This week’s article is based on the homily given on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Many of those attending boarded buses immediately after the Mass to begin their journey to Washington, D.C. to participate in the March for Life and other activities supporting life on January 23 and 24.
My Dear Friends,
Let me begin by thanking you for being here this morning. On a cold winter’s day, you gather in the warmth of our Cathedral to offer prayers and penance for violations against the dignity of the human person that occur every day. We remember with sadness our country’s darkest hour when the Supreme Court took away the right to life of the unborn child. The Court failed to recognize and accept the stirring words of our founding fathers who declared that, “all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
In the Gospel of Life, the soon-to-be Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote, “It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all other inalienable rights of individuals are found and from which they develop.” (# 101)
We are about to embark on a noble journey. Those traveling to Washington will participate in what amounts to a triduum, three days of activities and celebrations that are meant to enhance the dignity and appreciation that we all have for each human life. Others, while remaining in Syracuse or in their own towns and villages, will journey with us “in spirit,” praying and offering penance to ask God’s forgiveness for those who do not share our belief.
During the next few days, we will testify to the truth that all of life is of value and possesses a dignity that can never be taken away. Regardless of color, denomination, gender, or even health — each and every person is a unique person — a person loved by God beyond all telling. Every person created is part of God’s plan. Every life is sacred from the first moment of conception until natural death. The unborn child is neither a statistic nor a social problem. He or she is a human being, made in the image and likeness of God, whom I am called by Christ to love, even as the Lord loved me from the wood of the cross.
This morning, in the mystery of the Eucharist, we join our prayers to those of like-minded people throughout the United States and beyond who stand up and are counted as people of life. We gather during this Mass because we are believers. In union with the whole Church, we recognize both the responsibility to pray and the profound effectiveness of prayer. We believe that prayer can change hearts. And if hearts are changed, respect for life will grow even among those who are currently adversaries of life.
We pray today for those considering abortion that their hearts and minds will be changed so that they will cooperate with God in the creation of new life. We pray, too, for those who have gone through the trauma of an abortion, and for those who do not understand that our attitude towards life in its earliest stages shapes and affects our attitudes toward each other, as well as our attitudes towards life in its various stages. We pray that through the grace of Jesus, we will soon be able to celebrate the fact that every child is welcomed in life and protected by law.
All of us have a responsibility each day to be people of life and to promote the culture of life. During these days, there will be opportunities to reflect on where we have been and where we are headed. Advances have been made in the struggle against abortion, and they are due in large measure to the growing strength of the pro-life movement. There are strong indications that young people, particularly those under the age of 30, so many of whom are with us this morning, support the protection of life more strongly than any other group except those over the age of 65. The striking feature of this statistic is that those under 30 were born into a society already affected by Roe vs. Wade, and at a time when there was no legal assurance of survival at the earliest stages of life in the womb.
I am truly grateful to you who are joining us today on this pilgrimage. More than 12 buses are leaving from various locations within the diocese. Others, using their own transportation, will arrive and be with us in our nation’s capital. In Washington, we will walk shoulder to shoulder to the Capitol building with people from all across our country. As we do so, we will ask God to eliminate the scourge of abortion from our land and to ensure that each child will be welcomed, loved and respected. We know the prayers and sacrifices of those who remain at home will accompany us.
The travel to Washington is more than a journey. It is a pilgrimage in which prayer and penance play an important part. We are together on a common mission. There will be some inconveniences. We offer them up as acts of penance, as small as they might be, to demonstrate our commitment to life.
The common good of all is discovered only when we protect the right to life. We have just completed the celebration of the Christmas season. In itself, Christmas teaches us of God’s own affirmation of human life when He sent his Son to live among us and to be one with us in all things but sin. As Jesus grew into adulthood, His words and deeds give ample evidence of His love and respect for all people, especially the sinner, the outsider and the vulnerable.
As we journey through life it is well for us to remember that we will be judged by our love. St. John of the Cross reminds us that “In the evening of life we are judged on love alone.” This certainly includes love for the vulnerable unborn child, but it also includes love for people of all ages, at every stage of their life, who are threatened by a culture that disregards life and its protection. May we be faith-filled people who listen to and live Jesus’ words: “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” (Mt.