Homily at March for Life Vigil Mass
It has been an eventful week in Washington with the inauguration of our new President,
Barak Obama – our first president of African-American descent. Similar to John
F. Kennedy’s election, signaling a turning point in the diminishment of
religious bigotry, Barak Obama’s election signifies a mortal blow to the racial
prejudice that has scarred our nation since its inception. Just as John F.
Kennedy’s election did not mean that anti-Catholicism was eliminated from our
culture, the election of Barak Obama, unfortunately, does not mean all racism
has been eradicated from American society. However, it does symbolize an
enormous cultural change that has taken place in our nation. >
Regardless of our profound disagreements with President Obama’s positions on
fundamental moral issues, we can and should rejoice that his election signals
the crossing of a cultural thresh-hold. Our nation has taken another important
step away from the lingering effects of the evils of slavery, segregation and
racism and towards becoming a nation where one is not judged on the color of
one’s skin but upon the content of one’s character. We all must pray for
President Obama that the Lord will give him wisdom and strength as he assumes
the enormous responsibility of leading our nation in a time of menacing national
security threats, as well as a grave economic crisis.
same time, I am not suggesting that we succumb to Obama-mania that has infected
many in the nation. I was at a gathering in Kansas City recently where a
speaker talked about things that were B.O. (Before Obama) and what he
anticipated would be A.O. (After Obama). We do our new President no favor by
speaking of him in messianic terms.
Just Let the Abortion Go Away
celebrate the important threshold our nation has crossed, we gather tonight on
the vigil of the March for Life, on the eve of the 36th Anniversary of the Roe
v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions of our Supreme Court that, in effect, struck
down every state statute protecting the lives of innocent unborn children. In
1973 the Court usurped the right of the people and their elected representatives
from determining public policy on abortion. Their decision has divided and
frustrated our nation for the past 36 years.
in perilous times for our nation, society and civilization. Our nation is
fighting three wars: 1) in Iraq, 2) in Afghanistan and 3) a war against
terrorism – a war without boundaries or borders against an enemy whose principal
desire is to frighten, harm and kill Americans in order, ultimately, to destroy
America itself. We face the worst economic crisis that our nation has
experienced in the past 75 years. Yet, I believe, the most serious threat to
the health and future of our nation is a moral crisis – a struggle for the very
soul of our nation.
many in our country who wish the abortion issue would just go away. In fact, I
wish that the abortion issue would go away. I wish that our nation tomorrow
would choose to protect again by law the sanctity of each and every human life
before birth and would make the commitment to surround every couple facing an
untimely pregnancy with love, compassion, support and resources to give them the
opportunity to care for their child.
what many people mean when they say they want the abortion issue to go away is
that you, I and millions of other pro-life Americans stop caring about abortion
public policy. They want us to get over it and just accept the state-sanctioned
killing of unborn children in our nation. They want an end or at least a truce
to what has been called the culture wars.
is a one-sided cease fire that is proposed. They want to remove the modest
existing limitations on abortion. They want to deny conscience rights to
doctors, nurses and health care institutions that do not want to be involved
with abortion. They want us to be docile to an imperial Judiciary that not only
wants to prohibit our elected representatives from determining our nation’s
policy on abortion, but has shown, in a few state high courts, a desire to
redefine marriage and family. They want us to acquiesce to the creation of test
tube babies, created in laboratories, to supply replacement parts for those
already born. They want us simply not to care about the tens of thousands of
human embryos in cold storgage – in a man-made limbo.
legislative leaders and pundits argue that America has to focus all of its
attention on solving the economic crisis and winning the war against terror.
They maintain that we do not have the luxury, as a nation, to waste time on
these social issues. In this, they are terribly mistaken.
how we resolve abortion and other fundamental moral issues will largely
determine the character of our nation and our ability to contend successfully
with external and internal threats to our nation. How we settle the abortion
issue will determine if we choose to be a nation of self-indulgence, willing to
pay any price, even the deaths of our own children, for our insatiable pursuit
for pleasure or a nation who will sacrifice heroically to protect and provide
for the weakest and most vulnerable. They are the same values and principles –
heroic sacrifice, discipline, respect for the rights of others, fidelity to the
truth – that are critical for rebuilding our economy and protecting ourselves
from foreign enemies.
A Settled Legal Question
last election, there was a well orchestrated campaign, by some prominent
Catholics, to encourage Americans to accept abortion as a “settled” legal
issue. It has been 36 years since the Supreme Court’s decisions that, in
effect, legalized abortion. They would argue that our culture and society have
grown accustomed to abortion. We should concentrate our efforts on minimizing
abortions which usually means some very modest support for crisis pregnancy
centers and an aggressive effort to provide contraceptives to teens and all
women in child-bearing years.
area, I believe that the election of Barak Obama is very instructive. If you go
back to pre-civil war days, you will discover similar rhetoric about the issue
of slavery. If you study late 19th century and early 20th century American
history, you will find arguments for the acceptance of “Jim Crow” laws and
segregation as a settled issue.
celebrate the inauguration of our first President of African-American descent, I
say: Thank God that the abolitionists, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and
other heroes of the Civil Rights Movement did not acquiesce to the acceptance of
injustices that seemed so entrenched in law and society. President Obama’s
election illustrates that important societal changes may take over a century and
require great personal sacrifice to be accomplished. Thank God for you and the
tens of thousands of others who will join you tomorrow to say to our President
and our Congress that abortion is not a settled issue in our nation.
More Somber Gathering in 2009
ways, our gathering this January 22, 2009 is more somber than those in recent
years. Even though recent polling data confirms again that the vast majority of
Americans do not support the radial abortion license imposed by the Court in
1973, we know that we have lost ground in both chambers of Congress. We have a
President who has indicated that he will use his executive powers to advance
abortion, who has expressed an eagerness to sign the most radical pro-abortion
legislation ever proposed – the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, and who, we
have every reason to believe, will fill our courts with activist judges who
support Roe v. Wade and its progeny.
trusted only in our own human power and ingenuity, we would despair. In many
ways, we seem no match for the powers that are arrayed against us. Pro-abortion
advocates feel they control the White House and the Congress. They dominate the
academy. They have the sympathy and collaboration of the mainstream media (the
vast majority of newspapers and network television and radio stations). They
overwhelmingly outnumber the pro-life presence in Hollywood and the
entertainment industry. In many ways, we seem as mismatched as David was
The Low-born, the Weak, the Foolish, the Despised
I was listening to an interview on Public Radio Station with a comedian whose
name I do not know. Unfortunately, like many professional comedians today
evidently a part of his style is to use vulgar, profane, crude words and
images. In defending his use of such language, he told the story of a deceased
comedian whom he reveres. His comedic mentor was tired of the abortion issue
getting so much attention. He quoted his idol as having quipped once: “Did you
ever notice how the people who are against abortion are people to whom you would
never want to make love?”
he said something much cruder, but you get the point. The interviewer and the
interviewee thought this was just a hilarious quip. It was broadcast on a radio
network that prides itself in being politically correct and sensitive. The
bottom line, this comedian’s hero was calling you and I ugly and unattractive.
Had he made such a statement about almost any other group there would have been
a huge outcry. He would have been compelled to make a public apology and, even
so, he would have lost many work engagements.
of this when I was reading tonight’s first reading in which Paul describes the
type of person that the Lord likes to use. Paul tells the Corinthians that God
uses the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to vanquish the strong, the lowly
and despised to humble those who think they are really something.
7th Chapter of the Book of Judges, the author describes the Lord preparing
Gideon to do battle against Midian. God tells Gideon that he has too many
soldiers. Were he to win with such an army, the Israelites would credit their
superior numbers and strength. He tells Gideon to excuse any of his soldiers
that are fearful. Gideon’s army was reduced immediately from 22,000 to 10,000.
Lord felt that Gideon still had too big of an army. He tells Gideon to take his
soldiers to a river stream and observe how his men drink the water. He is to
keep those who lap water like a dog and send away the rest. Gideon is left with
only 300 dog-lapping men. Gideon and his band of three hundred defeat Midian by
surrounding the enemy camp creating a chaos by blowing horns, breaking jars and
yelling. This tactic throws the camp of Midian into a panic and in their fright
they destroy each other.
feel weak against the power of abortion advocates, if we feel not well connected
with those in power, if we feel despised and looked down upon then we should
rejoice because we are perfect for God’s army. The weaker, the more
incompetent, the more ill-equipped we seem in the world’s estimation, the better
suited we are to make it clear that it is God that is working through us.
St. Agnes Patron for Youth
celebrate the feast of the Virgin-Martyr, St. Agnes. Although the historical
data about Agnes is scarce, she was one of the most revered saints of the early
Church. The commemoration of her heroic martyrdom is found in the earliest
Roman calendar (354 AD) and in the earliest Roman sacramentaries. She gained
the admiration and captured the imagination of the early Christians, in part,
because of her youth (she was only 12) at the time of her martyrdom and because
of her purity. St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and St. Jerome all wrote about St.
is an apt patron for our gathering because of her youth, her incredible faith
and her beautiful chastity. St. Ambrose described hers as a “twin martyrdom”
because she was a witness to her faith in Jesus and a witness to virtue – not
willing to compromise her modesty to save her life in this world.
annual March for Life is always a powerful experience, in part because of the
goodness of the young people who come each year to advocate for the unborn. St.
Ambrose describes the amazement of people at the heroism of Agnes because she
was so young. Ambrose states: “…that one not yet of legal age can give her
testimony to God. So she succeeds in convincing others of her testimony about
God, though her testimony in human affairs could not yet be accepted.” Like St.
Agnes, so many young are here today manifesting a wisdom, much greater than many
who are much older, by standing up for the sanctity of human life for the most
vulnerable – the unborn.
Benedict, commenting after the great gathering of young people from around the
world for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, proclaimed: “The Church is young!”
This annual March for Life reveals that the Pro-Life movement is young!
St. Agnes Patron for Chastity
is also an apt patron for us because of her remarkable chastity. Again, St.
Ambrose describes Agnes in these words: “In the midst of tears, she sheds no
tears herself. The crowds marvel at her recklessness in throwing away her life
untasted, as if she had already lived life to the full.” Agnes chose not to
save her life by granting sexual favors to those with worldly authority over
that underneath the abortion policies in our nation is a distortion of the
understanding of the human person. This distortion manifests itself not just in
the denial of the humanity of the unborn child. A major reason why so many
believe we need abortion is to be able to eliminate inconvenient lives that are
conceived because of our culture’s desire to be unrestrained in the pursuit of
It is no
accident that legalized abortion became a reality in our nation in the wake of
the so-called “sexual revolution” that sought to separate the life-giving power
of sexual intimacy from its love-giving power. The sexual revolution’s attempt
to redefine the meaning of sexual intimacy – as being exclusively the pursuit of
pleasure and the failure of contraceptives to always prevent the conception of
new life – made abortion a necessary back-up for failed contraception.
stands as a complete contradiction to the wisdom of our time that believes the
absolute freedom of sexual expression is essential for happiness and meaningful
life. We will never be able to completely correct abortion and its surrounding
issues without re-establishing the true meaning of sexual intimacy: namely that
it is only authentic when the complete physical gift of oneself to another
corresponds to the complete and permanent commitment to the welfare of the other
as expressed in the marital vows. It is in this context that a couple is best
equipped to welcome a new life and best prepared to nurture and care for a
St. Agnes Patron of Courage
St. Agnes is the patron of courage born of a true faith in the God who revealed
the depth of His love for us in His Son, Jesus Christ. St. Agnes, along with so
many other martyrs of the early Church, was a witness to the eternal hope that
is ours as disciples of Jesus.
Ambrose describes the remarkable courage of Agnes: “You could see fear in the
eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned; his right hand
trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear
this possible? It is possible because St. Agnes had discovered the pearl of
great price – the one that was worth selling everything else to acquire – the
love of Jesus Christ.
knew that her dignity did not depend on what others thought of her, nor her
happiness on the experience of the pleasures of the flesh, nor even protecting
her life in this world. St. Agnes knew that all that she needed was to know
God’s love and share in His life – eternal life.
Life Will Be Victorious
come to march in our nation’s capitol, on behalf of the innocent lives of unborn
children do so because we have experienced God’s love for us. We have come to
understand our true dignity as one so precious in the eyes of God that His Son,
Jesus gave His life on Calvary for us. This is a dignity that the State cannot
grant us nor deny us. It is a dignity we also understand we share with every
other member of the human family, no matter race, ethnicity, sex, social
standing, age or stage of development.
to advocate for the life and dignity of unborn children. We come to attempt to
protect others from knowing the inconsolable pain of a post-abortive mother or
father. We come to assure those who suffer, because of their involvement with
abortion, that there is hope, healing and mercy for them. We come also for
those who advocate for and support legalized abortion to invite them to a change
of heart – to call them forth from the culture of death into the culture of
to rescue the soul of our nation – to challenge it as did the abolitionists, as
did Abraham Lincoln, as did the Civil Rights Movement, as did Martin Luther King
Jr., to be true to its own principles of protecting the most fundamental right,
a right that no state has the authority to deny and a right that every state has
an obligation to protect.
armies amassed against us can seem overwhelming. Like Gideon’s band of
soldiers, we come to sound the trumpet and raise our voice against an opponent
who appears much more numerous and powerful. Like David, we must be unconcerned
about the size of the giant we combat. We must not cower in fear because he is
so big and appears so strong. Though our weapons appear as inconsequential as
David’s sling shot, we look upon the Goliath of the abortion industry as a
target so large our pebbles cannot miss. We are confident that the Lord will
guide our humble efforts as He guided the pebble from David’s sling in order to
achieve His victory.
end, we know the victory has already been won. We know that the truth is
irrepressible. We know that the culture of death built on lies and deceit
cannot stand. We know, as did Agnes, as did the Christian martyrs through the
ages and right up to the present day, that we carry within these earthen vessels
the pearl of great price – the very life of God. We know that life indeed will
be victorious and we are privileged in whatever way the Lord desires to use us
to be part of its great unfolding.
Jesus Christ, now and forever and ever. Amen.
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