given in St. Anne's Church Bailieborough,
6th December 2012
My friends, we are in Advent. If we are living a Trinitarian existence, meaning, a life centered around the mystery of God, then the Spirit in us feels a quickening, an alertness. Yes, even the weariest amongst us will feel a stirring of something like anticipation. Because we know that soon the Infant King will come.
In the past year, there have been many events, both in our lives, and in the world. Some events have filled us with rejoicing. And some have filled us with concern and trepidation. Let me reference, for a moment, abortion, because, as the whole world now knows, Ireland is struggling with this issue once again.
First, let us be grave and serious about the panic and even terror a woman might feel when she is faced with a crisis pregnancy. We must never underestimate that experience. Consider a time in your own life where you were filled with dread and felt trapped and very afraid. There was a feeling that you could not avoid a terrible suffering and humiliation. This reminds me of how Jesus might have felt in the Garden. And while we may have been equipped to deal with things like crisis pregnancy, not everyone feels they are equipped. So, if we have not stared down a crisis pregnancy, let us always begin by examining the extent of what we do NOT know about a woman's experience in these circumstances.
Next, let us move on to God's view. A child is conceived. The details around the conception will never alter this fact. Something huge has happened. If a child is conceived, God is making a statement. What is he saying? He, as Creator, is saying, 'Humanity shall continue.'
Now we move back to the human experience but let us do so in truth which is that we are spiritual beings. By that I mean that our earthly bodies are temporary and our souls, our spiritual selves, are eternal. What is it that the new mother is doing, from heaven's eyes? Well, when the Holy Spirit acted upon Mary, and Jesus was conceived within her, God was sending hope to all of mankind. Mary, in a sense, was the guardian and custodian of that hope. And when any child is conceived, regardless of the details of the conception, each mother also becomes a guardian and custodian of hope, for God and with God. Because just as God sent hope with Jesus, God sends hope with each new baby. And what about the father? The father is given the opportunity and task of communicating integrity to the next generation.
These are serious and wonderful obligations. Mother is acting as custodian of hope for humanity. Father is called to transmit integrity to the next generation.
Now perhaps the mother doesn't feel like a guardian of hope for humanity and perhaps the father is not present or is still searching for his own integrity. What then? Do we reject the created being of God? Well...on what authority? Clearly, God is acutely aware of the conditions around each conception. And He has definitely sent another person. So what should we do in these less than ideal circumstances? We compensate. We help. Mankind has been welcoming unexpected babies for generations. Many of us were unexpected. Possibly most of us. But our families made room for us and God has big shoulders. If we work with Him, we can not only receive every baby, we can take care of every baby He sends. Especially now, in 2012.
This is what we believe, as Christians, and as Catholics, that God is the Author of Life and that we do not have the right to reject life. Our bishops in Ireland reiterated this recently when they made the statement that said, "By virtue of their common humanity a mother and her unborn baby are both sacred with an equal right to life."
Now, we have considered the issue as spiritual beings, because we are Catholics. Let us consider the issue more generally, as members of the human race. What is a person? Scientists will say we are each a unique collection of living cells. What is the baby in the womb? Indisputably, the baby in the womb is also a unique collection of living cells. What is the difference between us and the baby in the womb?
Can we say that we, born individuals, (unique collections of living cells), have greater personhood than unborn individuals, (unique collections of living cells)? Well...honestly I think we are reaching there. And this puts a whole new slant on the term 'giving birth' because truly, in today's circumstances, birth is something of a gift when a mother is willing to give it to another person growing within.
Simplistic? I do not think so. I think the babies we carry in our wombs have been assigned to us. And just as hope comes into the world for all of humanity with each baby, I believe God's hope is that each mother will receive the child and be supported in doing so when necessary. Distancing a mother emotionally from a pregnancy by denying the baby's personhood is forcing mothers into a huge disconnect from, not only their bodies, but their very hearts.
We are risking the collective well-being of women by forcing two untruths upon them. One is that the child conceived within is 'simply tissue' with no connection to them. Recently, women in Great Britain expressed grave concern that other women experiencing miscarriage be treated with more sensitivity. They acknowledged, through their concern, the truth about women's deep connection with each pregnancy, regardless of the outcome. The other untruth is that any woman has dominion over whether or not another person is allowed to be born.
The burden of this choice is far too heavy for any person to carry.
Further consider. A positive pregnancy test results in joy and rejoicing for some and is accompanied by reverence and gratitude but for others a positive pregnancy test results in anguish and despair. The same thing happened each time. In the first instance, we offer every congratulation to the new mother. We agree that truly something wonderful has happened for her. There is great urging to take vitamins and protect the health of the mother so that the unborn child will be supported through growth in the womb. But in the second instance, there is no need for this because the mother did not expect the child? My friends, who would deny that unexpected children are every bit as adorable as those who are hoped for? Once the families adjust, the babies become the greatest blessings and can positively impact entire families. Our human understanding at any one point in time is ridiculously limited and the impact of one life on the world can be absolutely profound.
Abortion is actually quite illogical.
For example, I remember reading that in one state in America, a law was enacted stating that if you murdered a pregnant woman and you were aware of the pregnancy, then you could be charged with two counts of murder because you killed the baby and the mother. This seemed rational. The killer knowingly took two lives. But if the mother chose to end the life of the child through abortion, this remained legal in America, right up the child's birthday in some states. This did not seem rational.
Some say that we must have legislation to legalize abortion in certain circumstances in Ireland because a woman tragically died and if we have this abortion legislation, it will make women safe. What is the truth? In England, where abortion is legal, one woman dies in these same medical circumstances each month. So abortion did not solve this medical problem in England and it will not solve it here. To say that it will help, is irrational.
Some say, people should have a right to choose but people must be kindly encouraged to finish that sentence. What they are really saying is that people have a right to choose to end the life of another person.
My friends, we, as humans, seem to be speaking out of both sides of our mouths. Abortion is not just a Catholic issue. It is a human rights issue. But we have a lot of doublespeak. Native American Indians called this speaking with forked tongues. No wonder so many people are anxious during this time. The facts do not add up and we have open inconsistencies around this issue. And all this is accompanied by a lot of emotion, anger and deep woundedness on both sides of the issue. How should a lay apostle deal with it all?
Well, there was a woman at a party. She is pro-life. Conversation ensued about political parties. She remained very peaceful but said she felt she was being baited. Finally, another woman, her relation, said, 'Obviously, a woman has a right to choose.' Well, the lay apostle could not bear this and she blurted out, 'A woman has a right to choose her dinner.' War broke loose. Three people began shouting at her and the party became an unpleasant place to be. She left. In tears. Furious. Because she said, 'Why am I not allowed an opinion?' Later, she prayed very earnestly. And she thought, 'I wish I had been kinder and gentler about it because maybe that woman or one of the others had had an abortion. She could have been suffering.' And she thought about how she could have handled it differently. And she decided that the next time she would say simply, 'We disagree'. She could see that disunity had resulted, clearly, when she had to run from the party. So she thought about the teachings in the apostolate and she called the woman and apologised saying, 'I'm sorry that got so out of control. We do not have to agree on everything. Will you come over for dinner?' She was so humble, and prayerful. Possibly we are all a little afraid that unless we are experts, we will be overcome. But that's not true. Some things are not complicated. And we can point to our Church leadership with confidence! When did this go out of style, my friends? Quote the Bishop's statements and say, simply, and with dignity, "As Catholics, this is what we believe."
I recently heard a leading scientist say that we were spiritual beings, here for a short time to create around us some part of heaven. In the Gospel last Tuesday the Lord said "I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children." This scientist went so far into the cell structure of life, so far into quantum physics that he was compelled to sit back, breathe deeply and recognize the Creator! He, the learned and the clever, became like a child.
In that Gospel Jesus is saying that the Father will not reveal Himself to the learned and the clever. Why? Because, my friends, they do not want to know Him. They think they have enough knowledge. They bask in their importance and in their opinions. They are busy, busy, busy. And on any given day, we, if we are honest...can be like this. And we, if we pretend we are more learned and clever, will repel people.
Now, in baseball, the coaches always told us, Keep your eye on the ball. Because if you were up to bat and you took your eye off the ball, you might hit it or you might not. There was no telling. If you kept your eye on the ball, your chance of hitting it was increased. And if you did not hit the ball, well, you knew you had done your best.
My friends, we have to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, our Returning King. We have to study Him, know Him, learn Him every day. Because you see, this apostolate is not a social club. It is a very serious movement of holiness in the Church, willed, we believe, by God, Himself. And there is a lot of division everywhere we look right now. The American Church leaders have been giving beautiful and solid leadership. Recently, some Catholics rejected it. I wonder... how long did they ponder their decision to reject the Church's leadership prior to doing so? How seriously do they take their Catholicism? How seriously does God take their Catholicism? Or ours?
A holy priest said, having laws that prohibit abortion is one thing, but perhaps we need to move toward a faith community where no Catholic would choose an abortion because each Catholic possesses full understanding of the Church's teaching on sexuality and on life itself.
In this month's message, Jesus said, 'I send graces down upon your world. Indeed, at this time, I begin to flood the world with heavenly graces that will heal souls and convert hearts.'
My friends, that lay apostle at the party, who was willing to suffer a little for peace, had it right. She knew that if she did not make peace, she would never be able to bring God's grace. She did not surrender her position. She just chose to continue on in a loving relationship with someone who disagreed with her. I think this might be the way forward, when possible.
As faithful Catholic apostles, we expect to be counter cultural. But is it realistic to expect everyone else to be counter cultural to the same degree? I do not think so. And just as we cannot expect everyone to look like us, we should now do away with any expectation that we will look like others. I think the days of fitting in, if indeed there were such days, are finished.
We live in interesting times. Let us keep our focus on the Returning King. What does He need us to do? To say? To not say? What does love look like for us today? We must keep our eyes on Christ and listen carefully for the leadership of our Bishops. Only in this way will we be able to offer God's graces and blessings to those in the world so badly in need of God.
Taken from the booklet Heaven Speaks about Abortion:
My dear little daughter, how I love you and wait to hold you in my arms. I watch you so carefully, alert to any opportunity to bring you to Jesus. I have seen every pain that you have suffered. I have witnessed each bitter tear. You will be fine now if you let us heal you. I want to take you by your hand and bring you to my Son. I will tell Him that I am proud of you because you are courageous in admitting your mistakes and asking for forgiveness. Can you imagine the smile Jesus will have for you? He is so beautiful and His eyes will fill with love for you. You see, Jesus does not care what you have done. He does not sit and think constantly about your mistakes. He thinks constantly about your heart and its brokenness. He thinks constantly about His need to have you safe in the family of Christ. He considers all of the good that you are capable of bringing to other souls. Jesus needs you. I, your heavenly mother, need you. Will you help us? Come to your mother now and rest your head against me. You do not see me but I promise you that I am with you. I will never leave you. I have brought many women back to Jesus and they give Him the greatest love and fidelity. That is how I can see you, my daughter. I see you as a loyal, loving servant of Jesus, who desires to place constant healing graces into your soul.