Oct 5, 2013

27th Sunday: Sacred Life from womb to tomb - faith in action

"Lord: Increase our faith"
If you have ever had the chance to travel to any part of western Europe you likely marveled at the Churches, museums, homes and statuary which tells the story of a society both new and ancient.  A walk through the ruins of the Roman Forum in Rome or the ancient Parthenon in Athens or any of the famous Cathedrals such as Notre Dame in Paris remind us that the past should never be discarded or dismissed as no longer meaningful. While those nations are far older than the United States, we may want to learn something from our European brethren. Our history and culture thrives today because of the events of the past.  

However, here in the United States we don’t seem to quite get that same mindset. Buildings are torn down to make room for shiny new ones.  Old cars are traded in not because there is anything wrong with them but because the owner just wants to upgrade the model. Our general attitude is that there's more where that came from so just dispose of the old and replace it with the new. Unfortunately, we often forget the past and its lessons. It seems our collective memory is very short indeed at times. 

When we do so, I think we may find ourselves bankrupt and we become what Pope Francis has identified as a “culture of waste.” If it isn’t useful, throw it away. It’s not just about buildings and history it is also about how we view each other. We may be able to recycle bottles or paper but the human person cannot be replaced.

This Sunday is marked as Respect Life Sunday and once again we are challenged to reflect on the sacred value of human life throughout the month of October. The theme chosen is to “Open your hearts to life.”  The vision it creates is expansive and inclusive.  It certainly reflects Pope Francis’ vision that the Church must go beyond its borders to invite and include all people of good will.; to bring them to know and love Jesus Christ.

For over 40 years we have heard about the tragedy of abortion on demand both here in the U.S. and in a good part of the world. The unborn child has been told that he/she is not a person deserving of protection under the law and that their birth and divinely given right to life can be taken from them at the will of others.

But we well know that opening our hearts to life goes beyond the unborn child to include the lives of those already born.  We must also be concerned about other moral issues which show the relationship between social justice, the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, the threats to peace in the world, the imprisoned, the immigrant, and the fragile elderly.

In 1983, as head of the U.S. Bishop’s pro-life activities, Cardinal Joseph Bernadin spoke on what has come to be known as the consistent ethic of life.  He said:

“The case for a consistent ethic of life – one that stands for the protection of the right to life and the promotion of the rights, which enhance life from womb to tomb . . . is both complex and demanding.

“It joins the humanity of the unborn infant and the humanity of the hungry; it calls for positive legal action to prevent the killing of the unborn child or the aged and positive societal action to provide shelter for the homeless and the education of the illiterate.”

If we can accept the wisdom of Pope Francis who warns us about the danger of wasting too much and seeing all things as disposable, then as Christians and Catholics we should always know about our responsibility to see the gift of the human person in all their stages of life as a gift that cannot be wasted or viewed as disposable in any way.  That gift is the greatest of all God’s creation and only God has the right to take it away.

All the problems of war, poverty, hunger, prejudice, and the demeaning of human life can make us feel powerless to solve them.  While the world is a bigger stage than any one of us can handle we can work together for what we can realistically accomplish.

I think more than anything else we need a change of heart; a new attitude to be sure that we embrace human life in all its forms and become witnesses to the truth of God’s creation. Changing our attitude leads to a change in behavior. We can put our all important personal needs aside for a while and volunteer some time to be sure that the most vulnerable especially our children and the frail elderly are protected and cared for with dignity and respect. 

The Gospel this Sunday reminds us that simply doing what we are obliged to do is not enough. We can go farther than the minimum through putting our faith into action and maybe committing ourselves to help even just one vulnerable person: a family member, a co-worker, a neighbor in need. 

The Eucharist invites us to go and “announce the gospel of the Lord.” How can we together do this each day?

Almighty and ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.

(Collect for Sunday - Roman Missal)