4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 31, 2016)
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
More than six months of preparation. Over $3,500 in fundraising money received. My bags were packed. Our youth group trip was set. I was ready to go to bed because we had to be in Lexington at 6am the next morning to get on the bus. We were heading to Washington, D.C. to attend the 2016 March For Life events to stand up for the lives destroyed through abortion. For those unaware with March For Life, it’s the largest Pro-Life demonstration in the world held on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision from the Supreme Court that legalized abortion in the United States. This is an incredible opportunity for our youth to participate in. We were all very excited. And then I got the text from David Coleman telling me the bus company had cancelled our trip due to the blizzard predicted to hit Washington that same weekend. I guess I hadn’t realized how excited I was to go on that trip until I noticed how angry I got after getting that heartbreaking text. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do except unpack my bags, vent to Fr. Al on the phone and pour a glass of bourbon.
I was also frustrated because, whenever I go on one of these trips, I always incorporate it into my next homily. So here I am, without an inspiring story for my homily. And ohhhhhh buddy…. It was going to be an awesome one too! I’m talking awe-inspiring, Amen shouting, hands-in-the-air-preaching awesome! I mean… did you hear these readings today? The Church picked these readings for this weekend, not me. They would have fit PERFECTLY with a March For Life experience. The first reading from Jeremiah is one of the most commonly referenced Pro-Life scripture passages out there. The second reading talks about the importance of love. COME ON! It was a perfect set up! Follow me through these readings so you can feel my pain…
From Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” That verse is about as Pro-Life as it gets! The passage continues with strong military-like language such as: gird, stand, command, crushed, fortified city, pillar of iron, wall of brass. God is speaking as if Jeremiah were being prepared for war. How cool would it have been to use this strong imagery and compare it with the +600,000 people going to the battlegrounds of March For Life in Washington? A battle that God is begging all of us to partake in. To stand up for all of His sons and daughters that can’t stand up for themselves. To try and sway people to a culture of Life rather than a culture of death. A culture that promotes abortion, violence, pornography and pushing aside those that gets in your way. I’m telling you, that homily would have sent cold chills down your spine! But unfortunately, the blizzard screwed up my plans and my homily.
So frantically looking for inspiration for my fast approaching preaching weekend, and being snowed in at home for a few days, I did what everyone does… I turned to Facebook! It was there that I came across an article discussing March For Life and Mother Teresa. I never had the honor of hearing Mother Teresa speak at an event, but I knew she had a way of speaking the truth with love but also with brutal honestly. This is not an easy task!
This article described a keynote address she made at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. In her address Mother Theresa said, “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts… Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”
Now, today’s reading from 1 Corinthians, “But I shall show you a still more excellent way.” LOVE. If I do not have love, I am nothing. If I do not have love, I gain nothing. Love never fails. Mother Teresa, in her saintly way, gave me the inspiration I was seeking to convey to you today. She lovingly and directly incorporated today’s 1st and 2nd readings into a battle cry for all of those who attend March For Life year after year.
Unfortunately, when we speak the truth on a hot button topic such as abortion, we risk getting push back from today’s culture that promotes relativism over the existence of absolute truth. But take heart, as we hear in today’s Gospel, even Jesus got push back when He spoke the truth. They tried to throw Jesus off a hill in resentment of the truth that He spoke!
However, we must not let this push back prevent us from faithfully living out our Catholic beliefs. Instead, we must let it inspire us to keep on fighting! God is on our side so we must be BOLD. During her speech, Mother Teresa begged anyone contemplating abortion to consider adoption. She went so far as to tell people to bring their baby to her and she’d personally find an adoptive family for their child. By 1994, the children’s home in Calcutta alone had saved over 3,000 children from abortion by doing just that. This is what being bold looks like!
So here’s the challenge we all face today. First, we have to separate what the world teaches from what Jesus Christ and His Church teaches. Unfortunately, these don’t always agree. Then we need to actively practice these Christian teachings through our actions. Finally, if we are being true to our faith, we need to follow Jesus’ example and be willing to be thrown off a hill…. literally or figuratively… for our beliefs. Only then will we be able to change the culture. Only then will we see less abortion, violence, pornography and the like.
We must be willing to love and give until it hurts if we want to positively influence our world.
With God’s help, I pray that YOU will be the change our world so desperately needs.