, for the gift of new life. In this, they were at the forefront of the people of Israel even as they continue to inspire and encourage us this evening to pray fervently for the protection of innocent human life in this country and around the world.
From Hannah to Mary
Hannah's motherhood also points to the Motherhood of Mary. Pope John Paul II said of Mary that she was the one "who accepted 'Life' in the name of all and for the sake of all." [EV, 102] For that reason, our late and beloved Holy Father added, "[Mary] is thus most closely & personally associated with the Gospel of Life" [Ibid.] She brought into the world the Savior, the Word made flesh, and the light of his birth the dignity of every human being shines more clearly.
The Eternal and Incarnate Son - whose human nature, body and soul, was formed in the womb of Mary - sheds light on the dignity of every child born and unborn. And Mary who brought the Savior into the world is "…the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for." [Ibid.]
The misunderstandings Mary must have suffered - the hardship of her journey with St. Joseph to Bethlehem, the poverty of the crude stable where the Lord was born - all these things speak powerfully to women today who must struggle in our culture of death to bring their babies to term. And in her maternal love, Mary speaks words of encouragement to mothers and fathers who suffer in the aftermath of a tragic decision to procure a so-called "legal" abortion.
Her love models for the Church the path of forgiveness and peace for those who find themselves in this situation. In our Diocese, the Rachel's Vineyard Retreats and the work of the Sisters of Life offer avenues of renewed peace and healing for mothers and fathers that grieve over their unborn children.
An Authoritative Teaching
In tonight's Gospel we read that Jesus taught the people with authority. It says his listeners in the Synagogue at Capernaum were astonished "…for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes."
Jesus' authority did not consist in coercive power or in the ability to manipulate crowds by techniques of persuasion. His was the authority of God's love capable of casting fear and transforming minds and hearts, a love stronger than sin and more powerful than death.
His gaze of love released the afflicted man from the authority of the demon and enabled him to embrace the truth in freedom. Jesus did this because He not only spoke for God but because this Son of Mary was also the very Son of God, the author and the restorer of human life.
Following in the footsteps of Christ, the Church not only teaches the value of life and the evil of abortion but also provides so many services of education and charity to needy families and to their children. Thus, in our culture, the Church is an authoritative witness to the value of life, working and praying to accomplish the imperative of replacing the culture of death with the culture of life.
It is because God so loves and values each human life from conception until natural death that the Church authoritatively teaches the evil of abortion and seeks the full, legal protection of the unborn. For the same reason, the Church calls upon her members to challenge those running for office and in office to protect human life. This is especially important as we enter upon an election cycle. Abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, assaults on marriage and family in which human life is to be cherished - these are not issues that merely stand side by side with other issues. These make a special claim on our consciences and we have both the right and the duty to make our voices heard in the public square and at the ballot box.
It is up to us to unmask the false teaching of those who use misleading words to disguise the truth about the evil of abortion and thus afflict the gravest injustice upon unborn children, upon their mothers, and upon society as a whole. Abortion is a demon to be cast out of our society by the power of reason but above all by the power of God's love, living with us.
In the responsorial psalm Hannah exulted, as Mary would, in love that does justice, in love that reaches the poor and needy, in love that conquers death itself. As this liturgy unfolds, let us ask for the wisdom and goodness to be joyful and courageous witness to the gift of human life. Then truly our souls will rejoice in God our Savior.