Rev. Leo M. Goodman III
"Surely they will respect my Son." He loved them, gave them everything they had, everything that they would ever need. He would never abandon them for they were his cherished people. He sent his servants, his messengers, his prophets to them. In response, they beat, stoned, and killed them. But He loved them, and would not give up on them. So He sent other servants, more servants than before, but they treated them in the same way. So "he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’" "But when they saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, tortured him, threw him out of Jerusalem and crucified him. What were they thinking!
"They will respect my son." On this, Respect Life Sunday, I believe that we have to face the reality that sin blinds us to the respect that is due to the Author of Life, to the King of Glory, to the Gospel of Life. What were they thinking in today’s Gospel passage? One thing is certain, in their selfishness, in their sinfulness, they made a tragic mistake.
Prophets have been sent into our own times. And while the world has not always beaten and killed these prophets they have turned a deaf ear to them and in effect killed the message that saves. An example, Pope Paul VI’s prophetic message in Humanae Vitae on the serious consequences of the use of artificial birth control. This Holy Father foresaw that a wide and easy road would thus be opened to conjugal infidelity and to general lowering of morality. How vulnerable our children will be in the face of the moral law. How there could be a lose of respect for one’s spouse, how such a use could lead to seeing the other as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as a respected and beloved companion. He recognized that it would be a dangerous weapon when placed in the hands of those public authorities who have no concern for the requirements of morality. Prophetic! Yes, but so many closed their ears. Prophetic, yes, for it has come about. A contraceptive mentality has led to an abortive mentality. The sacredness of the human person and the beauty of conjugal love has been attacked beginning within the context of the married couple and reaching the horror of the desecration and destruction of life in the unborn, partially born, or even in the already born.
Life is sacred, all life. Life is a gift from God. Thou shall not kill, says the Lord. We have the moral obligation to protect this life given from God. You may be thinking, isn’t it true that we have the moral right to defend our life in self-defense with proportionate force? Yes this is true; you can make this decision. But this moral principle can no longer justify the use of Capital Punishment in a society where there are bloodless means to defend human lives that better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
We live in a culture of death which springs forth from a loss of respect not only of the sacredness of life, but of the sacred, a loss of respect for the Son. As a result, there is so much suffering in our community. So many are both victims and victimizers in this culture of death that surrounds us. But there is hope, there is mercy, there is forgiveness! "I am the way, the truth, and the life," says the Lord. In a world where so many are willing to sacrifice another out of fear, vengeance, or even convenience, the Savior says, "this is my body given up for you! While we have entered into the political debate, we must also be aware of the great need for healing that so many have who have fallen.
One Warden of a prison recently declared publicly on television, that he could no longer live with the dichotomy between his involvement in Capital Punishment and his faith. "What did my children think of me, my beloved?" Wounded people in need of healing. One woman said, "I have had so much pain: the shame and guilt and the fear that God hates me." And another, "How can God ever forgive me? I have destroyed a creation made by him." The ways of this culture of death leads countless individuals into spiritual and emotional death, but happily, Jesus still raises the dead to life.
While we must courageously proclaim the Gospel of Life, we must also put on the compassion of Christ recognizing that there but by the grace of God go I. Who am I to cast the first stone? While we must hate the sin and it’s destructive force and while we must hate the lies and deceptions of the Culture of death that seduces so many, we must love the sinner as does Christ, and commit ourselves to bring forth a Culture of Life.
In the Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II addresses these words to those who have had abortions. "The church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in may cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly.
If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord.
With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life."
Today with hope and full confidence in God’s mercy, let us renew our commitment to turn away from all that emanates from this culture of death. As St. Paul says to us. "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you." Believe the truth! Believe in the Good News, the Gospel of Life!