May 25-31, 2006
Live in Happiness
By Most Rev. James M. Moynihan
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Bishop James Moynihan Delivers Message of Joy During Pro-Life Mass
Editor’s note: The following is the text of Bishop James Moynihan’s homily at the pro-life Mass on May 18 at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton.
In today’s message from the Gospel of St. John, we have a remarkable legacy from Christ Himself: “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be complete.” Here we have that remarkable legacy from Jesus. Admittedly, the New Testament is a grave and even a stern book. It has so much to say about human sin and suffering that talk of happiness may seem out of place. And yet the New Testament is anything but a sad and sober book. Its message is a gospel — a word that means “good news” — and it is a shout of good news that throbs with joy.
Christ Himself meant it to be exactly that, as these words of joy spoken on the eve of His death make plain. His whole ministry was a campaign of happiness. Everywhere He went, sorrows were comforted and diseases were healed. Shadows were lifted from darkened minds and stains were wiped clear from soiled lives. The early Christians were the happiest people in the world. The dominant note of that first Christian period was one of unending joy.
Where did those early Christians get happiness? They caught that infection of joy from their Master. With His unsullied conscience, His uninterrupted communion with God, His unselfish love for others, and His vivid sense of vocation, Jesus Christ was the happiest of happy people.
As a great philosopher of the 17th century put it, “Blessedness is not something added to goodness. It is goodness itself.” So how do we live in happiness? Jesus said that we live in happiness by living in love. He says to His followers, “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” What a wonderful formula for happiness — the keeping of God’s commandments. Of course, one of those commandments is the fifth commandment — Thou shalt not kill — and abortion is the killing of an innocent human being with an inalienable right to life. There are a couple of things that should be remembered, and the first is this. In any civilized society, one may not kill what has never been shown to be other than an innocent human being with an inalienable right to live. This is true quite apart from any consideration of this religion or that religion, or indeed, of any religion at all. A healthy religion might be expected to applaud such a basic principle of civilization, just as a healthy religion might be expected to applaud the unacceptability in civilized society of armed robbery. However, such applause does not make armed robbery a “solely religious issue” anymore than it makes abortion a “solely religious issue.” It is a betrayal of civilized society and the most fundamental right of humankind, the right to live.
Secondly, even if legislatures and courts along with kings and presidents contend that we are free to kill what has never been shown to be other than an innocent human being with an inalienable right to live, this changes nothing for the rest of us. We, as members of civilized society, are obliged to stand for what is clear, basic and true in this world in which we live.
Alan and Mary Badger of this diocese are a husband and wife, a father and mother who have been married for 41 years and go around to our schools talking to our students on the sacredness of human life. They know what they are talking about. They are the parents of eight children and 25 grandchildren, and they have embraced life to the fullest.
“We believe life is beautiful,” says Mary. This is the message they have been taking into classrooms almost half of their married life. They bring their pro-life message to children and young adults on behalf of Friends for Life Inc., a non-profit educational organization located in Upstate Central New York. “We want to educate students about the truth behind abortions,” says Mary. “When they are educated with their medical and scientific facts, then they can make knowledgeable, informed decisions.” Alan and Mary get invited into classrooms in both public and private schools, and they talk to students ranging from middle school to college age who are willing to open their hearts and ears. They believe that reaching students during their adolescence is the best time to raise awareness about the risks of premarital sex. “It is better to get the truth to children early, that sex is to be reserved for marriage.” That’s the message they both proclaim. Mary Badger places some of the blame on the media and sitcoms for giving young people a distorted message about the sacredness of the human body. “The media tell kids to say no to drugs and drinking and to driving under the influence, but then say they can compromise on sex. We think they are capable of self-control in all areas, including their sexual appetites as well.”
“There are two fundamental beliefs of people who are pro-life,” says Alan. That life begins at conception, and that all life has value at all stages.
In today’s first reading, the apostles debate the question of what it takes to be a good Christian, and it is resolved that you do not have to become first a circumcised Jew to be able to profess complete faith in Jesus Christ. However, in the gospel Jesus tells us that if we are going to profess complete faith in Jesus Christ, and if we are going to live happy lives both here and hereafter, it is necessary to keep the commandments. And one of those commandments is “Thou shalt not kill.” How we observe it will determine our futures, both here and hereafter.