The Gospel today talks about the importance of keeping the Sabbath, but also in respecting the spirit of the Sabbath. Yesterday we marked an important event in our country – the inauguration of a president for his four-year term. Yet, today is another important day that the US bishops want us to recognize. Today is a day of penance & mourning in which we recognize with humility and sadness the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision by the United States Supreme Court that legalized abortion in our nation. Today, we mourn the existence of this law that so contradicts the Gospel of life that it is an essential and foundational belief of our Catholic faith.
In seminary, one of the textbooks that we used in our course on Peace and Justice was entitled Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret. Why should Catholic Social Teaching be such a secret if it is such an essential part of our faith, if it so fundamental to what it means to be Catholic?
The starting point of Catholic Social Teaching is the value of the human person, recognizing that we are all made in God’s image and that we are all redeemed by our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are all precious & unique as human beings. Our value is rooted in who we are as human beings, not by what we do. All of our Church’s social teaching begins with and builds upon the foundation of human dignity.
As part of this holistic view of human dignity, our Church teaches the value of human life as a seamless garment from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Our human dignity is threatened not only by legalized abortion and euthanasia, but also by such policies that allow cloning, embryonic stem cell research, genocide, torture, racism, the targeting of non-combatants in acts of war and terrorism, and the death penalty. As Catholics, we cannot pick and choose what we believe in regard to the dignity of human life. The Catholic Church teaches that which was echoed in the message of the prophets of the ancient Israel: that the measure of our society, the measure of any society, is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person, particularly the poor and the most vulnerable in society, including unborn human life.
We mourn today, we give penance today, but we also have hope in Jesus, we have hope in the future. We should not fear the world, we should not fear professing to the world what we truly believe in the Gospel of Life. Jesus was not afraid to answer the Pharisees’ criticism, to stand up to them and tell them what the kingdom of God is all about. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to empower us, to give us the courage to stand up for what we belief, even if it seems so at odds with what is popular and acceptable in our secular society. Yes, we mourn today, but we also have hope in the Gospel of Life that our faith in Jesus proclaims. May we truly live out the Gospel of Life in our lives.