Editor’s note: Sunday, Oct. 3, begins Respect Life Month in the United States.
By Lisa Hall
I remember being at a pro-life gathering a few years back. The tone of the gathering was rather gloomy: The Reproductive Health Act had recently been enacted and hideously celebrated by some in power. This law enshrined abortion as a fundamental right in our state; it allows abortions for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy, and allows non-doctors to perform abortions.
People at the gathering wanted to know what they could do. They were angry, upset and frustrated by what they felt was a lack of responsiveness from some of their priests, bishops, Pope Francis and fellow Catholics. One person asked, “How are we supposed to keep going? What’s the use?”
I must admit, it was an honest and good question. One I’ve asked myself at times. When it seems that most people couldn’t care less (at best) or even actively promote the killing of the unborn as a good (at worst) it can truly seem discouraging to continue advocating for the value and dignity of every life. Even more so advocating for the most vulnerable among us.
So what are we to do? Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), tells us that, like Jesus, an evangelizing community becomes involved in the lives of its people; “it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.” He goes on to say, “Every person is worthy of our giving … because they are God’s handiwork, his creation. … Every human being is the object of God’s infinite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives.”
Each one of us, as baptized Christians, is called to this involvement. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of how. We are called to protect the innocent, to be a voice for the voiceless, to care for the ill and elderly. And each one of us can, and must, do our part. We cannot stand idly by as more than 880,000 pre-born children are terminated each year in their mother’s wombs—the very place they ought to be most safe and secure from harm and violence. We cannot allow our seniors to be unaccompanied when they most need us in their time of illness or as they near death. These situations happen daily and require our time, effort, prayers and attention.
And the task is not beyond us. Pope Francis continues in The Joy of the Gospel: “Anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” We are to do this through “standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be.” With “patient expectation and apostolic endurance” the art of accompaniment “teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other.” Because we are made in God’s image and likeness, the ability to accompany one another is built into our very DNA.
This does not mean that accompaniment is an easy task. It calls us to get out of our own way and to listen carefully to what God is calling us to do. It requires us to spend time with God, to receive the Eucharist frequently and to give our worries and cares to God so that we can make space and be free to do what he asks. It calls us to have a heart that is open to the other, especially those who are most vulnerable.
But we are made for the task. We are made to know, love and serve God. We are made to help one another enjoy life with God, forever. We are bought with a price and redeemed. It is a blessing and a gift to be called.
How are we supposed to keep going? By recognizing, remembering and living the call. We are his people and he is our God. Blessed be God, forever!
For more information and resources to assist families, the unborn, the elderly or the ill, or for information about the healing post-abortion ministry, Project Rachel, please contact the Office of Family/Respect Life Ministry at 315-472-6754 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit our office page at syrdio.org.
Lisa Hall is the Director of the Office of Family/Respect Life Ministry for the Diocese of Syracuse.