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Let's Have an Unprecedented Sanctity of Life Sunday
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In 1984, President Ronald Reagan, one of our great pro-life presidents, issued a proclamation designating the third Sunday of January as Sanctity of Life Sunday. It was a way to memorialize all the unborn children killed since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized the abomination of abortion.
Photo credit: Aaron Burden
Of course, every Sunday, indeed every day, the Church is proclaiming the sanctity of life as she announces the Gospel of the Incarnation, death, and Resurrection of Christ, who brings our humanity to the heights of heaven.
But at this time of year we have particular reason to focus attention on the need to end abortion.
The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who led the efforts to legalize abortion but then had a conversion of mind and heart, famously said that had the nation's clergy been "united, purposeful and strong," the abortion lobby would never have succeeded. We need to heed these words as we approach the Jan. 21 observance of this very special Sunday.
The Church must lead the effort to end abortion. Not only from a strategic view is the Church essential to ending abortion, but from a supernatural point of view as well.
Christ's mission is to give us life. As He said in John 10:10, "I have come that they might have life."
In His first sermon, in Luke 4:18-19, He quotes the Prophet Isaiah and says God sent him to "... let the oppressed go free." That is at the heart of the mission of the Church. When we look at the ministry of Jesus, we see how he always went out to those on the outskirts of society, the marginalized and the ostracized. He always had a preference for the poor.
How does that translate today?
A preferential option for the poor doesn't just mean reaching out and caring for those who are on bread lines or those who rely on soup kitchens for nourishment, though certainly these people are included. The poorest, and the most marginalized, are the unborn. They are among those to whom Jesus would pay particular attention.
To stand with Christ is stand with life, to against whatever destroys life. The undisputed fact is that nothing destroys more life than abortion.
Sanctity of Life Sunday is really Gospel of Life Sunday. Speaking up for pro-life is not adding something to the faith we profess; instead, it is going to the very core of the faith. Pastors reluctant to stand up against abortion would do well to see it more as a pastoral issue than a political one. Advocating for the lives of the unborn is another way of standing with Christ.
The Gospel of Life is also the Gospel of mercy. Tens of millions of women in the U.S. have undergone the agony of abortion. Many can be found in a pew on Sunday morning, perhaps hoping their pastors will say something to relieve them of the burden of guilt they carry.
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The very presence of these women -- as well as men who have lost children to abortion -- is often cited as the reason so many clergy members remain silent on the subject of abortion: They don't want to increase a parishioner's pain.
The women and men in the pews deserve more. Silence does not interpret itself. A woman who has had an abortion doesn't know if a pastor's silence is because he doesn't know the pain abortion causes, or doesn't care, or because there is no hope.
But he does know, he does care, and there is hope. That is why he needs to speak.
As we know from our worldwide ministry of healing those who have had abortions, it is absolutely essential that they stop denying the reality of what abortion has done to their children and how it has impacted them. Silence from the pulpit will not help people break out of denial; they need to hear an honest and compassionate word about the reality of what they have done.
Those who have been reluctant to speak out abortion, or to speak often enough about it, have a perfect opportunity to begin on Sanctity of Life Sunday.
The ministry of Priests for Life is worldwide and interdenominational, and for over thirty years, we have been helping clergy pray, preach, counsel, and mobilize their people to fight abortion. A key website to find the resources we have developed through this vast experience is www.ProLife.Church. May this year's Sanctity of Life Sunday begin a year of unprecedented activism by the Church for our unborn brothers and sisters.