Saturday, May 2, 2015

From the Ashes of Baltimore: How to Change the World (5th Sunday of Easter), May 3, 2015

Reading One: Acts 9:26-31

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples,
but they were all afraid of him,
not believing that he was a disciple.
Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles,
and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord,
and that he had spoken to him,
and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.
He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem,
and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.
He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists,
but they tried to kill him.
And when the brothers learned of this,
they took him down to Caesarea
and sent him on his way to Tarsus.

The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.
It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,
and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

Reading Two: I John 3:18-24

Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.
Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God
and receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.

Gospel Reading: John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Homily: From the Ashes of Baltimore: How to Change the World

Those who proclaim from this ambo have a solemn charge to preach the word, in season, and out of season. And what would God have us say in light of weeks of simmering bitterness, of rage and destruction, of injustice that we all witnessed from Baltimore? What should we say? Should we pretend that these issues are not real, or that they do not affect us in safe, secure Black Forest, Colorado?
The first thing we must understand is that man, though created in the image of His creator, lives in a fallen state.  People do not naturally behave well. If man were basically good, we would have no need of a justice system as everyone would mostly behave properly and treat each other well.  This is certainly not the case. The role of the church to shine the light of God on people, one life at a time, so each person can see for themselves how fallen they are.  We cannot legislate morality, but we have an obligation to make laws that protect people from the sin of others.  We also have an obligation to share the truth with people that they may have the opportunity to repent and embrace Christ.

The problems that led to Baltimore and did not manifest overnight, nor can they be fixed in a day, but the focus of the believer in Christ must be on fulfilling his role in the church and in society so change can begin and that change must begin today.  Facts and logic will lead people to a more conservative and godly view of issues, we have that as a great advantage.  We know that the Spirit of God transforms lives through the blood of Christ and we know that people without hope behave desperately.  We have fact, logic and hope to offer.  We have the hope of Christ and the truth of His word.  Find your place in the Body, turn off your TV, put down your video game controller, get rid of the sin that hinders your relationship with God and get busy.  Abide in Christ. You will bear much fruit. I promise you will find fulfillment and peace like you never have before.  

But how do we really love—how do we practically love….our readings this morning give us the answer. You want the world changed? Here is the secret. Just listen with an open heart.

Now, let’s look at our texts this morning……

If you think that the problems of Baltimore, of Ferguson, of New York City, of South Carolina, were desperate and the people there were filled with hatred and resentment, you have no idea what the situation was like in ancient Palestine during the time of Christ, or in the early Church. The divisions between Christian and Jew, between Jew and Gentile, between Jews, Christians, and the oppressive Roman government, who ruthlessly ruled over an empire of 60 million slaves, whose increasing tax burden, rampant corruption, and their focus on providing only welfare bread and circus to its citizens was causing it to crumble from the insides. These ancient issues make our own divisions less overwhelming in comparison.

In this reading of Acts 9, we see human beings behaving the way human beings behave. Hurt people hurting people. Those who has suffered at the hand of Saul the Persecutor wanting justice. Hurt people act out of fear. People doing things, wanting Saul excluded, because of a rightful sense of being aggrieved. After all, look inside this church of Jerusalem. Over here are the parents of Stephen, the first martyr. There is Stephen’s younger brother, his sister. And over here, is a visitor today, Saul of Tarsus. He’s calling himself Paul, but we know who he is. He is a murderer. He is a bigot, he is dangerous. His kind of people don’t belong with our kind of people. We Jewish Christians don’t associate with him and his ilk. We have connection to the history of Israel, and this violent persecutor wants to come into our fellowship? We are going to give him the kiss of peace? We are going to support him? No justice for the family of Stephen. No peace in the church of Christ in Jerusalem.

All we can say is “thank God for Barnabas, and thank God for Jesus Christ” Paul would later write about this in Ephesians 2 that there will be no peace without Christ.

In v 12 he writes
Ephesians 2:12 (NRSVCE)
remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

You want to know why there is unrest, why there is violence, why there is brutality? Not just in Baltimore, but on the streets of our own city. People are without God and without hope in the world.

And now our reading……

He is our peace. Those families who have lost loved ones may someday find justice, and that is a key goal, but they will NEVER find peace, find forgiveness, find rest for their souls, without Christ.
HE is our peace. Instead of looting and violence and danger and depravity, instead of grinding oppression and sin and the scourge of low expectations, here we find the destruction of barriers, the cessation of hostility, and the beginnings of community.

Ephesians 2:19–22 (NRSVCE)
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Let me tell you something….do not misunderstand or misquote me……the laws of the United States of America need to be enforced fairly, equally, without distinction to race, creed, or color.
But the Department of Justice cannot make the two one. The FBI and the ATF cannot break down the dividing wall of hostility. The county Police in El Paso County, or the Colorado Springs Police Department, or the Colorado National Guard cannot pour of balm from Gilead to bring about peace and love. Is it ONLY through the blood of Christ, it is only He who made the two one. And we share in that blood, that flesh of Christ, as we celebrate communion, it is co-union with Christ—it is co-union with each other. We are becoming one.

That’s the way it happens. One person at a time. If we get the individual person right with God, we will get the world right.

And how do we go forward, knowing that while our nation is founded on grounded truths and natural law that is admirable, and a Constitution that should be heeded, it will always be an approximation, and always will fall short at dealing with the issues of the human heart? How are we to ever succeed?

It will be through the example of Christians, salt and light, leaven, making a difference. Let’s look at Barnabas…. 

If encouragement ever had children, they would name that child Barnabas….He was the son of encouragement.

We see him setting an example through his unselfish giving.

We see him standing up for Saul in Jerusalem in our first reading….

One more example in Barnabas’ life

The Gentiles are coming to faith in Antioch. Who do we send? Let’s send Barnabas!
The first thing Barnabas did when he went there was to go look for Saul. Saul had been alone, in Tarsus, in Arabia, for at least three years, and perhaps as many as 8 years.
All by himself, no doubt licking his wounds. Rejected by the Jews, treated as an object of fear by his fellow Christians, he goes home and has to deal with his Jewish relations and his own family. It must have been difficult, and many of you can attest.

And then one day, just doing his own work, perhaps learning his father’s craft in tent-making to support him, in comes an old friend.

His name is Barnabas. And he has a question, he has a request, he has a mission.
Saul wonders, is there anything else left in the tank? I have tried, I have sacrificed, I have apologized for Stephen’s death until I am blue in the face. No, I’m too old for this, I am too beaten up, I am too discouraged. I murdered a Christian (would we want to add a murderer to the masthead of the OLP bulletin? No, you have to prove yourself, Saul…not sure we really want you anymore.

And they had reason.

But they did not think like Barnabas.

Can you imagine that discussion in Tarsus? Barnabas—”Saul, you were called by God, You are called to be an apostle one who is sent by God” “Saul, you will be the apostle to the Gentiles. Maybe we call you by a Greek name—Paulos—because of this ministry we have in Antioch. Saul, I believe in you! You can do it! You will turn the world upside down!

Have to think about what lengths Barnabas took to find Saul: (map)

Here’s one of the original maps Barnabas used from this period….
Barnabas came from Jerusalem to Antioch….a journey that took weeks or months on foot.
And he needed to start a church there.
But he did not stop in Antioch…..he said, “I can’t do this without my brother Saul.”  “I have to go find him.”
We just have to admire Barnabas, and he is our example today.

He sought him out
He went to him
He expended effort, time, and cost to find him
He forgave Saul, he probably helped Saul to forgive himself (although that was always at the back of Paul’s mind)

Barnabas sought after a lapsed believer, a believer not really as converted as he used to be, someone who needed that second touch, that affirmation, that faith.

Paul, you can do it! We’ll do it together! I know you've had those issues, but they are not worth losing your soul over.

They changed history! And why? Because they knew what love is (last bullet)

Not just talk, but action……from our second reading this morning.
So what does this mean for us this morning?

The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Are they called Christians in Black Forest? Are they Christians at Our Lady of the Pines? Not just church attenders, but do that have that passion for God. Do they have that gift of encouragement, Are they looking for the lost, the fallen, the forgotten?

Think about how many tens of thousands of fallen away Catholics there are in this town. How many of them would come back to the true faith if someone was a Barnabas to them. Someone took the time to care, to love, to have a vision.

I was a lapsed Catholic, a washed out preacher, just working a nondescript tech job in Colorado Springs. All those glory days behind. Washed up, washed out, just looking for a place to fall, to be safe. Back in Tarsus, Colorado. Divorced, discouraged, disheartened.

And the sweetest woman I ever met, and a gangling 6 foot 100 inch tall priest name Father Joe Damhorst, refused to accept that low bar for the rest of my life.

They believed in me, they prayed for me, they gave me a vision when I did not have one of my own. It was not easy, but they were Barnabas to me.

Can you be Barnabas to someone else? Can you change the world

Closing Illustration

A haggard working father came in from the factory that day, tired and exhausted from a full shift. He was spent, but his 4 year old boy wanted to play. The father was beside himself, tired and impatient. He looked over at the newspaper with an ad that had a full page graphic of the globe on it…..spying an opportunity for just a moment of rest, he ripped up the page of the globe into scores of pieces, and said to his son, “I have a puzzle for you. Put it together now.”

As he relaxed, finally, in his evening chair, he was astonished to hear, on a few moments later, his son say, “Dad, I’m finished!” The father was stunned that his son made such quick work of the puzzle. He asked his son, “Son, how did you do this so quickly? This is amazing. The son responded, “Dad, there was a picture of a person on the page of the page. I just put the person together. And when I got the person put together right, I made the world right.”

Let us make the world right this week, by making ourselves right, and taking one pragmatic, physical, visible step to love those around us. To be a Barnabas to the world. May God bless us as we change our world.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lent: Less Dessert, More Desert (Ist Sunday in Lent)

Homily: First Sunday of Lent, 2015
“Less Dessert, More Desert”

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:12-15
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, 
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Our readings today are grouped for the first Sunday of Lent, and there is a theme of personal repentance, purification, and obedience. I hope that you use this particular Lenten season to grow closer to God.

In the first reading, Noah lives a righteous life, brings his family through salvation, and we have the rainbow as a sign of God’s faithfulness. I love Noah as a great example of a godly husband and father; Noah got no support from the culture about him; he got no support from the schools, from the media, from the government, even from the community where he lived. All he had was the faith in Yahweh, but that was enough to sustain him…and his family
In our 2nd reading, St. Peter reminds us about Noah again. After speaking of the ministry of Christ after his death, and how he destroyed even death itself through his descent and resurrection, he recalls the example of Noah.

And we see how this holy man was only able to save his family—8 in all—and then he sees in the flood of Noah a parallel to Christian conversion.

Peter continues “a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.”

This is amazing….
Noah and his salvation is compared with and connected to baptism.
Both Noah and baptism have a relationship that in both cases brings salvation as a direct result.
Both Baptism and every Christian have a relationship, too.

And just as baptism and Noah are related for salvation, back then, we can share in that parallel of salvation—through baptism. No floods around today, but baptism saves us now.

Not a physical cleansing, but related to faith, obedience to the gospel, just as Peter preached in Acts 2:38, when he said “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and all who are far off, for all whom the Lord will call.” And we read that 3000 were baptized that day. You could say there was a flood of baptisms on the Day of Pentecost.

And they have something else in common…there is a water in both of these examples.

"Are you saying I have to be baptized to be saved?"
No. St. Peter is. And Noah, too….if Noah were around today, he would probably say, “hey man, you want baptism the way I got it? A lot more work involved.”

"Are you saying that there is water in baptism?"
No. St. Peter is. And Noah too….if Noah were around today, he would say, hey man, just do it in the baptistery…my way was a lot more dangerous.”

As an old preacher friend of mine used to proclaim, “There’s water in the plan”…water in the plan of salvation.

But you know what is sad?
---and some people still believe in “dry cleaning.”

There was not a make believe flood in Noah’s day, and you can’t be saved by a make-believe baptism.

There is water in baptism, and I will give you 100 dollars if there is a conversion in the Book of Acts—the history of the early church—that did not include or infer baptism.

I have a deep theological truth to share with you….you can’t be baptized by prayer alone.

OK to pray? Sure, but Paul prayed for 3 days in Damascus, he saw the Lord himself, and Ananias still said, in Acts 16, “What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, wash your sins away, calling on his name.” Some people think that “calling on the name of the Lord is prayer.” They just say a sinner’s prayer and everything is ok. Paul prayed for 3 days. Ananias still said, what are your waiting for? He didn’t say, pray a little prayer while the choir is singing—he said, get up and be baptized, wash those sins away. No dry cleaning there. In fact, when Paul recounts his own conversion in Acts 22, he remembers Ananias saying, get up, be baptized, wash your sins away, calling on his name.”

Whoah…I call on the name of the Lord when I am baptized?

Yes, just like Peter said in our reading…it’s a pledge to Christ.

Folks, I am all for ecumenical oneness, and tolerance of different faith traditions, but Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus in Ephesians 4:6, and said there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism—and he was right in sync with Peter, too.

You going to argue with St. Paul and St. Peter about conversion?

You going to argue with Noah, you going to argue with Peter’s saying the baptism saves us—it is not separate from faith, but there is no saving faith without response. Why are you so defensive about this? Noah still had to build the boat, folks. Didn’t make him earn forgiveness, but it was his response. You going to argue with Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, and Acts 2:38? Man, I would not argue with a guy who has an ax and two .38’s, at least not in Black Forest.

There is water in the plan, and if you have not been scripturally baptized, you have not been scripturally baptized. (yeah, that’s pretty heavy, so let me say it again…)

“I’m sincere, I had this experience”…so did St. Paul on the road to Damascus. But he still needed to get right, to have that cleansing, that appeal of a clear conscience before God.

If that’s not your experience, make it your experience. Study it out, let’s sit down, get out the coffee, open up the scriptures, and study it through. You have to have a good, education, scripturally clear sense about your own salvation. How are you going to save your family?

You don’t have to be baptized….you GET to be baptized.

But let’s look at the Gospel before we close today

Before his ministry began, it’s important to note that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert. Mark’s gospel says “the Spirit DROVE Jesus out into the desert.”

Jesus prayed and was tempted in that time of solitude, as he prepared himself for his public ministry.

During this Lenten season, are we preparing ourselves for ministry? Are we being led by the Spirit into the desert, into prayer and reflection? Are we giving ourselves to prayer, to fasting on Fridays (ladies, my wife did a vegetarian chili that had zero meat, tons of flavor, and it tasted so good this past Friday I thought I was cheating!)

The message of Lent is, less Dessert, more Desert.

More prayer, more study, more reflection.

We’ll talk more about this when we have opportunity.

But it’s time for all Christians to have that continual resentence, that continual conversion, refocusing on Christ, dwelling deeply in His Word, confessing our sins, preparing to meet Him.
That word repentance means to turn around, to pull a 180, and that’s what we need to do today.

It’s Oscar season this weekend, so let me close with a story about repentance, from a movie based on a true story.

Sandra Bullock won the 2010 Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Leigh Ann Tuohy in The Blind Side. The sensational film chronicles a Christian family who took in a homeless young man and gave him the chance to reach his God-given potential. Michael Oher not only dodged the hopelessness of his dysfunctional inner city upbringing, but became the first-round NFL draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens in 2009.

At a recent fund-raiser, husband Sean Tuohy noted that the transformation of his family and Michael all started with two words. When they spotted Michael walking along the road on a cold November morning (the movie depicts it as nighttime) in shorts and a T-shirt, Leigh Ann Tuohy uttered two words that changed their world. She told Sean, “Turn around.” They turned the car around, put Michael in their warm vehicle, and ultimately adopted him into their family.

Those same two words can change anyone’s life. When we turn around, we change directions and begin an exciting new journey. Some may need to make an about-face concerning their disbelief in Christ, this issue on baptism (man what is worth hanging on to your religious pride for?) or it could be a Christian needs to turn around and reconsider the value of fervent prayer. You may need to come face-to-face with your addiction to Internet porn, or alcohol, or your anger. Whatever your situation, a great story of wonderful change could be just two words away.

Turn around. In the name of Christ, turn around.


"It is finished." Good Friday 2015

There is no greater reality in our lives than the fact that Jesus died for us personally, as well as for the sins of the whole world. The cross shows us just how much Jesus cares about people. There were powerful words that Jesus spoke, but none more powerful than his last, uttered upon Calvary’s tree. His last words, possibly little more than a whisper, are what we consider today. And of those seven perhaps none more profound, so filled with meaning, than what we hear in John’s Gospel today.

"It is finished." John 19:30

Lest we feel the cross in only one dimension, these words of Jesus cause us to ponder another aspect of the cross. On Good Friday, there is a tendency to emphasize the sense of loss and sorrow and suffering by Jesus on the cross, and not realize that the cross was the greatest triumph ever realized. Lest we forget that today is GOOD Friday, let us listen closely to the dying Master, and  see the victory of the cross.

The three words in English are translated from a single word in the original language, the Greek word Tetelestai. It is a word rich in meaning, for its meaning is always determined by the context in which it appears. Thus it meant different things to those who heard it, and in these many meanings we gain even richer insight into the many facets of the work of Christ on the cross.

To a servant, the word Tetelestai was the word uttered when he returned from the fields following a hard day's toil. It was the word signifying the completion of work, that all was done.

And is this not true of Christ? When Jesus said "it is finished" on the cross, he spoke for the finished work of our redemption, the fact that there are now no impediments between man and the attainment of eternal life. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross needs nothing more on our part for its power; there is nothing more that we need to add to realize a complete and total salvation.

How should the completeness of the sacrifice of Christ affect our confidence? How many of us are still plagued by our insecurities, trying to gain our acceptance and approval by the regard of others? We need to rest in the finished labor of the one who "finished the work that you have given me to do." If we are saved, it will not be through our attainments, but only through the completeness of his atonement.

To a Jewish priest, the Hebrew equivalent for "It is finished" was the word that was spoken following the daily inspection of the sacrificial animals before they were slaughtered.. The word meant that the particular animal had been inspected and been found to be perfect, without any blemish or any flaw. Then that animal was worthy to be offered as a sacrifice before God.

Ironic that after the sacrifices of all the Passover lambs in the Court of the Gentiles, there was still one spotless Lamb left unexamined. What a picture of Jesus Christ! Truly the words of the Apostle Peter are most appropriate here in this context:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. I Peter 1:19

To a merchant, the word Tetelestai was marked on a receipt after goods were purchased. In the world of buying and selling, the world of business, the term Tetelestai meant "it is paid."

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Isn't this the essence of the gospel? It is all paid! there is nothing more to earn, nothing more to purchase, nothing that we could ever earn:

To an athlete, the word Tetelestai was the word the crowd cheered when the marathon runner finished the race. It was the cry of the gladiator upon vanquishing his foe. It was the cry of triumph in battle; it was the cry of victory in a great and thrilling contest.

Isn't that true of Jesus on the cross? Calvary was not the defeat of a good teacher, but the most powerful death of the most powerful being who would ever walk on this planet. What appeared to be the greatest defeat was turned, upside down, into the greatest victory. At the cross Jesus met Satan at his stronghold—at death itself—in front of the Gates of Mordor--and the two were locked together in mortal combat.

What had been preliminary skirmishes during the ministry of Jesus--the temptations in the wilderness, the suggestions by Peter regarding Jesus' messiahship, the faithlessness of his own disciples--was now a time of total warfare, with Satan unleashing every weapon in his demonic arsenal to undo Jesus from his mission of rescue. Just when Jesus was about to die, the satanic host had thundered "Check" to the forces of heaven, and all seemed lost. But Jesus, confident of the righteousness of his cause, confident of the power in his flawless sacrifice had the last word-- Tetelestai--Checkmate!

If there was anything that Jesus meant by this word he spoke, certainly it was the victory of the cross. This was no whimpering cry of defeat; these were no wounded words of a dying failure, but they were the bold victory cry of the conqueror. Jesus bested Satan on the cross; it was his finest hour!

Let us pray.

Lord, we see you breathing your last and nearing death. We see you doing this for us, and we honestly don't know what to say. It is hard for us to imagine the depths of your love for us. It is difficult for us to understand how someone could be so selfless and giving of oneself. Lord, you stayed the course. You persevered until the very end. You not only lived, but also suffered and died so that humanity could once again return to God. Lord, we thank you for your love. We thank you for your courage. We thank you for the example of how you lived and how you died that we should follow you; help us to become worthy bearers of your love. Help us to stay the course, to remain faithful until the very end of our lives. We know that we can do this only with your help. So help us, Lord, please help us. Mary, our mother, pray for us.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

On the 42st Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2015

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

In light of events next week, I am going to depart from our gospel reading today, at least for a bit, but hopefully will be able to tie several thoughts together in the general subject of being called to holiness, being called to live a life worthy of the calling we have received, and being called to respect life.

Nearly forty-two years have passed since the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision, on January 22, 1973, and our country has never been the same since. Abortion is the worst domestic crime ever sanctioned by America, and the statistics become grimmer by the year: nearly 60 million unborn children have been legally murdered since Roe. Every day in America, some 4000 lives are terminated in the womb.

What has also been murdered over those years is the culture’s acceptance of moral absolutes; any notion of good or evil is churned into some HR jive we call “appropriate” or “inappropriate”, as if right and wrong can be deadened of their moral consequence by a substitution of terms. This culture wants to rename things first, because it realizes that unless you name the evil, you never fully confront it. This is why our President called abortion “health care” on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade last year. With all due respect, abortion is not health care, Mr. President, it is murder. We have surrendered, and Roe was a big part of that surrender, to the notion accepted by most people in America today—there are no absolutes, and we accept that one absolute absolutely. How do we respond to this slaughter, and how do we live our lives in Corinth, I mean, in the United States of America? 

First, the U.S. bishops invite us to pray for the protection of all human life. A special novena called 9 Days for Life will take place from January 17th through the 25th. Please go to the USCCB website to learn more about this opportunity.

Second, the Students for Life Group at St. Mary’s High is coordinating a March for Life tomorrow, January 19, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Starting at 9am with a silent prayer vigil outside of Planned Parenthood, the merchant of this death. At 10am there will be a procession to Corpus Christi Church, from 11 till noon, there will be adoration with the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet, and at noon, there will be Mass celebrated by Bishop Sheridan. We need some pro-life prayer warriors to join in on this occasion. More info in the Catholic Herald.

We look at this carnage, and it’s tempting to despair. Despite all of this, there are more reasons to hope in the pro-life movement than to despair because of abortion. Many lives have been put back together through the Rachel Ministry, as those who have been affected by abortion understand that there is no group in the world better able to deal with the heartbreak, guilt, shame, and condemnation that are byproducts of abortion than the Catholic Church. She has the Confessional, she has the te absolvo of absolution—“neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” She has forgiveness, she has hope, for she has Christ, and there is always hope, no matter what road you have walked upon. Let us remember, too, that, appearing before a crowd of tens of thousands in Rome early in his papacy, Francis said, “I greet the participants of the March for Life which took place this morning in Rome and invite everyone to stay focused on the important issue of respect for human life, from the moment of conception.” He then joined the 40,000 marchers on the ground, to express his solidarity with them, and pro-lifers throughout the world cheered. Today, this extraordinary event is rarely mentioned, and comments that the Holy Father made about not being obsessive about all the church’s teaching all the time, in every conversation, are twisted into representing the Pope as somehow soft on the issue of abortion. 

Third, there is the revealing fact that many leaders of the “pro-choice” movement have themselves openly acknowledged what abortion really is. “We know that it is killing, but the state permits killing under certain circumstances,” says the founder of a Milwaukee abortion clinic. Camille Paglia, the outspoken feminist, is even blunter:

The pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. . . . Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue.

Even more encouraging is the fact that, despite forty years of pro-abortion propaganda, more than half of all Americans still describe themselves as pro-life. Since their activism began, peaceful pro-lifers have endured jeers, contempt, unjust arrests, and even violence. Everyone knows that there is a regular Mass in front of Planned Parenthood. Even our Protestant brothers and sisters respect that kind of commitment, and increasingly walk with us on these issues. Everyone who is pro-life in this city knows Father Bill Carmody, and the Balrogs in hell cringe at his name. Though the media has largely ignored this witness, (even as it has covered fringe extremists, never part of the authentic pro-life movement), they have marched on nonetheless.

This January 22, hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers will march in Washington, as they do every year, to speak, pray, and bear witness to the fundamental right to life that every American citizen is entitled to. Let us join them—if not by marching, than in spirit—in peace and in hope, undeterred.

Let us understand what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, who also lived in a culture that regarded human life as cheap and disposable—the Roman and Greek women would not try to surgically destroy life in their womb, though they did practice the use of abortifacients of many types—but they would simply leave their unwanted unborn on the garbage heaps of the major towns and cities, like Corinth, for the dogs to treat as carrion. And it was the church who rescued those innocent lives. 

Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

These are issues that cannot be thoroughly plumbed in a Sunday homily. They have import on public policy, and the role of citizenship in a pluralistic and non-Christian society. How does one live a life of purity in the face of such reckless hate? How does one balance the fundamental truths of the Framers of our Constitution to autonomy and community, to natural and civil law, to the right to self-determination and the clear fact that St. Paul says "you are not your own; you were bought at a price." There is indeed a higher call than the law of the land for those who were purchased by the blood of Christ.

It was just the kind of challenge that St. Paul faced in Corinth, and so the challenge is to place ourselves in that biblical narrative…what do we do in Corinth? How do we keep ourselves pure in Mordor, in the midst of the rapacious evil around us? This means “equipping the saints” to be twenty-first-century apologists who can (as Pope Francis has been saying) offer compassionate aid to the walking wounded of postmodern society, so that as strong as the world hears our passionate defense of the unborn, that same world also hears our message of hope and forgiveness, of alternatives to murder like adoption and family intervention. Our message is good news, if ever it is good news, right at the place of bleakest devastation. We can give hope, just as we can explain the truths about the human person that the Church believes are essential to a fruitful and blessed world. 

May we pray, may we work, may we speak up, and for God sakes may we at least vote—for pro-life leaders who take the scriptures seriously that say, “Glorify God in your body.”