TUESDAY HOMILY: Holding Fast to the Anchor of Life
On this day of prayer and penance for life, Catholics across the country mourn with God the death of so many of his children through abortion and recommit ourselves in hope to bringing about a culture of life.
It's a day on which, rightly, the members of the Church, like the ancient inhabitants of Nineveh, make reparation through prayer and penance for life. As the US Bishops decreed several years back, "In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 . shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life."
When we speak of reparation today, many do not know really what we're talking about. It's prayer, fasting and actions of penance meant to try to repair the damage done by our sins, the harm done to our relationship with God, to others and to ourselves. It's a day in which we turn to God and pour out our hearts saying "Sorry!" and "help us!"
Last month, we were all sickened by the terrible bloodbath in Newtown, where 27 people, including 20 beautiful and innocent firsts graders, were each shot multiple times by a deeply disturbed boy with a high-caliber weapon, who then turned the rifle on himself. We all mourned with the parents, the brothers and sisters, and the members of the community. But I began my homily the Sunday after the massacre by talking about a type of reparation and consolation that is often overlooked in such tragedies.
"The first thing we need to focus on, that's important for us all to grasp," I said, "is that the one who is mourning the most today is God the Father. There are many parents in Newtown who likely haven't been able to sleep for the last two nights because of the nightmare they've had to endure after their son or daughter was blown away in school by a madman. It's unimaginable their pain. But there's one parent who is mourning the death of 27 of his children by a 28th who then committed suicide. God has been mourning such tragedies ever since Cain slew his brother Abel."
If it's unimaginable to have to mourn the slaughter of one beautiful son or daughter, imagine mourning 28. And so I urged my parishioners to begin our prayer by looking at things from God the Father's perspective and to do reparation for all the things in our culture that played some part in the brutality that occurred on December 14th.
I don't like to make comparisons between atrocities. The Holocaust, the genocides in the Ukraine, Turkey, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and elsewhere, the mass murders in Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech and other places are all unique instances of terrible evil. To compare them only serves to relativize, diminish and deaden the moral outrage we should have toward each atrocity.
But I think it is important for us to recognize that even though many in our culture are gradually and sadly becoming habituated to these mass executions - as long as they happen somewhere else, to some other family - in every case, it's God the Father who needs once again to mourn the senseless slaughter of Abels by modern Cains with more destructive weapons.
And if we were to look at what happens through abortion in our country, we can begin to perceive what type of prayer and reparation we're called to engage in today.
If more than any parent God mourned most of all on December 14 at the death of 28 children, what must be his reaction to what happens each day by abortion in our country? There are now 1.2 million abortions annually, which translates to 3,288 abortions a day or another Sandy Hook elementary massacre every 8.76 seconds in the United States alone.
For God, every day in our country is 117 Newtowns carried out not by disturbed 20 year olds but by trained medical personnel with the sanction of our courts and the vast majority of our culture.
How can we possibly say to God, "Sorry," "Have mercy," and "Help us" enough?
That's why we come together to pray in our Churches at Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, the Rosary, the Way of the Cross, the Divine Mercy Chapel and so many other means. That's why today we should fast as if thousands of lives depended on it. That's why we're called to do penance, for our own contributions to a culture that permits it, as well as for those who drive a culture celebrating abortion as a civil right. That's why hundreds of thousands will descend on Washington, DC and San Francisco this Friday to March for Life.
Today is a day on which with prayer, fasting and penance, we mourn with God and before God.
It's a day on which we ...
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