October 1, 2000 Homily for 26th Sunday B
Justice requires respect for Life
Fr. David Konderla
Diocese of Austin, TX
Once again this weekend we celebrate Respect Life Sunday in the Catholic
Church in the United States. Bishop John McCarthy has asked that each parish in
the diocese celebrate this Sunday as Respect Life Sunday in the diocese of
Austin. He has further asked that we recommit the diocese to Respect Life Month
during the whole month of October.
As a part of this ongoing effort, I want to invite each of you to consider
becoming an active member of the Respect Life Commission of St. Marys Catholic
Center. Please contact me for more information or to learn how to help.
When I was first ordained and was still a baby priest, preaching about
abortion made me very nervous. It made the palms of my hands sweat. Like most
priests, I was afraid that if I mentioned abortion, I was going to hurt people
in the congregation who had had abortions.
Five years later I am not nervous. Five years later I am not afraid I am
going to hurt people in the congregation if I preach about abortion and I want
to tell you what has caused this change. Two things caused this change. I began
to work with post-abortive parents through Project Rachel, a healing ministry
for victims of abortion, and I learned how to preach the whole gospel of life
because the whole gospel of life is healing, not harming.
As I listened to the stories of men and women who had had abortions I
realized that the abortion itself left a deep wound of pain and regret. The
reason why the priest does not hurt the man or woman in the congregation who has
had an abortion is because they are already hurt. The wound is already there and
the only question that remains is how long they are going to have to live with
it. The wound is ugly and painful and they may be angry with anyone who messes
with it just like a child who screams at a parent who is trying to remove an
infected splinter. But if the priest, the one called Father, really loves his
parishioners like a father, then he will gather together his courage. If he has
a true pastoral concern, then he will be willing to let them vent their pain
against him so that he can preach the gospel of life which will help them heal
the wound of abortion and let them begin to live again. A good shepherd does not
leave his sheep wounded and festering when he has a solid remedy, even if the
remedy hurts in its application.
All around the issue of abortion is a conspiracy of guilty silence. We know
what happens in the abortuaries in our towns and we are afraid to admit it even
to ourselves. Those men and women who have been harmed by abortion are not
helped by priests who conspire in this silence because it leaves them trapped
and alone in their pain. But what does the priest say if he is going to preach?
And not just the priest, but all of us. All of us are affected by abortion; all
of us must break out of this conspiracy of silence. All of us are charged by
Christ to preach the gospel of life to save the culture of death. But when we
preach, when we speak out, we must preach the whole gospel of life or indeed we
will cause unnecessary pain. If all that we as Catholic Christians have to say
about abortion is to condemn it, then that is only part of the gospel of life
and it is painful to hear. But if we preach the whole gospel, then it begins
with love and mercy, forgiveness after sin and reconciliation. So, preach,
preach about abortion, but tell the whole story. Begin with God’s love for
fallen man. Continue with a Son who came among us as an embryo, a fetus, an
unborn child in his mother’s womb and who is a Savior who sets us free from sin
and death. And end with a Church whose members have arms wide open and who are
charged to restore all things in Christ.
I learned from post-abortive parents that many people in our Church do not
know that abortion can be forgiven. Many victims of abortion think that they
have committed the unforgivable sin and they lose hope. It is up to us to make
sure they learn that this is not true. In Christ, all things can be forgiven. We
have only to give ourselves to repentance and to the sacrament of reconciliation
to find new hope, a fresh start. And while we care for those who have been
victimized by abortion, we must also turn our attention and efforts to end the
injustice of abortion. As the body of Christ, we are to restore justice to those
who have no voice, to turn the evil man from the evil he has in hand so that he
may not lose his soul nor harm the innocent.
Preaching the whole gospel of life means sharing our resources with those who
have less and who are in need. In our gospel today we are promised a reward for
merely giving a cup of water to one who is thirsty. But think about this, if we
have a cup of water to give and the other one does not, then why is it we who
have the cup of water? Are we better than they, does God love us more, do we
deserve it more? Isn’t it true that if we have something to share with someone
in need, it is only because God gave it to us? But if God gave it to us and not
to all, surely he did not give it to us to keep only for ourselves. God gave it
to us so that we could use it to love him by sharing it with those he loves.
This is the economy of the Incarnation. Christ chooses to dwell in us so that we
must look out for each other in the same way we would look out for him. The
money, the talents, the blessings we receive are ours to control in order for us
to be good stewards in sharing them wisely with those who have less. They serve
no other purpose since we must all die and leave them behind. We take with us
only the love of Christ that we have stored in heaven through the sharing of our
goods here on earth.
It is up to us to reach out in love and practical assistance to the
frightened parents who are told the only option for them is abortion. America
aspires to greatness and rightly so. But if a nation has nothing more than
abortion to offer a woman in difficult circumstances, in what way can it be
called great? We once fought a great war on distant shores to set people free
from tyranny and oppression. We were a great nation then because we recognized
the danger and injustice of power used to promote ideology against the
Now the tyranny and oppression are our own. Now ideology used against the
powerless happens within our own borders, is written into our own laws. And now
the question comes to our generation: are we still a great nation? Will we do
the right thing no matter the cost? Have so many Americans fought and died only
to have this generation sacrifice the greatness of our nation on the altar of
abortion? Our heroes died for our freedom. Do we honor them by committing
abominations in the name of the freedom for which they died?
Our language is also a great resource through which we communicate with each
other what is in our heart. It is up to us not to allow the cynical abortion
industry to contort our language in ways that demean the human person who is
sacred in God’s eyes. When you call a human person a fetus or a product of
conception or a non-viable life in order to justify killing him or her, in order
to justify ignoring their basic human rights, you commit a gross act of
prejudice. God calls this person to life, God calls this person my son or my
daughter, my beloved.
Because we happen to live in a democracy, we have a voice in the direction of
our nation; we have the right to vote. With this right comes a moral
responsibility to speak up in favor of those who have no voice, who have no
vote. Apathy is beneath those who believe in a God who created everything from
nothing. Apathy is beneath those whose parents and grandparents and
great-grandparents fought and died at home and abroad in order to win and
protect our right to cast a single vote. The reason we vote is not because we
know our party or our candidate or our cause will win so that if it looks like
we will lose, we won’t vote. No, the reason we should vote is because a just
government participates in God’s power and authority. Through our vote, God
gives us another way to honor him by voting in favor of respect for the life and
dignity of the human person created in his image and likeness. When we vote
according to our faith in God and love of our neighbor, it becomes an act of
worship and prayer.
If we vote in favor of public officials who are themselves in favor of crimes
like abortion, then we become cooperators in evil. To paraphrase today’s gospel,
if your politician causes you to sin, cut him or her off.
But we need some logic here, we need to apply the teaching of our Church.
First, all issues are not of the same importance. The Bishops of the United
States have called abortion and euthanasia the pre-eminent threats to human life
in our time because these constitute a direct attack on innocent human life.
Allow me to quote the bishops of the United States from their statement "Living
the Gospel of Life": We must never be indifferent to those "who suffer from
poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist
the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human
dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment,
education, housing and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve
themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas? But
[because the legal protection of innocent life is basic] being "right" in such
matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent
human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most
vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the "rightness" of positions in
other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community.
(Living the Gospel of Life 23). In regards political candidates, this means that
we should be suspicious of any candidate of whatever party who claims to support
the rights of the poor and who still supports abortion. Such a stance
demonstrates that the candidate does not even understand who the poor are or
what rights mean. The right to life is paramount and is the condition for
enjoying any other rights. Any public official who favors excluding a portion of
the public from the protection of the law and ignoring their basic human rights
forfeits the honor of the title public official.
Secondly, the ability of lawmakers to have perfect laws to vote on is
limited. At times a lawmaker, who makes it clear that he or she does not support
a right to abortion, may still be forced to vote in favor of a law or policy
that does not go as far as it can, but does help to reduce the number of
abortions. It is responsible to vote for such persons because an incremental
approach may be the best approach we can get in the complicated politics of our
But let us be clear, if the reason we support a particular politician is
because that person supports abortion, and we do too, then we are colluding in
evil and are guilty of a crime against innocent human persons. No Catholic can
claim to be in favor of abortion under any circumstances. There is not more than
one teaching about abortion in the Catholic Church. If a Catholic finds he or
she is not convinced that abortion is always wrong, then they have a
responsibility to continue to pray and study and try to understand why the
Church teaches what it does.
Ours is a time of great potential, of great prosperity, but not a time of
peace. We should not allow ourselves to be lulled by a good economy into
thinking this is a time of peace. Peace is not the mere absence of war, but the
presence of justice. Our nation’s greatness is found in its recognition of the
unalienable rights of all of its citizens. As Catholic Christians and as
Americans, let us pray and work to restore the rights of all so that we may
again claim the greatness that so many paid so much to give to us.