Thousands of people, including hundreds from our diocese, will travel to Washington, DC, to participate in the March for Life on Friday, January 27. The homily I plan to preach in the crypt at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is printed below.
“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.” I recently heard someone quoting this bit of wisdom. It reminded me of last year’s March for Life. If you joined us last year, you experienced what can happen when snowflakes stick together. Because of the snow, many could not come to Washington; several left to return home before the March, and some were stranded on the roadside on their way home.
I think the quote, however, leads us to a profound reality, namely the possibilities that emerge when people “stick” together for a common cause. A common cause is the reason we, and thousands more, make a pilgrimage to our nation’s capital every year at this time.
We stand together for life. A single voice can carry an important message. The theme for this year’s March is The Power of One. Indeed one person can make a difference in the world, whether in the life of one person or many. However, many voices supporting a common cause send a powerful message. Together we proclaim our message. Human life is precious from its very beginning in a mother’s womb until natural death. Every person is made in the image and likeness of God. “Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 357).
St. John Paul II wrote passionately about the intrinsic value of human life. “We are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life.’ We find ourselves not only ‘faced with’ but necessarily ‘in the midst of this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility to be unconditionally pro-life” (St. John Paul II, The Gospel of Life).
Life is our common cause. We believe that human life is good and it deserves respect and protection. We believe that every human being has an equal worth and dignity. We believe that every life — the rich, the poor, the healthy, the suffering, the prisoner, the businessman or woman, the unemployed, the ailing and aged, the laborer, the immigrant, children and youth — every life is worth living. We believe this worth depends on no accomplishment, no status or position. It rests on the true dignity of each person created in God’s image and called to an eternal destiny with Him.
When Pope Francis spoke to members of Congress during his pastoral visit to our country, he spoke about the Golden Rule and the clear direction it provides. “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities, which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every state of its development” (Address to Congress, September 24, 2015).
My dear young people, let me remind you that our efforts and commitment to life cannot be relegated to one day of the year or to one event, as significant as our communal witness, prayer, and penance today may be.
We need to promote a “culture of life” every day of the year. Our commitment to life requires us to reach out to others, especially the vulnerable, those on the fringes, those who are ignored and forgotten. Quoting Pope Francis, “We are called to reach out to those who find themselves on the peripheries of our societies and to show particular solidarity with the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters; the poor, the disabled, the unborn and the sick, migrants and refugees, the elderly and the youth who lack employment” (Message to General Assembly of World Council of Churches, October 4, 2013).
As you march for life today, resolve that when you return home you will be attentive to those around you. Respect them. Speak kindly. Curb anger and resentment. Forgive those who offend you. Ask for forgiveness when you have hurt someone. Reach out to others. Pray often, even daily, that one heart at a time, one person at a time, our homes, cities, state and nation will recognize the sanctity of human life and leave no stone unturned to safeguard and protect it.
Thank you for joining us in our commitment to life. Thank you for making this trip to Washington, for marching for life, for praying with us. Let us embrace our mission of promoting life in all its stages by being radiant examples of Christ’s love and mercy.
In conclusion, let us take our lead from Pope Francis. In a homily he preached in 2005, years before becoming pope, he said, “All of us must care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth . . . to give life is to open our heart, and to care for life is to give oneself in tenderness and warmth for others, to have concern in my heart for others. . . . Caring for life from beginning to the end. What a simple thing, what a beautiful thing. So, go forth and don’t be discouraged. Care for life. It is worth it” (Cardinal Bergoglio, Homily, August 31, 2005).
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.