27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4; Luke 17:5-10.
AIM: To show why abortion is wrong and to encourage efforts to defend life.
AHow long, O Lord? I cry out to you, >Violence!= but you do not intervene. ... Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and clamorous discord.@
How appropriate are these words of our first reading in the midst of political strife at home and continuing violence in the
On this Respect Life Sunday our bishops ask us to reflect on another kind of violence: the violence inflicted on women in problem pregnancies by those who promise them a quick fix and leave them instead with a lifetime of guilt and regrets; the violence which in our country alone takes annually the lives of a million and a half babies before birth. This violence has become so common that it no longer shocks. Its proponents call it a sacred right, championing it as a great advance for women. Women who have undergone abortion testify that it is something else entirely: the exploitation of women by selfish, irresponsible men.
Surveys show that many Catholics are confused by the propaganda of those who support this violence in our society. It is worth taking time on this Respect Life Sunday, therefore, to lay out, calmly but also clearly, the reasons why abortion is wrong. These reasons do not come not from our religious faith. They come from what medical science tells us about life=s beginning B something we all share in common, believers and non-believers alike.
Defenders of abortion claim that the unborn are only Apotential life@, a part of the mother=s body which can be cut out, like tonsils or the appendix. Medical science tells a different story. It tells us that human life is present from the first moment of conception. This is how we all began. Although a pregnant mother does not normally feel the new life within her until the sixteenth week of pregnancy or later, already at the twelfth week of pregnancy what pro-abortionists claim is Amerely a group of cells@ to be disposed of at will can kick its legs, turn its feet, curl and fan its toes, move its thumbs, make a fist, bend its wrist, turn its head, squint, frown, suck its thumb, swallow fluid, and make inhaling and exhaling motions. Is that Apotential life@? or is that a baby?
A young couple who are dear friends of mine told me that months before the birth of their first child, they started talking to the baby as they lay in bed, before going to sleep. They gave the little one a name. AWhat do you tell the baby?@ I asked. AWe tell the baby intimate things,@ they said, Aeverything we did that day.@ Those parents are not Catholics. They are not even Christians. They are happy pagans from Communist China. They knew, months before the birth, that it was a baby. That child was in our parish pre-school nine years ago. She turned twelve this August. She is the happiest child I know, and a joy to all who know her.
Since the Supreme Court decision of 1973 it is now legal to kill pre-born babies for any reason at all, however trivial, right up to birth. The courts even refused subsequently to outlaw the killing of a baby during birth (called partial birth abortion). Congress finally outlawed this barbarous procedure. Several unelected judges decreed that it must continue.
How has society come to accept this widespread violence? In part through the clever use of language which disguises what is going on. Defenders of abortion never speak of its victims as babies. Instead they call them fetuses. That is a perfectly good medical term. Even doctors, however, listening to the heartbeat in the womb of a pregnant woman, tell her: AYour baby=s coming along fine.@ Only when she has decided she does not want the baby does it become something different: a Afetus@, an impersonal Ait@ to be disposed of at will. Until legalized abortion, the physician=s care embraced two patients: mother and her unborn child. Now, at the mother=s request, he is expected to care for her alone, and kill her child. Thank God for the growing number of doctors who remain faithful to their medical oath: AFirst, do no harm.@
The most successful use of language to disguise what is at stake in abortion is the term Apro-choice.@ >We=re not forcing you to have an abortion,= say those who call themselves pro-choice, >but don=t try to impose your special morality on us.= Bumper stickers say it more succinctly: AAgainst abortion? Don=t have one.@ A century and a half ago the defenders of slavery in our country used the same argument. They too claimed to be pro-choice. We=re not forcing anyone to own slaves, they said. We=d just like to be left alone to own slaves ourselves. Slave-holders from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Jefferson Davis were upright, respected pillars of the community. Pro-choice people today are also respected and powerful: they dominate our media, our universities, and the great foundations which fund good works.
Slave-holders said: ADoesn=t a man have a right to do what he wants with his property?@ Pro-choice people today say: AA woman has a right to do what she wants with her body.@ This too has been put on bumper stickers. They say: AKeep your laws off my body.@ In both cases C slavery in the nineteenth century, abortion today C neutral language is used to conceal the fact that human lives are at stake. Then there are the bumper stickers I’ve already mentioned which say: AAgainst abortion? Don=t have one.@ Would those who display that sign put on their cars another which said: AAgainst slavery? Don=t own one.@ They=d be ashamed.
Is abortion really the great step forward for women claimed by those who call themselves pro-choice? Those who have undergone it testify that it is not. Here is the testimony of one woman. She speaks for thousands like her.
AI was 17 years old and very promiscuous. I got pregnant and my friends helped me get an abortion. They took me to Medical Office where I lied about my age. They got me an appointment right away. I was at the end of my first trimester. I went into the hospital by myself. I was put to sleep and I woke up in a room with another woman. She was crying and I tried to comfort her and I began to cry. I was told by the nurse to "shut up". I stopped mourning and didn't cry about my abortion for years to come.
AIt affected me because not only was I a tramp, but now I was a murderer also. I hated myself even more. Also, I had to keep it all a secret from my family. To this day, my family does not know about my abortion. It has affected my relation with my husband ‑ learning to trust him ‑ and my children. I feared abusing them and at the same time I was over‑protective.
AI have learned to trust God for my healing. I've attended Post-Abortion Seminars and I am a group leader for a Post-Abortion Seminar Bible study at our local
I have also shared my testimony at different times. It has made me distrustful,
especially of men. I've learned to be more compassionate of sinners and the
"hopeless". I'm always wondering what difference there would have
been if I'd kept my baby. I'm sure it was a boy. He'd be 20 years old this
year.@ Pregnancy Center
No woman should have to undergo what she experienced. Women in difficulties deserve our support. Too often what they get instead is the message: AHere=s $300, honey. Get rid of it.@ That is from men who feel some responsibility. Many do not. Is it really surprising that surveys show the support for abortion to be stronger among men than among women? Or that much of the leadership of the pro-life movement comes from women?
We must also support women who have undergone abortion. Listen to what Pope John Paul II said in his encyclical Evangelium vitae:
AI would like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.@
Pope Francis put it more briefly, but no less clearly when he said: ‘‘Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, the face of the Lord.”
The struggle to defend life amid what Pope John Paul called C quite rightly C a culture of death has gone on for four decades in our country. Despite growing support for the pro-life cause, the end is nowhere in sight. We cannot sustain the struggle without prayer and faith. Jesus is speaking of the kind of faith we need when he says in today=s gospel: AIf you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, >Be uprooted and planted in the sea,= and it would obey you.@ That is hyperbole: deliberate exaggeration to drive home a point. No one is interested in planting a tree in the ocean. The salt water would kill it. Jesus= point is: with faith we can accomplish the impossible.
The one who give us this faith is Jesus himself. Through his holy word and the Eucharist he nourishes and strengthens our faith when we grow discouraged and weak.