Homily of Archbishop Stefan Soroka
11:00 p.m., Sunday, January 22, 2012
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
+ Christ is Born!
Sixty years ago in a small Children's hospital, twin brothers were born to poor immigrant parents. They had just arrived one month earlier on a transport ship across stormy seas from Europe. One of the twins was born very sick, requiring extensive and expensive medical treatment if he was to have a chance to survive. The doctors advised the father to cease treatment, to be content and thankful that one other healthier child was born. The father, a new immigrant who could barely speak English, begged and cried to the doctors to offer the treatment and to give the child a chance to live. He promised to cover all of the costs regardless of how long it would take him to pay. The doctors felt that it would be a waste of money, but finally relented and offered the life-saving treatment which the other twin needed. That boy, my twin brother, lives, served as a police officer, and has raised a beautiful family. It took my father many years to pay that hospital bill, but he never once complained. My father's reluctance to accept the fatalistic and practical arguments of the doctors provided for life of his other son. My father lived out of hope and with an unyielding conviction as to the sacredness of life. It is God who gives life. It is God who decides when life enters eternal life.
Are we living out of a mentality of allowing present circumstances, presenting needs, perceived perceptions of what one can handle, and the desire to pursue freedom and happiness to dictate decisions effecting life itself? Have people of these past six decades and more especially, people of today's culture largely stopped thinking of children as gifts from God and first-fruits of the future? The dominant mentality today seems to be a preoccupation with the present. Critical life-giving decisions are being determined based on present needs, perceived limitations of the people involved, and the pursuit of one's desires and even pleasures. People today are living increasingly without hope. They are living without hope because they are not providing for the future. Our culture, compulsively and even morbidly, is preoccupied with the here-and-now. It is depriving itself of anything to look forward to.
This is born out today by the staggering debt loads of developed and supposedly well-off countries such as ours. The ability to respond to survival needs of future generations is being mortgaged away to meet current needs and pursuits. This is also reflected in the very low birth rates in this country today and in these past decades, and in so many of the developed nations. Children are now being aborted in the flesh because they have already been, in large measure, aborted from the mind. We deprive unborn infants of a future because they are inconveniences intruding on our chosen pursuits and needs in the present. People question why we should let these infants live, if they are but the by-product of sexual activity rather than the properly intended purpose of that activity? Our current cultural crisis is due to regarding sex in terms of present 'fulfillment' rather than in terms of future family and life.
Our nation has always afforded protection to the vulnerable in our midst because we, as a people, cherish each individual human life. Unborn children were protected by law because, as a society, we cherish children as a gift from God. We believe that each person is made in the very image and likeness of God Himself. We declared in our foundational national documents that "all men were endowed with inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". As Christians, we also believe that human life is precious because God had sent His very own Son to become one with humanity, and to offer Himself as a sacrifice for all peoples.
The Second Vatican Council emphasized this truth of revelation by stating "By His incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being". An assault on human life is really an assault on God himself! In the "Gospel of Life", Blessed John Paul II reminded us that "this saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God who 'so loved the world that He gave His only Son' (Jn 3:16), but also the incomparable value of every human person".
You will recall the Gospel story in which the apostles were preventing the children from bothering Jesus. But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me". When you and I live out of a mentality placing a greater value on the needs, our perceived limitations, or the pleasures and pursuits of today, we are enabling a 'culture of death' amidst us – a culture which enables the killing of innocent life through abortion, euthanasia, and other forms of suffocating life – and thereby keeping the children away from Jesus. When we are tempted and lured by our earthly desires, and when that desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity, it gives birth to death.
The Eastern Church Fathers frequently emphasize that everything we are as Church is based on the example of the mystical life of the Blessed Trinity. We believe in a God, Who is both One and at the same time a Community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.God is Love. Jesus taught his disciples to follow his own example: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12). You and I are called to be an icon of God's love, goodness, mercy, healing, and justice. You and I are called to be agents of the 'culture of life" in our love for one another.
Let us pray with love and without doubting. Let our faith, our words, our day-to-day actions loudly proclaim a 'culture of life' amidst those with whom we are called to journey with in life, within our faith communities, within our homes, schools and universities, and everywhere in our nation. It IS significant that you gather and march with thousands of others here in our nation's capital and throughout our nation today, proclaiming our faith and conviction in the incomparable value of every human person from conception of life to death. Thank you for uniting in the power of prayer. Thank you for your prayerful presence these days in our nation's capital. Thank for caring. Thank you for loudly proclaiming the truths of our faith to our nation and to its leaders.
Special gratitude is offered to the many bishops, priests, religious and consecrated men and women, and laity of all ages for gathering in this holy chapel this evening. Thank you to the choir leader and to the choir members for your magnificent uplifting of our prayer this evening. Thank you to those who have organized and facilitated this evening prayer service, especially the dedicated ministry of the staff of this National Shrine to the Immaculate Mother of God.
Our heartfelt gratitude to our main celebrant, the Most Rev. William Skurla, newly designated by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict as the Metropolitan-Elect for the Byzantine Catholic Church in the USA., for leading us in holy prayer in this evening's Compline Service Our heartfelt and joyous congratulations are offered to you, Bishop William. We pledge of our fraternal love and support as you meet the challenges of this special call and ministry. God bless and provide all which you will need to meet the challenges which will be placed before you.
May the Blessed Mother who is ever present offering her maternal love and guidance to all of us, her children, spread her omophor of protection on everyone present as you prepare to rest this night, and as you participate in your proclamation of the sanctity of life tomorrow in the annual march for Life.
God bless you richly in ways only He can, in the name of the + Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.