January 15, 2017
Today’s first reading contains one of those passages which expresses God’s love and care for us from the very beginning of our lives, not just from the day of our birth but from the moment of conception. Isaiah clearly recognizes that his prophetic vocation predates his birth: “Now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb” (Is. 49: 5); and a very similar passage is found in Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer. 1: 5). The New Testament has a similar reverence for unborn life, as when the unborn John the Baptist leaps in the womb of Elizabeth when Mary, the pregnant mother of the Lord, visits them (Luke 1: 39-45). You might think that respect for innocent life was automatic in the ancient world but that was not the case: abortion was practiced in Greek and Roman cultures and newborn infants were “exposed” (left to die on a hillside) if they were weak or sickly. The first Christians, following the guidance of the scriptures, had to stand up against such barbaric practices and one of the most ancient Christian documents outside the New Testament, the
Didache from the late first century, explicitly states “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish”. From that time onwards the Catholic Church has had an unbroken tradition of opposition to abortion, as article 2271 of the
Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable”.
This firm tradition of Catholic teaching is inevitably in our minds during this week which will conclude with the anniversary of the decision of the Supreme Court which legalized abortion (January 22
nd 1973). Yesterday (January 14
th) Catholics from all over Florida attended the March for Life in Saint Augustine, and there will be the much bigger March for Life in Washington on Friday January 27
th. In the parish on Monday January 23
rd, in solidarity with parishes all over the country, we will celebrate the special Mass “For Peace and Justice”, praying for the innocent children whose lives were terminated before they could be born; for parents, especially mothers, who still suffer because they chose death rather than life; and also for our country. As the
Catechism says (2273): “When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the most vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined”.
Meanwhile this weekend we reflect not only on the gift of life but on the vocation to love and serve God which comes with it, and which is recognized at the moment of baptism. Today we hear the haunting refrain in the responsorial psalm “Here I am, Lord. Here I am. I come to do your will” (Psalm 40). It expresses Jesus Christ’s response to his Father and it reminds us that the Father looks for a similar response from us, the disciples of Jesus. All of us are called and over the coming weeks we will encourage you to think about how your call can become concrete in active ministry.