Marching for Life

Bishop Moynihan leads peaceful, prayerful procession to end abortion

Editor’s note: The following is Bishop Moynihan’s homily given at a Mass preceeding the March for Life May 11 at Holy Trinity Church, Utica.

Among the things that an optometrist or an ophthalmologist would want to test is your peripheral vision. You will look through an instrument at a spot in a dark expanse, and with a clicker, you will indicate when you see a tiny flash of light. Some of the lights flash directly in front of you, but others are high, low, or far to either side. They are bright or they are dim, they are of one shape or another. Straight ahead vision is very important, of course, and it must be clear and accurate. But peripheral vision is equally important. This is true spiritually, as well as physically. In the first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the early Church was threatened by tunnel vision on the part of some of Christ’s first followers. Some Jewish Christians believed that Christ had come for Jews only, and therefore circumcision and obedience to the Law were also required of Gentile converts.

In a dramatic experience, while he was at prayer on a rooftop in Joppa, Peter’s eyes were opened to the wider implications of Jesus’ coming into the world. He began to see non-Jewish people in a new light, as people loved by God. Finally, the whole Church adopted this broader perspective. Peripheral vision had improved. This may seem to be an irrelevant issue for us today, but it’s really not. As long as we exclude anyone from membership in the family of God, we are guilty of tunnel vision. It is the redemptive love of God in Christ that will enlarge our hearts and broaden our range of vision.

Our nation was founded on the principle of the worth of the individual, although it has taken us a long time to live up to that founding ideal. In the Declaration of Independence we read these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — including the right to life….”

Of course, those founding fathers were initially thinking of men — you know, white men. But over time and through much bloodshed we have widened that circle to include men and women, white people and people of color. But we are far from perfect in extending rights to all human beings, regardless of race, creed, color. We are far from perfect in extending it to the most vulnerable members of our society, to unborn infants at the beginning of life and to the frail elderly and the dying at the end of life.

We are here to pray for heart transplants and lens implants. We are here today to pray for a change of heart on the part of some and an improvement of vision on the part of others. We are here today to pray for these intentions, for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters in this country and in the world.

Make no mistake about it, miracles of grace continue to happen in the lives of individuals. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King tirelessly preached about civil rights and respect for all people, regardless of race during the turbulent 1960s. Forty years later, his niece, Alveda King, campaigns for the right to life and respect for all unborn babies regardless of the circumstances. In a speech in Indianapolis on Feb. 22 of this year, she said that she relies on prayer and scripture to sustain her as she tries to change minds, convert hearts, and save souls which she sees as a spiritual war against the culture of death in contemporary society. Like her late uncle, she dreams of the day when every person — born or unborn — is loved and respected.

Alveda King is the mother of six children and a grandmother, and she feels called to ministry in the battle against abortion.

“I am post abortive,” she says. “I’ve had two abortions (in 1970 and 1973). Looking back on it, they said it was a blob of tissues and won’t hurt… (but) abortion hurts a lot. They also didn’t tell me there was going to be a connection to breast cancer, cervical cancer, depression… broken relationships, (and) not bonding with my other children. So everybody suffered as a result, but that cycle (of pain) was broken… by the Spirit of God.”

Ironically, she said, her birthday is Jan. 22, the date the Supreme Court Justices approved legalized abortion in the Roe v Wade decision. “After I had my second abortion, I was Miss Pro Choice Queen for years,” she said, “in spite of the King’s family belief in civil rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In 1983, I was born again, and I had a confrontation with the living God,” she said. “I repented and said, ‘God, this was wrong, and I’m so sorry.’”

She said she realized then that “God had forgiven me and so I became over those years from 1983 to today — increasingly a pro-life speaker.” She said, “I met Father Frank Pavone on the road,” and “he was quoting my uncle’s Christmas speech and his letter from the Birmingham jail about infanticide.”

On April 18th, one month ago, the Supreme Court of our land upheld the partial birth abortion act by a 5 to 4 vote. We praise the Supreme Court for upholding the ban on partial birth abortion. But that decision really sends the battle back to the states, and we already have an instance in New York State where Gov. Spitzer himself has said that he will introduce a bill with the intent of nullifying the Supreme Court’s April 18th ruling. Another Democratic legislator in this state said that he would re-introduce the Freedom of Choice Act on April 20, a bill that would for the “first time” codify a right to an abortion guaranteed by the Roe vs. Wade decision. In other words, what happens now is that even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the whole abortion issue is thrown back on the individual states, and it’s up to them to decide whether or not an abortion in that state will have legal status or not.

My brothers and sisters, we are indeed engaged in a spiritual warfare, and the forces of Satan are rampant and strident in their wailings and howlings. Jesus has told us that there are certain devils that can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. We not only have to march for life, but we also have to pray for life.

We also have to listen to Jesus’ words to us in today’s Gospel from St. John. The world has always had a keen interest in the last words of great men. Today’s Gospel message contains the “last will and testament” of Jesus — His last instructions to those who live after him. Lest there be any confusion about the force of His words, Jesus presents them as a commandment: “This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.” These eight words capture the whole meaning of our life of faith. We are to love one another as Christ loved us. This means that we are to come to the rescue of those in need, challenge the blindness of those in power, shatter the illusions of those who are arrogant, teach those who are wandering in ignorance, weep with those who are plunged in grief, call out to those who are leaderless, and comfort those whose hearts are burdened. In other words, Christ’s commandment makes total claim upon our strengths and our sympathies, our abilities and our resources.

And so, today we march and today we pray. We march as though everything depended upon us, and we pray as though everything depended upon God.

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