The Vocation to Witness to Life, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), January 20, 2002

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
Second Sunday of OT, Year A
January 20, 2002
Is 49:3-6; 1Cor1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34

1) Today, right at the beginning of the first reading, Isaiah says something that has tremendous importance for all of us. “Now the Lord has spoken, the Lord who formed me as his servant from the womb.” God formed him in the womb to be his servant. He didn’t form him on the day of his birth. Didn’t form him on the day he reached puberty. He formed him straight from the womb. The prophet Jeremiah, soon afterward, was called by God. God told him directly, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” God formed and consecrated him in the womb. He was appointed a prophet to the nations before he was even born. We know in the life of the Blessed Mother that she, from the first moment of her conception in the womb, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, so that she could be a pure and sinless mother of the Son of God. Finally, in today’s Gospel we encounter St. John the Baptist, whom we know was himself sanctified and consecrated straight from the womb when Mary brought Jesus to him and he leapt for joy.

2) Straight from the womb. This points to a crucial truth that I want to spend our time on today. God forms us in the womb and has plans for us — has a vocation for us — straight from the time we are conceived. God creates us and gives us a mission from the very beginning of our lives. Our lives start not on the day we’re born, but on the day we’re brought into exist. That mission he gives us, every single one of us — and that includes you — is to become a saint, to become holy, to become more and more like Jesus, to know, love, and serve God in this life and be happy with him in the next. That vocation contains elements similar to those found in the stories I’ve already mentioned. Like Isaiah, God has formed us from the womb to be his servant. Like Jeremiah, he has consecrated us to be his prophet to the nations. In baptism, we receive from Christ a prophetic mission, to preach and proclaim him to those we encounter. Like Mary, we’re called to be sinless — for us, through the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation, allowing the Lamb of God to take away our sins — and to say “fiat” (yes!) to God in all things. Like St. John the Baptist, we’re called to He called us to point out the lamb of God, to be his witness, to prepare straight the paths for others to meet him. Straight from the womb.

3) This Tuesday, January 22, is the 29th anniversary of the worst decision in the history of the United States Supreme Court. It’s the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in America for all nine months of pregancy, for any reason. Some history books point to the Dred Scot decision from 1857 as the worst decision of all time, in which the Supreme Court said that slavery was legal. But at least the slaves were allowed to live. At least they were conceded 3/5 of human life. Roe v. Wade legalizes the killing of innocents, not just enslaving them. They kill children in the womb. In America alone, 1.4 million innocent children — all of them formed by God from the beginning — are killed every year. That’s 4000 a day; 160 an hour; 2.7 a minute; one child every 23 seconds. In the time it takes me to give this homily, about 50 children will be killed in the womb in America alone. 50. In the course of this Mass, about 160. Those children, whatever the circumstances of their coming into existence, are loved by God. They’ve been given a soul by him. They have a mission. Yet that mission is destroyed.

4) Why is this issue so important for all Catholics, for all Americans, for all human beings? Why must this issue become so personal? First, because all of us are former embryos. We once were at the stage in which they are killed. Some people may try to say it’s not yet human life, that the embryo is not yet a human person, but no one gets to where you are right now without being one of them. We’re no more human now than we were then. We’re no more of a person now than we were then. We’re just older. The second reason why this is so important and personal is that God has given each of us a mission to protect human life. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” No one is any smaller than these innocent children in harms way. God is calling us to live out the consecration he gave us in the womb of our mothers, in the womb of the Church which is the baptismal font to serve him like Isaiah, to be a prophet to the nations like Jeremiah, to take Christ to pregnant mothers in difficult circumstances like the Blessed Mother so that Christ can sanctify them as he sanctified John the Baptist. We are killing off mankind’s greatest resource. Once someone asked Mother Teresa if she thought God would allow mankind to find a cure for AIDS. Mother Teresa responded, “Perhaps God already had given that person that vocation, but that person was killed in the womb through abortion.”

5) That life is so precious to God. We’ve got a mission to defend and protect all human life from conception to natural death. Every single one of us is called to carry out this vocation. We’re not Catholic Christians if we don’t uphold the dignity of human life. Why? Why can you not be faithfully Catholic and pro-choice, or Protestant, Muslim, or Jewish, and pro-choice for that matter? Because that life in the womb is a gift from God, just as much as our life is a gift from God. Destroying it is destroying God’s gifts. To say that we or others might have a right to destroy God’s gift is simply not worthy of someone who believes in God.

6) This mission to defend life is something we all have to take seriously. Not all of us can do everything that needs to be done, but none of us is morally able to sit on the sidelines. We need to pray. We need to help those who are in difficult pregnancies. We must never create a situation in which a young woman might rather abort the child rather than face our judgmental reaction to how the child was conceived. We must help those who are suffering at the end of life, by visiting them, helping them bear their sufferings, take away their loneliness. We must prevent children from being conceived in vitro, or cloned. This has been in the news lately. Bishop O’Malley just wrote an excellent pastoral letter on it, and I’ll spend a couple of minutes with you on it now.