Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"It Must Not Stand. It Cannot Stand. It Will Not Stand."

A rather vivid homily (fulltext) scored Pharaoh five applause breaks at last night's vigil Mass.

You have come to our nation's capital to "give visibility" to your faith, your heritage, and your commitment to life from conception to natural death. Tomorrow you will peacefully protest the injustice of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the 1973 Supreme Court cases that legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Tomorrow you will march in solidarity with unborn children, as well as their mothers and fathers and siblings. Tomorrow you will approach your elected officials, calling on them to protect those most at risk, the voiceless and most defenseless members of our human family.

But first, tonight! We have set this time aside to pray for an end to abortion, and to receive strength from the Lord. Millions of others are with us in spirit, watching this Mass both in the United States and abroad through the Eternal Word Television Network. Our hearts are especially with those who are homebound or serving in the military. Many others will give visible witness in their own communities at prayer vigils and walks across the country....

Those of you who were here last year will recall the scaffolding erected in the back. The pews had to be removed and individual chairs set in their place. This year you are able to see the fruit of that work, which is the Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome.

This Incarnation Dome is made up of 2.4 million pieces of colored glass cut and assembled in Italian workshops, shipped over the Atlantic in 346 boxes, and painstakingly installed over the course of five months by master mosaic artists. The whole project was a great undertaking that would not have been possible without the generosity of the Knights of Columbus and many others, and without the skills of the artists, craftsmen and scaffolding workers. It took time to craft this massive undertaking that will inspire generations of pilgrims yet unborn.

We too, dear friends, are called to a massive undertaking, to raise up, through God's grace, what Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae called "a great campaign in support of life." Our task is to build a culture of life in which every person is treated with the respect due to his or her human dignity, regardless of age, physical or mental ability, or stage of development.

This urgent project is well under way. But we know it is far from complete. We are reminded daily of the many direct threats to life through abortion, human embryo experimentation, and the false mercy of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Violence against the innocent unborn also spills over into disregard for other neighbors, so often erupting in violence in our homes through domestic violence and child abuse.

Our "great campaign in support of life" requires all the resources God has given us. It will take time. It will take generosity. It will take patience and sustained collaboration among so many groups. It presupposes unity in the Body of Christ and demands prayer, penance and sacrifice.

But what else can this Dome teach us about building a culture of life? The Incarnation Dome depicts four scenes from Scripture that focus on the Son of God who takes on human flesh: the Annunciation, the Birth of Jesus, His miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana, and his Transfiguration. Each has a lesson for us tonight....

When the Son of God took on our human flesh, He gave us the full example of compassion and humility. Even though as God He was all-powerful and all-knowing, He let Himself become powerless and completely dependent on others. From the beginning of His life to the end, He knew what it was like to grow and learn, to know joy and sorrow, and all the limitations of our human condition. Nothing in the human experience was foreign to Him, except sin. With perfect compassion, as Emmanuel, God-with-us, He suffered with us.

When we are strong and able-bodied, feeling in complete control, do we value and protect those who are weak, as Scripture calls them: the "lowly and despised of the world who count for nothing," or do they make us feel uncomfortable, uneasy? And when we become weak, will we allow others to care for us in sickness or old age? When frustrated or embarrassed by our incapacity, the helpless Christ Child helps us resist the temptation to despair. Our value does not come from being so-called "productive" members of society, but from Emmanuel, God always with us. As the psalm, so beautifully assures us, "even though I walk through the valley of darkness, I fear no evil for you are at my side."...

In a mosaic, some pieces are shiny, some matte. Some are brightly colored, others plain. But each piece plays its role, contributing to the overarching grandeur of the final work. Whether young or not-so-young, single, married or widowed, living in consecrated life or Holy Orders, you are all part of God's great mosaic, making His love visible in your families, parishes, schools, communities, work places and neighborhoods. You are the painstaking work of His hands-planned from the beginning of time and loved into existence by the Eternal Master Craftsman.

He now sends you out, thousands upon thousands strong, to do your part in forming a vibrant mosaic on behalf of life. You must be the "rich color" He created you to be. You must play your role in His overarching design, and be patient with others as they seek to do the same.

Tomorrow as you march, you will be surrounded by many courageous witnesses to the dignity of life. All the marchers are different from one another, and yet unified in one common goal: bringing an end to abortion and all attacks on life, and building a culture that always welcomes life!

Then there may be some who will taunt you from the sidelines in angry, accusatory ways. Try not to judge them or to define them by their anger and bitterness. They are fellow human beings in need of reconciliation and healing. They too are invited to a change of heart and to join in the "great campaign" for life. Many like them have already bent before the gentle power of God's grace.

The Incarnation Dome is not made of huge, impressive pieces of glass. Its beauty and impact lie in the intricate interplay of so many tiny pieces. God is good at using many humble "pieces," as we heard in our reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. Instead of choosing "great" or impressive people in the eyes of the world, God uses the humble, the foolish, the weak and "those who count for nothing" to accomplish His purposes....

If God can use a helpless embryo to change a human heart, He can certainly use us with all our limitations and weaknesses. Dear friends: by seeking holiness and using the gifts God has given you to accomplish His will in your life, you are contributing mightily to that Kingdom we all long for, where there will be no more crying or pain or death. Certainly no abortion. No euthanasia. No assisted suicide. No deep-freezing of embryos as though they were merchandise. And no destruction of human life in the name of science.

We are all called to make use of the graces we receive here tonight, to change the world tomorrow, and each day after returning home. We are invited to pray for the protection of human life and to ask others to do so. We are challenged to care for those around us who are in need physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually, especially those who would consider participating in an abortion. And finally we need to allow others to care for us when we can no longer care for ourselves.

All of us have an important place in conversations about the value of human life, and all of us can make a significant contribution in the political process. It is your right and duty as citizens, whether or not you are old enough to vote, to help shape society by offering to everyone the profound convictions of your faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord of life. In His name you are also called to pray for an end to abortion in the United States and throughout the world. Roe v. Wade is incompatible with human dignity. It must not stand. It cannot stand. It will not stand.
PHOTO: AFP/Getty File/Jonathan Ernst