Jan. 25, 2013
+ Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
This Mass today, like every Mass, is the celebration of the Eucharist. “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word eukharistia. It means “thanksgiving.” The trouble is, if we look unsentimentally at the direction of our nation, some of us may not feel very thankful.
We live in a time when our national leadership seems committed to policies, both at home and abroad, that are gravely evil. A time when the abortion industry seems as strong as ever. A time of growing hardship for the Church and great confusion for our country. Many of us may find it easier to feel frustration or worry than gratitude – especially on an anniversary like today.
Forty years have passed since Roe v Wade. Forty years has a nice biblical ring to it, and people like yourselves who revere the gift of life have been in the desert a long time. Forty years after Roe v Wade, we’re still stuck with one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our nation’s history. Unborn human beings are still being killed. Women are still being wounded and abused by a culture of lying that licenses them to destroy their own developing children. Because of all of this, some of us might be tempted to lose hope; to give up.
But I think today’s readings teach us the opposite. Despite all of the abortion industry’s resources and lies, despite the disdain of the mass media and the duplicity of many of our elected officials, here we still are. Forty years later, we still march; we still witness; we still save irreplaceable lives by our efforts. And we still sustain each other in fidelity to God’s word: “Choose life, that you and your descendants may live.”
According to our critics, we were supposed to disappear by now. We didn’t, and we won’t, for as long as it takes, because defending the sanctity of life is right and true, and God never abandons those who stay faithful to his will. The only clock that matters is God’s, and in his time, we will win. That’s our reason to be thankful today. That’s our reason to have courage. And that’s our reason to give God glory.
Today we celebrate the conversion ofSt. Paul. Let’s look at God’s word. In today’s reading from Acts we learn that violence against God’s Church and God’s people, especially the defenseless and innocent, is violence against God himself. Sooner or later it has consequences. Sooner or later, God acts. This is a theme in nearly every book of Scripture.
We also learn that even the most zealous enemy of truth (like Saul) has the potential for conversion and great holiness, because God created us for love. We are meant to be his witnesses, but also his daughters and sons. It’s in our human blueprint.
So we have the duty to love even those who revile us. They are quite literally our brothers. Ananias said: “Saul, my brother, regain your sight.” That needs to be our same posture in dealing with those who hate us, including those who hate us on the life issues.
Ananias tells Paul: “Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.” Our confidence is in the Lord; he alone is our strength. If God wants something, no one can ultimately stymie his will. But we need to get up and act. We need to anchor ourselves in Christ – and in Ananias’ words, there’s no reason to doubt, no reason to delay.
In today’s Gospel we have a mandate, a command – not a suggestion — to preach Jesus Christ to the whole world. If we do not witness, we do not understand what it means to be a disciple; and very soon, we will also not really believe. That’s why the March for Life is so important: not just for the unborn children who may be saved by your example today, and not just for the conversion of our nation; but for our own conversion and our own growth in Jesus Christ.
Salvation and damnation are not just words in a morality tale. They’re real. Heaven exists. Hell exists. Our souls – the essence of who we are as individual persons – are immortal. We will never be “nothing.” We were made for eternity, and our actions have eternal consequences. Hell is the absence of all hope and joy forever; the permanent, conscious and bitterly painful estrangement of the human soul from the God of love who made it. That’s why Christ died on the cross to redeem us. He did it because the stakes involved in every human life, including yours and mine, are infinitely high. Again: What we choose and do matters, because it leads to one kind of eternity or another.
Finally, God does not create unworthy or mediocre life. Just as every child with a handicap is precious to God, so too is each one of us, no matter how cheaply we judge our own talents or skills. When Jesus lists the signs that will accompany those who believe, we know he speaks the truth, because the history of the Church is filled with saints who have done these and other extraordinary things.
But the real lesson Jesus teaches is bigger than just these signs. God works his miracles through every one of us to the degree we give ourselves entirely to him. If we have faith, if we have courage, God will use us – each in our own way – to make his revolution of love. When we forget ourselves, real defeat is impossible, because God works his victory through us. So have confidence. Take heart in the great value of your marching today. Be joyful. And give thanks to God – “Eucharist” – because the Author of Life himself is with us.