During this past weekend, we were told about the persecution in the early church. Paul and Barnabas were met with violent abuse as they proclaimed the teachings of Jesus. Their story and the stories of so many faithful missionaries highlight some contrasting responses to the preaching of the gospel. We will see extremes on both sides – extreme passion and obedience and joy in the reception of the gospel and extreme jealousy and hatred and persecution in the rejection of the gospel.
Truth Divides! It does not bring all parties together in some type of spirit of tolerance. The response of Paul and Barnabas in the face of resistance and violence is “it was necessary for us that the gospel be proclaimed to you.”
The battle over abortion rights fundamentally shifted a week ago with release of a draft that seems to indicate that a majority of justices are poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. More than ever, the Catholic Church and its affirmation of the dignity of human life - especially the life of the unborn - is now a subject of debate and protests in many parts of our country. We Catholics should not fear debate and controversy, rather we should welcome them with an open heart filled with kindness and reverence.
Perhaps you recently shared a dinner table or phone call - even among family or friends - about the issue of abortion. These conversations are never easy, but that does not mean we should avoid them at all costs. We are called now once again to a renewal of our minds in Jesus Christ, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans: “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2).
Pope John Paul II laid the groundwork for a bold proclamation of the Gospel of Life 40 years ago, when, on October 7, 1979, during the celebration of Mass on the Capitol Mall of Washington, D.C., only six years after the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, he told America what the Church would do in response to legalized abortion in our country:
“…we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.
When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God, with the right to a loving and united family.”
God does not see the world through the confines of our political categories of “left” and “right,” “liberal” and “conservative.” God is good and caring. When one of His children is suffering injustice, He calls the rest of us to love and compassion and to “make things right.” One of the reasons why we are imperfect champions of LIFE is because many of us have embraced a pro-life ethic through political categories.
Our defense of human life and dignity can never be partial or a half-measure. How can we justify defending the dignity of some and not others or protecting God’s creation while neglecting some of His most vulnerable creatures? We need to return to the visions of a “seamless garment” or “consistent ethic of life.” To evangelize in this culture of ours, the Church must articulate a new Christian humanism, a new vision that is rooted in God’s beautiful plan of love for creation and for every human life.