1 Cor 2:6-10
Mt 5:17-37 or 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37
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There are two powerful avenues in today’s readings by which the pro-life theme can be developed.
First, the Lord proclaims through Sirach that the commandments are possible to keep. “If you choose you can keep the commandments.” God is not unfair. He does not give us burdens we cannot handle. The reason Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden light is that he transforms our nature so that we can know, love, and serve God with the very same Spirit he has. One might say, upon understanding the commandments, that they are impossible to keep. But we do not rely only on human strength. Christ lives in us, and that is the ultimate fulfillment of the truth spoken through Sirach. This is why Paul will later declare, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Relative to pro-life, this means that no matter what the circumstances may be tempting or pressuring someone to abortion, those forces can be resisted. The power to say “Yes” to life is always there.
Then, the commandment not to murder (that is, not to kill the innocent), is reiterated by Jesus in the Gospel, but he goes further and warns us to avoid those things that lead to murder. One of them is using “abusive language” toward our brothers and sisters. Professor William Brennan authored a book called “Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives.” He shows in this study that the same kinds of words and phrases are used throughout history to insult the dignity of groups of people who are being oppressed. Among the groups he analyzes are Blacks, Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and the children of today who are living in the womb. His charts show that identical phrases and words are used by those who want to deny the humanity of these groups so that they can oppress them. They are referred to as “waste, parasites, non-persons,” and other derogatory terms.
This kind of abusive language is certainly among what Jesus prohibits in today’s Gospel passage.
And when that language is applied to people, including the children in the womb, we violate the conditions of bringing our gift to the altar. Professor Brennan ends his book by urging us to a language of affirmation, which uplifts rather than degrades. Jesus tells us we cannot worship God unless we “go first to be reconciled” with our brothers and sisters. If we are using degrading language toward them, and not recognizing them as equals, then we are not yet reconciled. This, incidentally, is the fundamental reason why being “pro-choice” is incompatible with receiving Communion. To want to be in Communion with (and hence fully reconciled with) Jesus, we have to be in communion with and fully reconciled with all our brothers and sisters, recognizing them all as persons like ourselves. That is totally contradicted by the “pro-choice” mindset.