Homily, Mass for Life 2011 – DC Armory

Homily by Fr. Patrick Riffle – Parochial Vicar, St. Peter, Olney

January 24, 2011

Praised be Jesus Christ!

It is truly amazing to be here in the midst of you. Some would say that the Church is old news that she is out dated, but look around this Amory today and tell me that the Church is dying. No way! The Church is alive! To quote our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, “The Church is young!”

While some 10,000 of us are gathered here, we are joined by another 24,000 young people like yourselves at the Verizon Center. That is some 34,000 people gathered together to pray in defense of life and that is only at two Masses. Throughout this city and across this nation, we are joined by hundreds of thousands of Catholics who are praying today for a deeper respect for life in all its stages. I say it again; The Church is young, the Church is alive! Man, I love being Catholic!

As we gather here this morning, we commemorate that sad day when our nation’s highest court legalized the destruction of innocent life through abortion. However, you and I know that what we are dealing with here is something much greater than just the issue of abortion. It is a state of mind; a way of thinking that fails to recognize the beauty and dignity of the human person. It is a mentality that says that it is all about me. My wants, my needs, my life is all that matters and is important. Do we see the flaw in this way of thinking? If I am only seeking my good, and you are only seeking what is good for you, then all we are doing then is simply using each other. What we are dealing with is, as the soon to be beatified Pope John Paul II rightfully named it, the Culture of Death. This Culture of Death has manifested itself, yes, in the horrors of abortion and particular in late-term or partial birth abortions, but also in the growing acceptance of euthanasia and in the injustices that can be found in capital punishment. But let’s be real, we can see that this Culture of Death goes even deeper. That it is even more entrenched in our society. In some ways it seems as if it is in the very air we breathe.

The Culture of Death is a culture of lies. It tells us that we are at the center of things, that my wants and desires are what are primary. This Culture of Death, this mentality, does not take into consideration the wants and needs of the other. Do you see how this in many ways is the mentality behind abortion? But is goes farther. Look at how the Culture of Death can lead us to ignore the sufferings of the poor and the homeless, to simply think that someone else will take care of them. Or lead us to see the immigrant as some second-class person. Listen to what people say when they speak about our brothers and sisters who come here to this country to seek a better life. The Culture of Death turns others or ourselves into mere objects, without worth, without dignity. This is the mentality that lies behind violence, terrorism, and discrimination. It is what is behind drug and alcohol abuse, pornography and pre-marital sex and contraception. If we are going to rid our nation of the tragedy of abortion, if we are going to be truly pro-life, we are going to have to rid our society and ourselves of this Culture of Death.

All of this is said not because anyone wants to portray our nation, our society or even our world as evil or to give the impression that there is no hope. But we are here to proclaim to others that the exact opposite is true. To tell others with absolute certainty that this Culture of Death, does not and cannot over come us. Why? Because we are followers of Jesus Christ and in the power of His resurrection He is victorious over all sin and over all death. He is as we hear in our Gospel this morning, “the way, the truth, and the life.”

The saintly pope, John Paul II, knew this. That is why he proclaimed that we, as members of the Body of Christ, as members of the Church, must proclaim that Jesus Christ is the author of the Gospel of Life. The remedy that is needed to cure this plague in our nation is not some law passed by Congress, not some ruling from the Supreme Court, or even an executive order signed by our president, but rather it is a person. Jesus Christ!

The Gospel of Life is proclaimed first and foremost in the living out of our Catholic faith in daily life. If you as a Catholic want to be pro-life, you must be pro-Christ. That means that you must seek to live out your Catholic Faith in its entirety. There is no room for half-heartedness, a picking and choosing to believe in those parts of our faith that appeal to me, that is how the relativism, which is the Culture of Death, is able to grab hold.

Today, all of us gathered here must recommit ourselves to this Gospel of Life. In other words, we must recommit ourselves to the person of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, Phillip asks Jesus to “show us the Father.” What Phillip is asking is to know God. He wants to know the God that he knows is called to love and serve. If we are going to follow Christ, if we are going to proclaim Him, we have to know the Gospel, we have to know Christ. We have to know the one we are following. We have know our Catholic faith! Learn your faith. Get to know Christ, get to know his Church. Get in touch with the source of life himself. Pick up the scriptures, read a book on the faith, visit a credible website that explains the faith. Spend some time each and everyday in prayer. Get involved in your parishes. Talk to him, be like Phillip and ask Jesus to show you the Father.

Proclaiming the Gospel of Life also means that we must remove from within ourselves and around us that which leads to sin. All sin can and does is contribute to this Culture of Death. We have to work against any and all sin in our lives, particularly those sins that lessen our dignity or that of another. This means that we work to see Christ in each person that we meet, in our families, in our friends, in the poor and the homeless, the immigrant and the sick. It means that we guard the way we speak about one another; that we don’t tear one another down but seek to build each other up.

The best way that you as a young person can really be a living witness to the Gospel of Life is through living lives that are chaste and pure. It is one thing to say for a day, I respect and believe in the dignity of each and every person, and it is another to live it out in daily life each and everyday. You see when you live chastely, you are saying to those around you that you know the dignity that God has given them and that you know the dignity with which you were created, and nothing or no one can take that away. Keeping sex within the context of marriage, not viewing pornographic materials, keeping your Facebook page free from inappropriate materials all reaffirm your belief in that the dignity that belongs to each and every person. Men, you need to take the charge in this. So often the media and advocates for abortion would like to portray life issues as a woman’s issue, but it is an issue for both women and men alike. We are naturally the protectors of life. Never do anything that seeks to objectify or lessen the dignity of anyone, yourselves included, but most especially the dignity of a woman.

The bottom line is this. You are called to proclaim Christ. It is not simply the job of bishops, priests and deacons. It is not solely the job of consecrated religious or those who work for the Church – it is yours! We all need to take this energy, this excitement that fills this Armory today and take it back home. Don’t let this excitement die, keep it alive! Continue to get to know Christ, continue to practice your faith by going to Mass, make the sacrament of penance a regular part of your life. And above all, continue to seek Christ in each and every person you meet.

Lastly, ask Mary to help you. Our blessed mother is the model follower of Christ. She proclaimed Christ from the first moment of his conception in her womb. Ask her to help you to become a herald of her Son.

Let us not make one critical mistake in all of this. Let us not forget who is the reason we are gathered here, who it is that is the source of all life, who it is that we need to bring to the world. It is not you, it is not me, it is Jesus; and He gives Himself to us here and now at this altar. So that when we march today through the streets of Washington in defense of life, we bring with us not only signs and banners, but we bring life Himself.

Georgina Stark
Office of Communications
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