Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Diocesan Respect Life Mass

January 24, 2021

St. Mark Catholic Church
Argyle, Texas

Isaiah 49: 1-6 (Spanish)
Psalm 139: 1b-3, 12-14a, 14c-15
Colossians 1: 12-20
Matthew 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14

En cierto sentido, el primer asalto al don de la vida humana en cada etapa del desarrollo es sacar a alguien de la luz de la pertenencia quitándole su nombre y arrojándolo así a la oscuridad del anonimato. Dejar a una persona en el anonimato es quitarle su identidad y la pertenencia y ser sacada fuera de la luz de la pertenencia como persona y ser arrojado a la distancia que impone la oscuridad de la posesión, como si se fuera un objeto que será desechado. El profeta proclama: “Escuchen, pueblos lejanos. Antes de nacer, el Señor me llamó, desde el vientre de mi madre me dio mi nombre”.

El Señor llama a cada persona por su nombre. El Señor nos llama a cada uno de nosotros, incluso en la oscuridad de cuando nos distanciamos de Él como individuos y como sociedad dentro de la cultura de la muerte. Él habla de cerca con nosotros en nuestra propia distancia y nos muestra Su camino de luz en nuestra oscuridad. Jesús llamó a cada uno de sus apóstoles por su nombre. Lo hizo después de pasar una noche en oración a solas con Dios en una montaña en medio de la oscuridad de la noche. El Señor llamó a cada uno de sus discípulos por su nombre para que lo siguieran y salieran de esa oscuridad y se convirtieran en Sus siervos de la Luz.

The prophet Isaiah speaks today in our first reading, “Listen, distant peoples. Before birth, the Lord called me, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” The prophet further adds, “For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as His servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to Him, and Israel gathered to Him.”

In a sense, the first assault on the gift of human life at every stage of development is to remove someone from the light of belonging by removing his or her name, thereby thrusting them into the darkness of anonymity. When a person is thrust into the darkness of anonymity by the dominant culture of our society, the person comes to be considered and treated as a problem that needs to be eradicated for the convenience of the powerful. The prophet further proclaims, “Listen, distant peoples. Before birth, the Lord called me, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.”

Christ makes this call and its significance even more clear in our Gospel for this Mass. The image of the child in the Gospel reveals that Jesus puts every child at the center of the Twelve, the Apostles of His Church, to underline the importance of utter dependence for every person — not only on God but upon the family and the greater community of the Church. The child in the ancient world was the primary symbol of radical dependence, vulnerability, and hope for the future of a family and for a nation. The family flourished through the arrival and presence of children. The family, beginning with the father and mother, had a duty to see to every child’s survival and flourishing.

That Jesus then unites His own identity to that of the child whom He has placed in the position of prominence says something profound about His mission and that of the Father who has sent Him. It reveals that the logic of the Kingdom is inverted from the logic of this fallen world — the powerful are not the most important. So it is with our mission as the baptized whom He is sending into the world. Thus, those who are baptized by name to follow Jesus as disciples, are called to the same dependent service, to place themselves last for the sake of the other, especially the most dependent and marginal in society.

Jesus’ mission is manifestly connected in a particular way to the identity and mission of the family founded through natural marriage between one man and one woman as husband and wife. In this life-giving relationship, they become fathers and mothers especially in the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

Every person receives their name, the name by which they are called into being by God, through the ministry of each person’s mother and father as a married couple. While God called us by name into being in the mystery of eternity, He entrusted to our fathers and mothers the responsibility of speaking our name to each of us and to do so especially when presenting us for Baptism. “What name do you give this child?”

As Pope Saint John Paul II preached prophetically at the liturgy celebrated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on October 7, 1979: “Human life is precious because it is the gift of a God whose love is infinite; and when God gives life, it is forever. Life is also precious because it is the expression and the fruit of love. This is why life should spring up within the setting of marriage, and why marriage and the parents’ love for one another should be marked by generosity in self-giving. The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish. The fear of making permanent commitments can change the mutual love of husband and wife into two loves of self — two loves existing side by side, until they end in separation.”

This is important for us to remember during these days when the very real possibility exist that the U.S. Supreme Court could curtail, if not overturn, Roe v. Wade and unrestricted access to abortion. We must remember that we still have so much work to do for the protection and dignity of life including that we first promote the integrity of natural marriage and the sacrament of Holy Matrimony between one man and one woman bound in a loving and respectful commitment to permanence, fidelity, and openness to conception of new human life.

Part and parcel to the first assault on human life of removing the name of each human person is the attack on the nature and integrity of natural marriage and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The protection of the child must begin with the protection of natural marriage. Without natural marriage, marriage is denigrated into an arrangement of mutual and temporary convenience between two individuals, irrespective of gender, that removes the human qualities of permanence, fidelity, and fertility from sacrificial love on the part of husband and wife.

The challenge for us today is that so many young men and women are afraid to make the sacrifice of a marital commitment because they have come to see and to fear that divorce is inevitable. So, they lack confidence, and they refuse to marry because they do not want to divorce. They refuse to commit to love and to sacrifice for each other, so they become afraid of having children or they choose to have children only out of their own desire for a legacy or to meet their own emotional needs. This in part leads to the current phenomenon of parents treating their children as peers instead of fulfilling their responsibility to be their children’s fathers and mothers.

The government cannot replace the essential role of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, any more than it can replace the essential role of the Church in the formation and education of human beings. As Pope Saint John Paul II courageously preached in that same homily from 1979: “Much remains to be done to support those whose lives are wounded and to restore hope to those who are afraid of life. Courage is needed to resist pressures and false slogans, to proclaim the supreme dignity of all life, and to demand that society itself give it its protection.”

A distinguished American, Thomas Jefferson, once stated: “The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the just and only legitimate object of good government” (March 31, 1809).

Only in the gift of Christ and loving service to Him, who identifies Himself with every child, the weakest and most vulnerable among us, can we experience the fullness of peace and the grace of eternal salvation. This grace is an indelible mark on our souls as baptized members of His Church, and no external image projected on the exterior of the Church can remove this reality no matter how sacrilegious and evil the projection might be. The grace is ours to accept or to reject and squander — but God will never remove His grace.

We celebrate the gift of life at the heart of the celebration of the Eucharist. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through His death and Resurrection, has given His life to become for us “the Bread of life” whom we will receive from this altar in a few moments. In this same Christ, we are grateful to find the awareness, the courage, and the perseverance that we need to recognize and to promote life within our marriages, our families, our nation, and throughout the world.

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