January 23, 2017
I delivered this homily on the anniversary of Roe v Wade four years ago, at an all-school Mass at Guerin Catholic HS, Noblesville, IN
Today, January 22, 2013, marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe versus Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States. The Church acknowledges today as a National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.
With that in mind, I would like to begin with a moment of silence in recognition of the nearly 56 million abortions that have taken place in the United States since the Roe versus Wade decision.
In 1973, society determined that abortion was acceptable; not only acceptable, but a protected right. Since then, millions of women have become pregnant, and experienced some or all of the very real concerns that often go along with pregnancy, such as: Can I afford another child? Do I have the support I will need? How will my boyfriend, parents, or husband respond to this news? Will this feeling of being overwhelmed or depressed ever go away? What about my plans for school, or a career, or just time for myself?
For these millions of women, there was now the legal and protected right to terminate the life of their unborn child; society gave them a choice. This type of society is still very much alive today – 40 years later. It is a society that Pope John Paul II called a “culture of death.”
He wrote: “We are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a ‘culture of death.’ This culture is actively fostered by a society excessively concerned with efficiency. A life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another.”
Today’s Gospel comes from Mark. The Gospel of Mark emphasizes the humanity of Jesus — how he interacts with and experiences society. When Jesus began his public ministry, he experienced a society or culture that had established laws and set expectations. They had a certain way of doing things, and they were quick to point out to Jesus when he was not doing things the right way.
In the passages leading up to today’s Gospel, the scribes and Pharisees continually questioned the actions of Jesus and his disciples. When he healed a man crippled from birth, they told him he should not have done that on the Sabbath. They whispered and pointed when they saw him sitting down to eat with sinners and tax collectors. They questioned him on why his disciples did not wash their hands or fast as was expected by Jewish law and custom.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus was once again criticized for what he and his disciples were doing on the Sabbath. The Pharisees asked, “Why are you and your disciples doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” Jesus responded, “The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Here is that same exchange translated into simpler language: The Pharisees say, “You’re not doing it right. You need to get with the program — you’re in our world now.” Jesus responds: “A world I created — and look what you’ve done with what I have given you.”
The society of Jesus’ time obeyed laws and customs, but lost sight of what was most important — loving God and loving others as yourself. Modern society continues to make this same mistake, establishing laws that perpetuate a culture of death — losing sight of the sacredness of all human life.
Jesus weeps with each abortion. He cries for the neglected elderly, for the homeless on the street, and for the innocent killed in war. He mourns the loss of the dignity of human life, and abhors the culture of death society has created.
We use the anniversary of Roe versus Wade, and the Gospel message, to stir us to action. Those going on the March for Life represent us and take our support with them to the streets of Washington, DC. Perhaps your call to action involves volunteering at a pregnancy center or ‘Birthline’ call center, praying outside an abortion clinic, working with and for the homeless, or visiting the elderly. The opportunities are endless.
Finally, we are all called to prayer — to pray for all life from conception to natural death. Jesus calls us, his church, to be his hands on earth and to help restore a respect for the fundamental value of human life.
We’re in His world now.