For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet… (Is. 62:1)
On Friday January 18, I was at the March for Life in Washington, DC, and every year when I look around I am awestruck by the sacrifices people make to get there. I heard of one man who walked 2,800 miles starting last April to be there this year. I met one group from Kansas City who drove for 24 hours straight. I’m always impressed by the families that come—families who are very courageous in not only traveling a long way with their children but who are brave enough to enter a massive crowd of people. There is a lot of sacrifice and courage here—two virtues which are opposite those vices promoted by the culture: selfishness and fear.
(As a tangent that I didn’t preach about: I was happy to run into my dad and some other priest friends as well as a seminarian friend from my diocese at the March for Life. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture with my dad, but here are some other photos from the trip. Now back to the homily…)
Marriage is complementary to celibacy: “esteem of virginity for the sake of the Kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other: ‘whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity’ (St John Chrysostom)” (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1620). So if we want good, holy, faithful priests and bishops—we need seriously holy faithful generous families.
Our Lord at the implied command of the Blessed Mother, “they have no wine” (John 2:3) not only spares this newly married couple serious embarrassment, but He gives them wine in abundance: not just a bottle or two, but at least 120 gallons of wine. Not only does He give them a great amount, but the best quality:
“Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10).
This is the abundance of grace and life that our Lord has in store for faithfully married couples. How we block out this grace when we try to control our lives: here we can see how contraception is a seriously grave and immoral act. There is not only something between the couple, but there is a rejection of God’s desire to allow the couple to participate in His creative work. A couple who contracepts says no to God’s joy. How easy it is then to follow the lies of simply living for pleasure rather than by true love which entails sacrifice. The contraceptive mentality also then easily and clearly leads to the abortion mentality: a child and new life is viewed not as a precious gift, but as a burden, a pain, a nuisance to be rid of. No longer a who (person), but a what(a thing). For couples who for a serious reason need to space births, the church encourages something called Natural Family Planning which requires communication and sacrifice on both parts (check out Couple to Couple League). This is also helpful for couples who are having difficulty conceiving a child. Married couples: be faithful to your marriage vows—be open to the gift of life sent to you from God. If you have fallen for contraception, throw it out. Then confess it in confession before receiving the Eucharist. There is so much pressure to normalize contraception—do not give in. Moral truths do not change over time. Priests are greatly encouraged by faithful, generous, sacrificial families.
If you are a married couple and wishing to conceive, DO NOT use IVF! IVF involves the creation of embryos and the arbitrary destruction-abortion-of embryos. I recommend looking at Paul VI Institute for help–they will give good sound advice.
Closely connected with this is the confusion about abortion in our society. From the very early days of the Church, and even in ancient Israel, abortion was seen to be as an evil act because it is the taking of an innocent human life. In Egypt, Pharoah commanded the midwives to murder baby boys as they were being born (Exodus 1). The Hebrew midwives did not do this because they feared God—they knew it was the wrong thing to do. They did this despite the threats from Pharaoh. There was also at one point the pagan practice of sacrificing children to the pagan demon god meloch. The children would be thrown into a fiery pit. Laws against this are clearly stated in the book of Leviticus 20. In the first century a document called the Didache says it very clearly: “you shall not murder a child by abortion”. Even in the most painful situations such as rape or incest if God brings about a new life, He can bring healing and new life from an evil act. I know several people who have been brought to life through this kind of an act. They do not regret being alive. No innocent person should ever be sentenced to death. We cannot participate in such an act, even by how we vote: supporting politicians, companies, or groups which support abortion because they do some other “good work” is still to support abortion-and a person who does this has the blood of innocents on his or her hands. A bottle of the finest wine with one drop of poison is still deadly. I remember once my mom had a miscarriage. She sat me and my siblings down at the table and told us about our little brother born at only a few weeks old. She told us that he was most definitely a human and she could see all his tiny features. Even though I never met my tiny brother, he is still my baby brother. So if you have suffered a miscarriage know of the Church’s love and compassion for you. That little one is still one of your children.
The Church is interested in helping at all stages of human life: this is why we have groups such as Gabriel Project for women who are pregnant but need help. Sisters of Life in New York help give women who are pregnant and afraid real material and spiritual support. This is why there is Rachel’s Vineyard for women AND men who have fallen prey for the lie of abortion and are now deeply wounded. This is why hospitals were established by religious orders in the Church. This is why so many orders even founded orphanages. This is why groups like Little Sisters of the Poor or Mother Teresa’s nuns exist. This is why the Knights of Columbus helps provide financial assistance to widows and children, and why they have made a real effort to provide ultrasound machines to crisis pregnancy centers. They recently announced their 1,000th machine donated!
Our Lord calls each person to a life of sacrificial love, and no sin is too great for His mercy. Never be afraid of coming to confession. The more generous we are with Him, the more He gives us life in abundance. The world is in need of families—married couples united in the holy sacrament of matrimony. In their bond together they are open to the life that God desires to send them. Sometimes a couple is not able to have children, and the couple can generously share their love with the world by some service. Those who have experienced the pain of abortion: do not be afraid to come to confession. Know of God’s love for you and His call to a deeper intimacy through prayer and working to help others from being deceived. What a profound witness to the world we can all have if each one of us hears our Lord calling us to greater generosity and fidelity and we respond. Let us not say “no” to His call to sacrificial love. Let us rather say no to the ways of selfishness and fear. Let us do what the Psalmist tells us: “proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations” (Psalm 96:3).
For further reading:
Evangelium Vitae by Pope Saint John Paul II
Familiaris Consortio by Pope Saint John Paul II
Humanae Vitae by Pope Saint Paul VI