“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord." (2 Tim 1:7-8a)
In the today’s gospel, the apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith, and my friends we need our faith to increase as well in the world that we live in. We need that faith to confront the violence that we hear about in the first reading. The prophet is pointing out the social ills of his time. As Catholics, many of us have fallen silent to the social ills of our times. These ills have become so much a part of our society that we accept it as normal. All around us we see the violence the prophet in the first reading talks about, but we shrug it off and continue living our lives. Even in my preaching I have unfortunately fallen silent over the last several years to the issues that concern the dignity and sacredness of human life. Today is Respect Life Sunday and I cannot be silent anymore to the indifference I see in my people towards life issues, and as Catholics we cannot and should not be silent when we see human life from conception to death being assaulted in so many ways. We must stand up for the unborn and for the dying no matter what the consequence and stand up to all assaults on human dignity. St. Paul tells Timothy in today’s second reading: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardicebut rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord (2 Tim 1:7-8a).” Yet we are still ashamed to stand up for human life. The tragic consequence of our silence is 4000 unborn children dying every day in our country.
My friends, we must be committed to promoting what John Paul II called a culture of life and rejecting the culture of death that surrounds us. This culture of life is not simply limited to protecting the unborn, but to protecting all those who have no voice: the dying elderly, the disabled, the immigrant. In his Installation Homily last June, Archbishop Wenski told us that we could not reduce the human being to a mere problem. We cannot look for quick or expedient solutions that are convenient. We live in a society that when confronted with a problem we “take care of it.” If a woman finds herself with an unexpected pregnancy, she has the right in this country to "take care of it" as if the sacred life inside her womb were reduced to a headache or a cold that we want to get rid of. The Archbishop went on to say that as Catholics there should be no such thing as "problem pregnancy-only a child who is to be welcome in life and protected by law." I have always preached this, but it never became more real to me than when my first nephew was conceived. You see the world would have seen this as a "problem or unexpected pregnancy" but his father and mother saw him as blessing from God. As a celibate priest with no biological children of my own, I could not imagine my life without my nephew who turns five next month. I could not imagine a world where I do not hear his little voice ring out in church yelling my name because he just wants to run up to the altar to give me a hug and celebrate Mass with me. Which is why I thank the Lord for his life and because his father and his mother said yes to life as well.
Upholding the dignity of human life also means upholding the church’s teaching on contraception which is also a convenient means to eliminate a problem but tragically removes the total, self-giving love that a man and a woman are meant to share in marriage. Unfortunately, this is not a problem that is exclusive to married couples, but that our teenagers confront and sometimes not on their own. We are plagued with “well-intentioned” parents who fearing that their teenagers may be sexually active will provide for them contraceptives or put their daughters on the pill to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. What message does this send to our children? How does that help us promote the sanctity of human life and the sacredness of human sexuality? What we are doing is giving our teenagers a blank check to give in to the temptations of society instead of upholding the beauty of chaste love that our Creator only intended to be shared between a husband and wife. “But Father, you’re living in the past. We have to protect our children.” NO! I’m very much living in the present and seek to protect our children because too many times I have had to console young people who have been exposed to things that they were not physically, spiritually, or emotionally ready to confront. Sure they may have avoided a pregnancy, but were exposed to illnesses both physical and psychological that could have been prevented. Cherishing human life goes beyond protecting the unborn, but cherishing the gift to create life that God gave us. When we expose our children to the ills of this world even under the guise of protecting them, we are participating in a culture that reduces human sexuality to a casual encounter, a sport, and not the sacred expression of love created by our loving God.
It is not my intention to make anyone feel guilty for past transgressions against the dignity of human life, but rather to open our eyes to see the truth that lies before us. We either see the truth of living a life following the precepts of Jesus Christ or the truth of a world that has turned its back on its Redeemer. As Catholics, we cannot stay silent. 4000 babies a day, countless elderly being killed in the name of mercy, human sexuality being distorted for the sake of casual pleasure and convenience, immigrants being treated like modern day lepers, embryos being destroyed to harvest their stem cells for the sake of medical research. God has blessed the human race with extraordinary intelligence and ingenuity, but do you actually think he would have us find the cure for cancer, paralysis, or AIDS by destroying human life? We cannot arrive at a common good by doing something intrinsically evil. So Respect Life goes beyond the tragedy of abortion and brings to light the different facets of a culture of death that we as Catholics are called to transform. God has not given you a spirit of cowardice. He has anointed each of you with the Holy Spirit to speak the truth in every aspect of our lives. We cannot discard the central teachings of our faith for the sake of convenience or because we are ashamed to stand up to the evils of society. At the end of the first reading, the prophet who observed all of this violence and all of the social ills of his time starts to see hope as he sees the love of God transforming the world. That love has been poured out into our hearts so that we can speak up and with great love proclaim the truth and proclaim to the entire world that human life is sacred from the moment of conception, throughout our lives, and all the way up to that moment where God calls us home to experience eternal life. "Increase our faith." This should be our cry as we ask the Lord to transform hearts and minds. October is not only Respect Life Month, but it is also the moth of the Rosary. When was the last time you prayed the rosary. We have at our disposal an weapon of peace in which we invoke the our Blessed Mother to protect the unborn, to give us the courage to stand up for faith even, and to help transform the heart of this nation. I have come to the conclusion that the assault on human life in this country does not have a political or judicial solution. It must be a spiritual solution where hearts are converted. If we persevere in prayer and proclaim our faith with courage, abortion will one day join slavery on the ash pile of history. Until then, we must lift up our voices, for we cannot afford to be silent anymore.