Today is January 22. 2016 and that means the March for Life is going on in Washington, DC today. In recognition of our call to prayer and action, we celebrated a Vigil Mass for Life last night. Below is the homily I offered.
Mass for Life
January 21, 2016
It was just a little less than a month ago when we celebrated Christmas Day as the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, a son given to us, and a great light shining upon our world.
Certainly, Jesus’ birth is celebrated with great joy. We experience this joy for ourselves but we can also see the joy in others in story of Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth when John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb as Mary approached with Jesus in her womb.
Mary and Elizabeth were both filled with joy at the life within them. Every life should bring such joy but unfortunately it doesn’t always. Pregnancy can bring concerns.
In Mary’s case, she could have felt anxiety wondering what people would think of her being unwed and pregnant. She could have felt she was too young both physically and in knowing how to be a mother. Instead of being anxious, Mary trusted in God’s Word.
Elizabeth was old and never had any children. It wasn’t that she didn’t want children. She did but it never happened. So it would be easy to assume she was thrilled to become pregnant and she was. Elizabeth could have said she was too old to be pregnant and to raise a child. She didn’t. She trusted in God’s will.
Life is a gift but it isn’t always seen that way. Pregnancy is not always seen as a good thing. Pregnancy can bring fear. For a young girl, it might be fear of what others will think, including her parents. The mother might fear being able to have a healthy birth. The parents might feel they don’t have the financial means to raise a child. They might fear being able to be good parents. Unfortunately, fear can be a powerful thing. Fear and anxiety can bring darkness and the darkness brings gloom, despair, and bad choices.
I want to take a moment to move from life in the womb to people at the end of life. When people are faced with end of life decisions a common term used today is “quality of life.” Some feel that when a person faces a terminal diagnosis, cannot do what they used to, and faces great suffering, it is okay to hasten death.
For some, this is only true in the very final days but some think it should be an option for any terminally ill person. This is not what our faith teaches us. We don’t have to use “extraordinary means” to say alive but we must not hasten death either.
Even at the end of life, the person is still, well a “person”. We need to support them with love, not by hastening death but by showing we continue to care about them and want to be with them. There can come a time to stop aggressive treatment and switch to palliative care to help manage their pain and to be present to them (ex. Hospice).
We shouldn’t take this to mean that “quality of life” is not important. In fact, it is very important, not just at the end of life but throughout a person’s whole life.
Tomorrow is the forty-third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. We have among us tonight, people who were planning on riding two buses from Ithaca to the March for Life to joins hundreds of thousands of others who will march to stand up for life.
We can’t all go but in coming here tonight we show that we too stand up for life and appreciate the gift. We pray for others to see life as a gift.
The buses are organized by the same group of people involved in the local Forty Days for Life efforts. These people gather at times to pray for all to choose life.
However, it is not enough just to pray. I mentioned before how people can feel trapped in darkness at the news of a pregnancy. I also mentioned how we must be concerned with the quality of a person’s life throughout their whole life.
We need to support people during pregnancy through pregnancy centers that support life. We need to make sure health care is available for the mother and child during pregnancy. We need to help them have food and a place to live so that the child can be born healthy. Offering these services can help bring light to these people.
However, it is not enough just to help them during pregnancy. Parents facing a pregnancy can also fear being able to care for the child after the child comes out from the mother’s womb. They need diapers, food, and clothing just to name the most basic of items. Locally Birthright is among the groups that help with this. We support them with Carnation Sales on Mother’s Day. Some people volunteer there and you can donate items any time.
This can bring even more light to the parents struggling with the very idea of pregnancy. It shows them that we care and love them. We pray that this in turn helps them to know God’s love.
We celebrate this Mass tonight in the midst of our Jubilee Year of Mercy where we are especially called to do Corporal Works of Mercy (rooted in Matthew 25:31-46) of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick (including the dying) among others. We must do this Corporal Works of Mercy to be pro-life. This can include the work of Catholic Charities as well as local food pantries including the one we host downstairs.
We must do Spiritual Works of Mercy to offer comfort for those in distress and to pray for the living and the dead.
In the spirit of Mercy, we must also let people know that when we have fallen short, God will always forgive us when we come to Him with a repentant heart.
Tonight we pray for life. May we always pray for life and do acts of mercy to support life in the womb, near the end, and at all stages in between.