The following is the prepared text of Bishop Malooly’s Jan. 20 homily to youth from the diocese who will participate in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25. The bishop blessed youth delegations from parishes and schools after the 11:30 a.m. Mass at St. John the Beloved Church in Wilmington.
This year will be a very significant time in our church because we are being attacked on a number of issues very central to us. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and so our continual battle to encourage people in their minds and hearts to respect all life from conception to natural death is so important and necessary.
We also face attacks on marriage. Already in the Maryland part of our diocese a referendum to overturn the legislation that allows same sex what they call marriages is unsuccessful. From some of the nuanced comments by Gov. Jack Markell several days ago at his inauguration, I sense that we will be moving in that direction here in Delaware, too.
And finally, we continue to try to understand how we can maintain our religious freedoms in light of the health care directives put in place by President Obama and his administration. Life, marriage and religious freedoms are significant issues for us to confront in this coming year.
Today as we begin our pro-life week that will culminate in the Mass with our young people in Washington on Friday at the Verizon Center followed by the March For Life, today we focus on the life issues. But let me speak to our readings for this Sunday first.
Now it’s interesting that the first miracle that Jesus performs is at a wedding. We hear that account from John’s Gospel today, the wedding miracle at Cana. He was there with his mother and disciples to celebrate the excitement of the marriage of a man and a woman. This first miracle has even more significance to us as we see marriage being attacked. Several decades ago no one would have ever envisioned that we would call anything marriage except between one man and one woman.
What is also significant about this Gospel account is that we see God’s presence through Jesus at ordinary events. He was there to celebrate at the reception of this newly married couple. He came not to eliminate joy but to strengthen and reinforce and to celebrate as a reminder and hint at the heavenly life that would come.
As I move on in my comments from marriage to life issues this joy in my mind will become even more significant. Sometimes we tend to be too serious and somber toward religion and our beliefs. I think we are called more appropriately to bring the joy of our faith and God’s many gifts to others. It is a better way to encourage them to accept our beliefs.
In our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we hear a very familiar account how Paul sees the role of each one of us. Each one of us has different gifts, we are grounded in the same spirit, and we use those gifts informed by the spirit for the common good. Through our gifts we become a visible presence of Christ for others. Even though our gifts are important it is our holiness and closeness with Jesus that is always our best witness.
That leads me into my comments for this Respect Life Week.
As we are all aware these are more complex times than ever. We have been struggling to fight for the protection of all life from conception to natural death. Now we face additional hurdles with the HHS mandate in regard to our religious freedom and our rights to protect all life.
The child in the mother’s womb from the first moment of conception is clearly a person with a human nature, the full range of human potential and an immortal soul and that life is sacred. Abortion is a denial of the humanity of the unborn child. It is an action to simply deny that the child is a person. As a consequence it is a denial of God’s gift of life. It can never be simply a matter of freedom of choice or the imposition of our church law. Protecting life is God’s universal law.
What can we do? First we must pray for the precious unborn. We must pray for young women and families facing the menace of abortion. We must pray as well for those who have had abortions. So often they, too, are victims in their own right to a society that sanctions this crime and offers no clear alternatives. We must pray for conversion in our society, a change of heart. We must also consider ways of defending human life, challenging fellow citizens, family members and co-workers who do not understand the sanctity of life. This can be a gentle form of charity.
Learning how to present the church’s teaching on abortion convincingly can be another. Still more urgently, speaking with love and compassion to those who are considering abortion. Persuading them to consider alternatives can be a courageous form of charity.
Finally, giving our time and financial support to organizations and groups associated with pro-life work are also most commendable. Our Knights of Columbus supplying sonogram machines for our pregnancy centers is one of those great financial gifts to the pro-life effort.
We need to be careful. Sometimes we can come in aggressively and completely alienate those we are trying to convert. Last summer during the World Youth Day, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was speaking to a number of young people in Australia, who asked him how do we interact with those who do not agree with basic principles of the Catholic faith, and who are in fact, living a life adverse to the church’s teaching. The Cardinal’s answer was simply this, “with love.” He tells the young people, we can scream, we can yell, we can castigate, we alienate, we can nag and most of the time if we do that we lose. Or we can be gracious, patient, loving, understanding, persistent, welcoming. Most of the time when we do that, we also are going to lose but less than the first one.
One leader of the pro-life effort in the country at this time is Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston/Houston. Two years ago at the Mass in Washington prior to the March For Life, he gave us a very simple formula for approaching this issue. He said that the three qualities of a genuine pro-life witness are joy, charity and dependence on Christ. Our Holy Father spoke of this dependence on Christ in his homily in Mexico six months ago. “The desire for a heart that would be pure, sincere, humble, acceptable to God was very much felt by Israel as it became aware of the persistence in its midst of evil and sin as a power, practically implacable and impossible to overcome. There was nothing left but to trust in God’s mercy and in the hope that he would change from within, from the heart, an unbearable, dark and hopeless situation.”
We can only do this with the grace and help of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us continue our fight as we have done. Let us do it with the love and the care Jesus applied to all that he did during his public ministry.
Thank you for your witness this coming Friday. In the coming weeks and months we will continue to nationally mobilize as many witnesses and believers as possible. This is a critical time for life, marriage, and religious freedom.
May the Lord bless each of you for your goodness in this effort.