“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice…” (2 Timothy 1:7)
The first two readings today tell us about so much hardship. The prophet Habakkuk is crying to out to God because he does not see his provident hand at work in his life. We sometimes may feel the same way. We are besieged by stress in our work and in our homes, sickness in our families, and loss of loved ones. We see all around us the violence the prophet talks about, and we are left asking the same question: “How long will this endure?” Both the first and second readings come to the same conclusion: we must have faith to persevere in this world. This is why the apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith in the gospel.
This past Friday, a driver came to pick me up to go do a television interview. He was a very nice man, yet for some reason he kept talking about all the bad things happening on the news. Full disclosure: I try to keep up with national and international news, but I never watch the 11pm local news. At the end of my day, I like to relax, say my night prayers, and fall asleep in a good mood watching SportsCenter. But this gentleman caught me up to speed on every accident, every shooting, and every piece of bad news that had taken place in the last week. However, after reeling off all of these negative events, without me saying a word, he came to the following conclusion: “You see Father, that’s why with all these bad things happening in the world…we gotta have faith now more than ever.” Immediately I thought about today’s gospel. How else can we confront all the craziness in the world if it isn’t through faith?
Today the Church celebrates Respect Life Sunday. Contrary to popular secular opinion or what the New York Times may have to say, the moral tenets that we uphold and pray are defended on this day are the same as they were before Pope Francis was elected. Through his actions, Pope Francis has proven to be a great pope that defends life. And through his words, the Pope had this to say on the day after that famous interview was released where the secular world thought he was softening the Church’s stance on abortion (Surprise! he actually strengthened our resolve): “Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world's rejection. And every elderly person – I spoke of children: let us move to the elderly, another point! And every elderly person, even if he is ill or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the “culture of waste” suggests! They cannot be thrown away!” (Pope Francis to Doctors on 9/20/13)
We do live in a society that likes to discard rather violently. On this day, we look around us and see that we are indeed surrounded by what Blessed John Paul II called a culture of death. It is up to us to change it into a culture of life. St. Paul tells Timothy in today’s second reading that God did not give us a spirit of cowardice. If this is so, and forgive me for sounding like a broken record, then why are most Catholics such cowards when it comes to standing up for human life? Why do we let this culture of death pervade when we can drown out the screams of death with our prayers? God always listens to the prayers of his children. Just one caveat: WE HAVE TO PRAY! Respect Life Sunday isn’t limited to just one day, but it lasts the entire month just like we celebrate the month of the rosary during October. We have such a beautiful instrument of prayer in the holy rosary where we can ask our Blessed Mother to protect those who are unborn, those who are elderly, those who are immigrants or undocumented, those who defend marriage, those who defend and work for the poor. God did not make us cowards. He sent us the spirit of courage to change the world and to stand up for all human life and of life’s divine values.
Yes, we may get discouraged like the prophet in the first reading when we see the state of our world, but I’ve been saying it all year during this Year of Faith, our prayer must be those of the apostles: “Increase our faith!” With faith we can indeed move mountains and remind the world that Life has a name: Jesus Christ. When the world discovers this Jesus through us, they will abide in His truth and his love and all these evils will slowly start to disappear if we live up to the name of Christians. This is our calling. We are called to be a people filled with faith who spreads that faith to slowly eradicate this culture of death that is killing our children, marginalizing the poor and the migrant, diluting our marriages and our families, and discarding our elderly. As the Pope said last month quite emphatically: “They cannot be discarded!” My friends, let us work to build up a true culture of life. Then filled with great peace we will be able to say the closing words of today’s gospel when God calls us home: “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do (Luke 17:10).”