TV Mass Homily 10/07/2018

October is Respect Life month and today we celebrate Respect Life Sunday. Every year the Church asks us to raise up in a very direct way the sanctity of all human life. This year’s theme is ‘Every Life: Cherished, Chosen, Sent’.
When Respect Life Sunday was first established many years ago, the focus was on abortion. Over the years the focus has broadened as we see life attacked in many other ways. Abortion remains the number one focus because without life all other concerns are moot. Abortion robs children of their God given fundamental right to life. Sadly in our day some see the unborn as vehicles for sale and profit. Embryonic stem cell research involves destroying living human beings for speculative medical research and for profit. Euthanasia and assisted suicide arise out of the false view that some lives are not without value, or an economic drain and that some people just are not worth protecting. The attempt to redefine marriage undermines the sacred institution that God established at the very beginning of creation.’ Our readings speak to the sanctity of marriage and the importance of stable family life for society.
Sir Winston Churchill, the great World War II British leader and his wife Lady Clementine attended a dinner. Each of the participants was asked to answer the question, “If you couldn’t be who you are, who would you like to be?” There was special interest in how the former Prime Minister, then 78, would answer. He rose and said, “If I can’t be who I am, I would most like to be” turning to his wife and taking her hand, “I would like to be Lady Churchill’s second husband.” What a beautiful testimony to their many years of married life, as turbulent and challenging as they were.
The first reading from Genesis reminds us of the relationship of man and woman toward one another as intended by God the creator. Sadly the harmony and unity that God intended was broken by original sin, the ramifications of which linger today. Jesus in the Gospel reading affirms this teaching as hard as it is in our politically charged world. He was speaking in a time when husbands disrespect women by deciding to divorce often for selfish reasons that left their wives vulnerable, often destitute as well as alone. Hardness of heart Jesus labeled that motivation. Hardness of heart describes all attacks on the sanctity of human life.
Lasting marriages tend to have some common characteristics. Perhaps the most important is to view marriage as a vocation, a calling, not simply a legal contract. It is a beautiful to way to live out one’s spiritual relationship with Christ. Jesus teaches that the marriage of man and woman is to mirror the love and fidelity of God and his people. Husbands and wives are to love and mutually respect only another, two become one, mirroring God’s love that never ceases. Marriage, as many of you know better than I, takes effort and sacrifice. Someone said if a marriage is not work, it is not likely working. We pray in a special way today for married couples and for those preparing for marriage.
All issues of respect for life return to the core tension, the common good or me first. There is a Peanuts cartoon in which Linus is reading a book and comments to his sister Lucy, “It says here that the world revolves around the sun once a year.” Lucy responds, “The world revolves around the sun? Are you sure? I thought it revolved around me.” Lucy speaks for our secular culture, too often manifested in the breakdown of marriages, in unethical business practices, and in the exploitation of others for personal pleasure or economic advantage, in the throw away culture Pope Francis talks about. That mindset reduces people into objects to be disposed if they become inconvenient. As Christians, our world revolves around God’s son and our choices ought to reflect that.
Life is a gift. Our faith is rooted in the sacredness of that gift. Every human being, women and men of every race and ethnic background, are created equal in the image and likeness of God with personal dignity. That dignity is to be respected in our actions and in society’s institutions and laws.
The US Bishops put it this way: “To respect life means to acknowledge each and every human life, from conception to natural death, as a marvelous and wonderful act of God, a miracle. Each life is an indescribably sacred and fragile mystery.” Our instincts confirm this. When we see a new born baby our hearts are touched. When someone dies, our hearts ache. Each life is an indescribably sacred and fragile mystery gifted by God.
In the Gospel reading people were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them. His disciples rebuked them. In a way that rebuke is what our culture is doing with the denigrating of the sanctity of human life, rebuking those who seek the loving touch of Christ – the unborn, the vulnerable the frail elderly, the hurting and the poor. Jesus rebuked them and surely rebukes our culture. ‘Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to just such as these . . . Then he embraced them and blessed them . . .’
I have recounted this true story before but it continues to move me. A reporter was covering the civil war in the city or Sareyvo in Europe when he saw a little girl shot by a sniper. He also saw a man run over and take her in his arms. The reporter ran to her as well and told the man that he would drive them to the hospital. As they drove the man holding the little girl in his arms, said, “Hurry my friend, my child is still breathing.” A little later, “hurry my friend, my child is still warm.” Then “hurry my friend my child is getting cold.” Then as they approached the hospital, he said “hurry my – oh my child is dead.” Moved beyond words, the reporter and the man went to wash off the blood of the little girl. The man said “this is terrible; I must go tell her father that his daughter has died.” The reporter was shocked. “I, I thought she was your child.” “No,” said the man, “but aren’t they all our children?” They are all God’s children, before and after birth until natural death, and beyond.
Jesus suffered and died out of respect for our lives, sinful though they are, imperfect as we are. How we live our lives whatever our vocation reveals how much we respect His life given for us on the cross.
Every Life is to cherished, is chosen by God and sent in love by the one who died on the cross that we might live. We are all God’s children. Let us show our gratitude for our lives by respecting our brothers and sisters in the name of Christ.