“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
This morning many of you were asking me, “Father, how was your trip to DC for the March for Life?” Well, the perfect storm in the Northeast combined with the perfect storm of events here in the parish prompted me to cancel my trip to tend to the parish, the school, and some grieving families as we lost two giants from our parish family. Nonetheless, our youth leaders insisted on making the trip to Washington to stand up for the unborn and to lift up their voices for those who have none: from the unborn to the poor to the forgotten elderly. They went unsure of when they would return, and though scheduled to return last night, they look like they are finally flying home Monday afternoon. What these young people from our parish did, along with the thousands that ignored the storm warnings and still showed up in DC, was do exactly what Ezra and Jesus did in today’s readings: be prophetic and proclaim the word of God. That is, proclaim the truth. Proclaiming the truth and being prophetic is unpopular just as what our young people in DC did on Friday is unpopular in the eyes of the world. What we do in the eyes of God is all that matters. They went into a cynical town, just as Jesus would do throughout his ministry, and speak out on an issue that is unpopular. They spoke the truth loudly and boldly in a town that has twisted the truth into lies such as “abortion is health care” or that “life doesn’t begin at conception.” I’m sure there are many that wished that they would have stayed home, but they would not let a historic blizzard deter them. The truth must be shouted and proclaimed through any storm. Abortion is genocide. It is evil. It is the holocaust of our time that has silently claimed more than 54 million tiny lives. No one and no storm could hold these kids back. So even if they are still stuck in DC as I preach this homily. Even though they are freezing and longing for the warm climate of South Florida. Even though a great many in their generation think they are crazy; they embraced the prophetic call they received in baptism and raised their voices louder than I am raising mine now. So to Christy, Brittani, Katie, Nina, Carlos, and Christopher: your parish is so proud that you represented us in Washington for the March for Life. What you have done in the face of horrible weather and flight cancellation after flight cancellation is nothing short of heroic. To you and to all the young people who represented our Archdiocese, you have taught us so much this weekend of what it means to be a prophet.
And if I can finish with one final anecdote about the March for Life that you may have seen shared on Facebook but will definitely not see in the national news about what happened on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. A group of students who left on a bus immediately after the March ended on Friday afternoon got stuck on the turnpike around 10pm on Friday evening as the massive amounts of snow started piling up. They were stuck. They continued their pro-life mission as they started welcoming motorists from smaller cars into their heated bus. The next day, a group of kids from a high school in Iowa joined another group from a high school in Missouri them and they created an altar of snow just off the highway. One of the groups had a priest with them and right there on that altar of snow, they celebrated Holy Mass. This calls to mind what Ezra did in today’s first reading: “Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion (Neh 8:4).” And on this holy occasion, these kids worshiped the Living God in the middle of a blizzard as they were trying to return home from the March for Life. It was something special to behold (https://www.facebook.com/120695584609182/videos/1176963815649015/) as they sang as if they were in church. But they were! The church is not confined to these four walls. The church, as Pope Francis constantly reminds us, is called to go to the peripheries. The church is called to be prophetic at all times and to change the world with young witnesses and prophets like these young people. (To see photos from that “Snow Mass” click here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/blog/the-best-photos-of-the-historic-turnpike-mass-of-2016/). The events of the last four days from these young prophets reminds me of a quote from the great Catholic, English writer G.K. Chesterton: “We do not want a Church that will move with the world. We want a Church that will move the world.” This weekend, thousands of Catholic young people in DC and beyond did just that.