Homily for Respect Life Sunday: Gospel of Life

October 4, 2020 – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7 / Philippians 4:6-9 / Matthew 21:33-43

The following is a homily I will be delivering at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, IN today (audio version can be found at the end of the post):

Carol and I were scheduled to babysit two of our grandsons on Friday and Saturday. Knowing that would take most of our time and all of my focus, I started early on my homily preparation this week. My homily was written, edited, and practiced earlier than normal. It was deemed officially complete late Thursday night.

At 2:04 on Friday afternoon, Fr. Jim’s parish email blast arrived in my inbox. In it was a reminder that the Church recognizes Respect Life Sunday this weekend. I needed that reminder; I had forgotten that.

A part of me, the lazy part perhaps, wanted to go ahead with the homily I had already prepared. The rest of me, in particular the part of me that contains my heart, knew I needed to start over.

There has never been a time, at least in my lifetime, that people have needed to hear the respect life message more. My already-completed homily was put away for another time. (Thanks a lot, Fr. Jim)

Each year at this time, the Church calls us to pause and reflect more deeply on the sacred gift of human life and our role in welcoming, cherishing, and protecting the lives of our brothers and sisters. These acts of charity serve to show our gratitude to God for all he has given us.

In Friday’s parish email from Fr. Jim, he shared the following message: Human life is a gift from God.  We are entrusted with this gift. Human life no longer appears to hold much value, evidenced by the ease with which human life is taken in acts of violence, the number of abortions, the conditions for those being detained at the border, the increasing number of homeless, the treatment of the mentally ill, and so on.  As we pray for greater respect for human life from the moment of conception to natural death, let us do all we can to support a consistent ethic of life for every human person. 

The following comes from a reflection distributed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):

God-given dignity is rooted in the permanent fact that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, created to share in the very life of God himself. The human person is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory. We must reflect this truth in how we act and how we treat one another.

Perhaps Saint John Paul II summarized the message of the Church best in his papal encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, or in English, Gospel of Life. He wrote: Jesus calls each of us to care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible. Let me repeat those beautiful and thought-provoking words: Jesus calls each of us to care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible.

God gave us the responsibility to care for every other human being. This can be a daunting and at times overwhelming responsibility, but our responsibility nonetheless.

An abortion takes place in the United States about every 90 seconds. In the state of Indiana, there have been over 8,000 abortions thus far in 2020, approximately 9% of all pregnancies.

Sadly, human life faces particular threats at its beginning and end—precisely when it is most in need of protection. Practices such as abortion and assisted suicide tragically reject the truth that human life is always to be cherished and defended with loving concern.

Capital punishment is legal in 28 states. As of October 1st, fourteen inmates have been executed in the United States in 2020, thirteen by lethal injection and one by electrocution. Seven of those executions have taken place at the federal prison in Terre Haute and an eighth is scheduled for November.

Jesus calls each of us to care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible.

There are over 1 million violent crimes in our country each year, 11,000 of those taking place here in Indianapolis. Nationwide, over 16,000 of those violent crimes result in the loss of life.

These numbers, of course, only include the victims of the crime itself. They do not take into account the collateral damage caused by this disregard for human life – the suffering of loved ones and the devastating effect on families and communities.  

Jesus calls each of us to care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible.

Not all pro-life issues are focused on death, but are instead actions that reveal a systemic disregard for the human dignity of others: the number of people living in poverty and substandard housing; turning a blind eye to the homeless living in our community; the treatment of immigrants detained at our borders – their hope of compassion met with walls and guns; the unloving and unwelcoming treatment of other human beings based on race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation; the lack of dignity offered in many nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, and prisons.

Jesus calls each of us to care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible.

Perhaps the most pervasive challenge to a culture that claims to embrace and respect life is the overall lack of civility and common decency shown to our neighbor.

All of the calls for justice, demands for new laws, and activist demonstrations in the world won’t fix our problems if we cannot act with civility toward those with opposing views. No amount of money or governmental involvement will cure the ills of our country if we are unable to extend common decency to those with whom we disagree.

Simply put, without genuine kindness, compassion, mercy, and love we can never claim to be a people or a Church that respects life, and no positive change will ever be possible.

Listen to these words of advice we heard earlier from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: Have no anxiety at all…the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious…think about these things. Then, the God of peace will be with you.

God has given us the gift of life; it is freely given to all and meant to be cherished. We show our gratitude for this gift by humbly caring for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible. 

If we have failed to honor the gift of life, it is not too late. Gratitude has no expiration date.

Let us pray for an outpouring of grace, especially the graces of wisdom, humility, and courage as well as open and generous hearts that we may respond to his call to live the gospel of life.

Note: Here is the audio of the homily

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