Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life
January 22, 2016
1 Sam 24:3-21, Ps 57, Mk 3:13-19
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- During this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the theme of mercy is meant to influence everything the Church does and impact how Catholics go about their ordinary duties. Today as the Church marks with prayer the 43rd anniversary of the horrible Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that legalized abortion in our country, we ought to look at the whole subject of abortion through these lenses.
- We’re helped how to do that in today’s first reading. Saul was for the second time trying to kill David and David was presented with any chance to take Saul’s life before Saul would take his. But he refused to lay a hand on the “Lord’s anointed.” So great was his reverence for God that he would never seriously countenance doing anything against someone in an intimate relationship with God, regardless of that person’s sins against God or against him.
- During this Year of Mercy, we’re called to look with mercy on three different categories of people involved in abortions always keeping in mind that we’re looking at those made in the image and likeness of God, those whom God loves, those in many cases who have also been anointed by God.
- The first group is the unborn, those whose lives are being threatened by abortion and those whose lives have already been taken here on earth. To look with mercy upon them is first to do everything we can to save and protect them, to care for them, to help them come to birth, rebirth, life and eternal life. From the first moment of their existence they live in a relationship with the God who created them and formed them in the womb. We shouldn’t lay a hand on them to harm them. For those who have already been massacred, we entrust them, as St. John Paul II called us to do 20 years ago in Evangelium Vitae, to God’s mercy.
- The second group are the women who have had abortions or who are tempted to have them. Likewise we need to look on them with mercy, as those very much loved by God, and seek to help them rather than harm them by making them feel as if they cannot approach God’s mercy because we look at them and see scarlet letters rather than God’s image. It was amazing a few months back when the media reported that Pope Francis had given all priests the ability in this Year of Mercy to absolve the censure due to abortion so that they could subsequently absolve the sin (a faculty reserved to local bishops in the Code of Canon Law that bishops can delegate to priests). Priests in US dioceses had it seems almost universally been given the faculty by their bishops to do so but regardless, priests here in New York and elsewhere reported that various women who had had abortions came to them for confession because they had never known previously that they could be forgiven. We have got to get the message out that forgiveness of the sin of abortion is possible and that our hope for post-abortive women is that they receive the cleansing and healing they need in this Sacrament. Likewise we’re called to look with mercy on pregnant women in difficult circumstances, however they got pregnant, and seek to care for mother and child both.
- The third group are all those involved in promoting abortion, from those who work in the abortion industry, to politicians and judges who use their offices to allow certain human beings to take the life of those who are smaller, younger and more vulnerable, to boyfriends, husbands, parents, siblings, members of the media and others who encourage or facilitate women to have abortions. The sins they commit are grave but God’s mercy is greater. How edified we are whenever we witness the conversions of those who used to work in the abortion industry. During this Year of Mercy, it’s a time for us to work on getting even more of them.
- To grow in this capacity to look with mercy, we need to draw close to Christ. In today’s Gospel, he summons the twelve in order to “be with him” and so that he might “send them out.” The Lord calls us to come to spend time with him, to unite us to himself, so that, transformed by him, we might be sent forth to continue his mission of mercy. The Lord called the 12 to a three year seminary experience with him in which he trained them in mercy. And when we look at aspects of that training, we can learn a lot about how to build a culture of mercy so as to advance the culture of life.
- As I’ve mentioned on various occasions so far during this Jubilee Year, the evangelists mention five things Jesus did when they say his “heart was moved with pity” for the crowds. Each of the five is highly relevant to forming a culture of mercy in advance of the culture of life.
- The first is to teach. Likewise we need to pass on the truth with charity. The truth about the humanity of the child. The truth about the real good of women. The truth about what is really happening. The abortion industry is full of lies and euphemisms: “choice” “women’s rights” “women’s health” “blob of tissue” “better for the fetus” etc. This culture of the lie, coming from the father of lies, needs to be opposed by passing on with love what God has revealed and what human reason can see.
- The second is to heal. How important it is for women who have had abortions to experience hope and healing! God bless the Sisters of Life for doing so much of this important work. The healing isn’t quick or easy, but it can and does happen, with patient accompaniment, prayer, and the grace of the sacraments.
- The third is to feed. There are often so many material needs that can conduce a vulnerable woman toward abortion. With mercy we need to try to help meet these needs.
- The fourth is to forgive. This, first, is to help bring them to experience the forgiveness of Christ in the way Christ himself established. Their consciences, once they begin to function appropriately, lead them to recognize the gravity of what they’ve done, but often they are like Lady MacBeth, trying to wash the stain away, not realizing that there’s no detergent in the world powerful enough; only God can do that, and he does in the Sacrament of his Mercy. And in this Year of Mercy God would like us to be like the friends of the paralyzed man bringing others, who might be emotionally crippled, to God working through his priests so that they might receive that forgiveness. It’s also necessary for all of us to be merciful and forgive those who have made themselves the enemies of the pro-life movement and done harm at various levels to us and other pro-lifers.
- The fifth and final relates to today’s Gospel. In St. Matthew’s version of the scene, Jesus, looking with compassion on the mangled and abandoned shepherd-less sheep, asks everyone to pray for laborers to take in the harvest that is already ripe. And after they have prayed, Jesus immediately calls 12, the 12 we encounter in today’s Gospel from St. Mark. Out of mercy, Jesus gets us to pray for more laborers and then calls us to continue his mission by becoming those laborers. We’re all here because of 2,000 years of prayers to the Harvest Master, and we’re allied diligently to go to the world to seek to perpetuate Jesus’ work. We also need to be praying and calling others to join us in the fields. How beautiful and hopeful it is to see how young the March for Life is, because we’ve been praying for these young people to join us in the fight and we’re happy that they’re responding, in some way, to that call.
- “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!,” we prayed in the Psalm today. We asked God to “send his mercy and his faithfulness” and he does that as he sends his Son, the true Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ. He is the one who has called us here to be with him, not just on the outside but on the inside, so that he might send us out, united with him, to extend his mercy in teaching, healing, feeding, forgiving, praying and calling. We ask him to rain down his mercy on us and on our nation today and to give us the gift of conversion.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 1 Sm 24:3-21
and went in search of David and his men
in the direction of the wild goat crags.
When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he found a cave,
which he entered to relieve himself.
David and his men were occupying the inmost recesses of the cave.David’s servants said to him,
“This is the day of which the LORD said to you,
‘I will deliver your enemy into your grasp;
do with him as you see fit.’”
So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s mantle.
Afterward, however, David regretted that he had cut off
an end of Saul’s mantle.
He said to his men,
“The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master,
the LORD’s anointed, as to lay a hand on him,
for he is the LORD’s anointed.”
With these words David restrained his men
and would not permit them to attack Saul.
Saul then left the cave and went on his way.
David also stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul,
“My lord the king!”
When Saul looked back, David bowed to the ground in homage and asked Saul:
“Why do you listen to those who say,
‘David is trying to harm you’?
You see for yourself today that the LORD just now delivered you
into my grasp in the cave.
I had some thought of killing you, but I took pity on you instead.
I decided, ‘I will not raise a hand against my lord,
for he is the LORD’s anointed and a father to me.’
Look here at this end of your mantle which I hold.
Since I cut off an end of your mantle and did not kill you,
see and be convinced that I plan no harm and no rebellion.
I have done you no wrong,
though you are hunting me down to take my life.
The LORD will judge between me and you,
and the LORD will exact justice from you in my case.
I shall not touch you.
The old proverb says, ‘From the wicked comes forth wickedness.’
So I will take no action against you.
Against whom are you on campaign, O king of Israel?
Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog, or a single flea!
The LORD will be the judge; he will decide between me and you.
May he see this, and take my part,
and grant me justice beyond your reach!”
When David finished saying these things to Saul, Saul answered,
“Is that your voice, my son David?”
And Saul wept aloud.
Saul then said to David: “You are in the right rather than I;
you have treated me generously, while I have done you harm.
Great is the generosity you showed me today,
when the LORD delivered me into your grasp
and you did not kill me.
For if a man meets his enemy, does he send him away unharmed?
May the LORD reward you generously for what you have done this day.
And now, I know that you shall surely be king
and that sovereignty over Israel shall come into your possession.”
Responsorial Psalm PS 57:2, 3-4, 6 and 11
Have mercy on me, O God; have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
In the shadow of your wings I take refuge,
till harm pass by.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
I call to God the Most High,
to God, my benefactor.
May he send from heaven and save me;
may he make those a reproach who trample upon me;
may God send his mercy and his faithfulness.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
above all the earth be your glory!
For your mercy towers to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the skies.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
Alleluia 2 Cor 5:19
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mk 3:13-19
and they came to him.
He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles,
that they might be with him
and he might send them forth to preach
and to have authority to drive out demons:
He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges,
that is, sons of thunder;
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.