27th Sunday: Respect Life
In today’s second reading, from the second Pastoral Epistle of Paul to Timothy, Timothy is told to “guard the trust.” St. Paul says that Timothy needs to stir up into a flame the gift that he received through the imposition of hands, his ordination, and take as his norms the words he heard about the faith and love of the Lord.
The passage is meant for more than the ordained. It is pointed to the great gifts we have all received. We need to guard these gifts, guard the trust given to us.
I want to begin by speaking about three of the many gifts we have received. The first great gift came at our baptism when we were given the Life of God. We need to guard this Life. We can’t let ourselves be exposed to the immorality that destroys the Life within us. The second great gift is the gift of the Word of God. The Bible is not just another book, it is God’s Word. We need to guard against treating it as a suggestion for life. It is God telling us about Himself, His Life, and how we are to live His Life. The third great gift is the Eucharist. Jesus Christ transformed bread and wine into His Body and Blood and entrusted us with this Great Mystery. We need to guard this mystery against those elements within ourselves that would downgrade the Eucharist into a pious religious action. The Eucharist is the source and the summit of our faith. It is Jesus Christ.
By guarding the trust, I do not mean turning into ourselves. Jesus did not come for only some people, but for all people. He commissioned us to go out and proclaim the Kingdom of God to the whole world.
We particularly need to proclaim His Presence to our countrymen. When the President of the United States delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress, be it the State of the Union or some issue he wants to address with as much solemnity as possible, he stands in front of the motto of our country. The motto of our country is: In God We Trust. Freedom of Religion is the First Amendment to the Constitution, the first of the Bill of Rights. But our country has moved from Freedom of Religion to Freedom from Religion. Far more than respecting a person’s religion, our society has gotten into a hole whereby it doesn’t just support a person right not to believe, but it promotes and fosters atheism. Over 90% of the media is atheistic, doing its best to advance their view. The media says that religion is in the decline in the United States. It is interesting how those in the minority promote their position with the lie that they are in the majority. This is what the communists did in Russia when they named themselves the Bolsheviks, the majority party. If religion were in the decline, then who is going to all these Churches, Synagogues and Mosques that surround us? The 2012 statistical abstract of the US Census Bureau showed that of 228,182,000 adults, only 34,169,000 or 15% of the country claims to be atheists, agnostics or have no religion. We who are committed to the Kingdom of God need to stand up for the faith.
There is a deep malaise in our society. The right to make a choice has been given precedence over the morality of the choice. This can be applied to all areas of our life. The most important, though, is that area that we are remembering today, the area of Respect Life. Many feel that it is acceptable to choose to abort a child because the right to choose itself is more important that the morality of abortion. To protect themselves from defending immorality, they declare that the whole concept that abortion is immoral was created by the Church. They then argue that the Church does not have the right to impose its beliefs on others. The trouble with their argument is that the right to life is a right of the natural law. The natural law is the law that flows from reason. It is not specific to any faith. It is found in all societies, including the most primitive societies. It recognizes that murder is wrong, that incest is wrong, that stealing is wrong, etc. The natural law supercedes any and all particular faiths. The Preamble of the Declaration of Independence was based on the natural law stating that all people have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The determination of our country to promote abortion within the country and throughout the world has crippled the fabric of our society. Along with the killing of babies, abortion results in the destruction of the lives of countless American women who have been convinced into having an abortion by friends, counselors, medical personnel, and even members of their own families. Many of our women and young girls have allowed life within them to be destroyed because they were told that this is the best thing for them to do. The so-called authorities in their lives don’t have to live with the results of the abortion. The women do. They are the ones who cannot think about a child without being immersed in pain. They are the ones is in turmoil.
To cure our society, we need to consider the women and girls we have destroyed. We have to encourage women suffering the trauma of the abortion to put themselves in God’s hands. To quote Blessed Pope John Paul II: “These women can become stronger than before because they recognize the value of human life.” He also said to these suffering Moms, “You can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.” (Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life, #99)
To cure our society, we have to fight against the pervading selfishness that makes the concept of abortion feasible. A society that is so selfish that it refuses to respect life will implode. For too long we have treated abortion as just one of many political issues. Forget about politics. This issue goes to the core of our society. We cannot be people of faith, placing our trust in God, and continue to support this horrible immorality.
Respect Life demands that respect all life, at whatever age, in whatever circumstance.
An elderly lady in our parish told me about an experience she recently had. The lady lives in an assisted living facility, but is in good health for her age. She went for a routine doctor’s visit. Her doctor asked her, “How much longer do you wish to live?” She said, “What type of question is that?” and got up and stormed out of the doctor’s office, never to return. She did not want a doctor whose quality of care would be determined by the age of the patient. That doctor was voicing the immorality of a society that does not respect life. We are just a small step from promoting euthanasia. Furthermore, if the quality of care is dependent on what society considers the quality of life, the whole question of care for the physically and mentally challenged comes into play. This is where the abortion mentality has led our nation.
There are many positive examples of respect for life within our society. A while back a woman who stole a baby from an undocumented migrant family. She was give a year in prison for each hour she had the baby. The judge recognized that, documented or undocumented, migrant workers are human beings with natural rights. No one has the right to steal their babies. Nor, contrary to the actions of our country, does anyone have the right to break up their families. Sadly, respecting their lives seems to be missing from the immigration debate.
Paul tells Timothy, “God did not give us the spirit of cowardice, but rather the Spirit of power and love and self control. Do not be ashamed of your testimony for the Lord, but bear your share of the hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”
We have been entrusted with the faith. We need to take stands for all that is right and true. And we need to trust in God. There is Power in our faith. There is Power in our prayer. There is Power in people who are willing to accept being rejected by the so-called mainstream of society for the sake of standing for all life, whether that life is about to be born or about to come to its natural conclusion or anywhere in between.
We pray today for the courage to Guard the Trust, Guard the Faith, and stand for life.