In the days of this week when this nation recalls the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade (1973) which legalized abortion, I would like to offer a few reflections.
As we face the reality of abortion in this nation, the first thing we are faced with is a legal system (which is made up of men and women) that is willing to be stingy with the truth if not outright lie about what is taking place. By law, moral and civil, to take the life of any human being is a crime. Yet, when it comes to the unborn, our law of the land somehow seems blind to the truth that a new life has begun in the womb of the mother. A human life has been conceived. This life is not alien, it is not a member of the wildlife of nature nor of the domestic life of the rural landscape, but the life of a new member of the human race. Roe vs. Wade turned a blind eye to this truth, and has allowed many more since then to do the same.
Abortion is the taking of human life. The legality of this killing of the unborn for the last 42 years has numbed the conscience of our people. So, one of the ‘gifts’ we can pray for is that God would allow the grace of a renewed and vibrant conscience that will properly guide the decisions of those considering abortion.
Prior to abortion, there is another common place practice that contributes to a willingness to take the life of an unborn child, and that is the practice of artificial birth control. Sadly, it seems that in this nation abortion has simply become another means of contraception. The distinction of these two of course is that the one is simply closed to the possibility of life while the other is the taking of life.
All of us already know the moral drill: artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong. They are sinful. This teaching is consistent, and it will not change. On one hand, we as bishops, priests and deacons can probably be clearer in expressing this teaching, especially when working with engaged couples and with married couples. It probably needs a clearer place and time in our religious education programs as well.
The challenge seems to be clarity about our teaching, without the judgment. In response to the many couples who practice artificial contraception and to the many millions of unborn children whose lives were never allowed to see the light of day, our response should be that of Moses. When God was so angry with the people of Israel and wanted to remove them from the face of the earth, he told Moses of His desire, and that He would make of Moses a great nation. Moses then argued with God on behalf of this sinful nation, begging God’s mercy. Moses continued to walk with both the people of Israel and the Living God. (see Deuteronomy 9)
Along the lines of avoiding judgment, we must recall the serious difficulty of those contemplating abortions. Rather than fearing bringing this news to us as Church, we want them to not only come to us for assistance, but also to find in us a compassionate response. Even those who have already chosen an abortion should be able to find in us a merciful response and a willingness to help them find healing and reconciliation.
Another big part of our challenge is to better proclaim the Good News that underpins these teachings. We have a God Who is LIFE. Our God loves us so much that He created us for communion with Himself. Once we damaged this relationship with God, He sent His only Son into the world to both reveal God’s love and to redeem us from our sins.
In short, what this week is calling us to is a greater openness to Life, the Life that flows from the overwhelming love and grace of Jesus Christ! We cannot go back to another time, when life was simpler, and there seemed to be a greater adherence to a moral code of life. Life never retreats, it marches forward, always. We are called to move forward in this day, with all of its secular challenges. We move forward in faith to a new Jerusalem.
We are called as people of faith to first live this life of abundant grace and love that are ours in Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus came that we may have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) If we are to create a culture that is open to life, the first step for each of us is to grow in the life that is ours in Jesus Christ. Christ is the author of life and the One Who restored life through His redeeming love. When we live our life in Christ, the abundance of life Christ promises begins to flow through us. This is the stream of grace which we are to bring into the world. This is the work of the New Evangelization.
The next step is to engage our modern world and culture. We must be in dialogue and relationship with the people of today. This is one of the great challenges being regularly posed to us by Pope Francis. Here is just one such instruction from The Joy of the Gospel:
#71. The new Jerusalem, the holy city (cf. Rev 21:2-4), is the goal towards which all of humanity is moving. It is curious that God’s revelation tells us that the fullness of humanity and of history is realized in a city. We need to look at our cities with a contemplative gaze, a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares. God’s presence accompanies the sincere efforts of individuals and groups to find encouragement and meaning in their lives. He dwells among them, fostering solidarity, fraternity, and the desire for goodness, truth and justice. This presence must not be contrived but found, uncovered. God does not hide himself from those who seek him with a sincere heart, even though they do so tentatively, in a vague and haphazard manner.
So, as we prepare to take part in marches yet to come this weekend, or the next prayer service, let us pray that each of our lives may be ‘life-giving’ to the culture around us. Let us continue to pray for a greater openness to life while each of us strive even more to be open to the Life Jesus Christ is offers us.