Homily, Mass for Life 2011 – Verizon Center

Homily by Fr. Mark Ivany – Parochial Vicar, Church of the Little Flower, Bethesda

January 24, 2011

The human person is naturally pro-life. You can learn a lot by watching the Discovery Channel!

I was watching a show about seals. It was a very well done show that followed a group of scientists on the West Coast who were doing a study on a particular group of seals. During their work they discovered that one of the seals was badly injured, and when they examined her more closely, they realized that she was also pregnant, and not only was she pregnant, but she was very far along in her pregnancy, so far along that the scientists were almost certain that the baby seals would be able to survive outside their mother’s womb, but after further tests they all agreed that there was no way to save the life of the mother, and that if she were to die, her babies would die with her. So they did an emergency operation and saved the lives of all the baby seals.

None of the scientists questioned what the mother seal’s “choice” was, they didn’t ask if the unborn baby seals had a “right” to live. No, they just used their common sense and did the right thing. They protected life.

Human beings instinctively want to save life, but how then in our country could there be so many who are not pro-life?

Perhaps we should ask ourselves a different question: Have we forgotten what it means to be human?

You may be thinking how could that be? How could humans not know how to be human? That’s impossible!

It may be hard to imagine, but it’s not impossible.

Another true animal story that will help us understand how someone could lose the very understanding of their own identity, is the story about a goose, a goose named Bruce. And his name was not the funniest thing about Bruce. The funniest thing about Bruce the goose was that he really believed that he was a basset hound!

When he was very young, he was separated from his mother and ended up all alone on my friend’s farm that was near the pond. Without his mother around, he was taken in by my friend’s pet basset hound, Prunella, and was never reunited with his mother or any other geese. And so he spent all his time with Prunella, so much time that he began to act like her, he would do everything with Prunella, just like she would: he ate out of the dog bowl, he slept in the dog house and when a truck would come down the driveway and Prunella would get excited, Bruce would imitate his friend as best he could flapping his wings and quacking as loud as he could! Eventually Bruce came to believe that he, too, was a basset hound.

It’s funny to imagine that a goose would think he’s a dog, but it’s also kinda sad…

It’s sad because Bruce never knew what it meant to be a goose.

Bruce never experienced the life that God had created him for.

He never learned how to paddle around in the water, how to dive down in the pond and worst of all, he never learned how to fly, he never even knew that he was supposed to fly, that he had been created to fly! Imagine having the ability to fly, but never knowing that it’s possible!

My friends, this is exactly what God wants to save us from, from never knowing what it means to be what He created us to be, what it means to live the way that He created us to live.

In fact this is exactly what the name Jesus means – it means “God Saves.”

By God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ, God shows us how He designed us to be, and saves us from being fooled into thinking that we are something we’re not.

This is really a great gift! Because it seems like some people or groups are constantly telling us what they think it means to be human, telling us how to act, how we should treat our bodies and what will make us happy. The problem is, is that we were not created in the image and likeness of those people.

Now as Catholics we all know the One who created us, the One who knows us and who loves us. And to prove this, I’m asking you all to finish this sentence for me; ok, are you ready? WE WERE CREATED IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF ______.

That’s right, God. But I don’t think I heard everybody, so help me out this time, ready? WE WERE CREATED IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF __________.

Hold on, that was pretty good, but some of the bishops here aren’t as young as they used to be and I’m not sure they all heard you, but they want to hear you, so I need everyone in the Verizon Center who is pro-life to finish this sentence for me. WE WERE CREATED IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF ________.

Ok, that was perfect, but now I’m a little afraid to turn around … are the bishops laughing, or do they look mad?

Yes, we were all created in the image and likeness of God, but too many people don’t really understand what this means.

They don’t really grasp the possibilities that come with being created in the image and likeness of the creator of the world.

Most people will never realize that when the human person is used to its fullest potential, it has the ability to do the most amazing things, and experience the most wonderful things. This is why God sent His Son as a human – to show us how to reach our full potential.

Yet too many people today don’t believe that we are called to live like Jesus, they think that because Jesus is both Human and Divine, that they can’t do the things He did. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Just take for examples the miracles that Jesus did: Do you think we can do the same?

1) He raised Lazarus from the dead? Well in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter also raises a young girl from the dead.

2) How about the calming of the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee? Have you not heard the story of St. Scolastica, who prayed for a storm to come and prevent her brother St. Benedict from leaving her monastery until the next morning?

Lastly, what about the Last Supper, when Jesus turned bread and wine into His Body and Blood? That may have been the greatest miracle of all, but are we not participating in the same very miracle right now! Will God not become truly present for us on this very altar in just a few minutes?

My friends, not only is it possible for us to perform miracles, but the truth is, that God created us for that very purpose.

This is exactly what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel when He said:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.”

The human person can be a very powerful instrument for good.

But we also know that when used improperly, the human person can do some pretty terrible things.

This has happened many times throughout the history of our own country.

Not to long ago slavery was legal and women were not allowed to vote.

It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true.

And today the beating heart of a baby in his mother’s womb is not even granted the right to be born.

The biggest difference between other civil rights movements and the right to life movement is that the people whose rights are being taken away by Roe vs. Wade are not here to stand up for themselves. They can’t show the people in power that they are just as human as everyone else, they can’t march around Washington like the women who were denied the right to vote, they can’t give powerful speeches like Fredrick Douglass or Martin Luther King. The millions of unborn babies that have been affected by abortion aren’t here to stand up for themselves.

And this is why it’s so important that we are here in Washington in such great numbers. We will be the voice of those who where never allowed to speak, we will hold the signs that they where never able to make and in about two hours we will march for those who were never allowed to take their first step.

And yet as important as this is today on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, we must remember that our mission is not just to change one law in our country; our mission is to change the whole culture of our country.

To create a culture in our country that recognizes and protects human life from conception to natural death, a culture that sees the importance of purity and chastity before marriage and the gift of openness to life in marriage.

And the only way we can do something as awesome as this is by living the words that St. Timothy wrote in today’s second reading; by setting “an example… in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.”

You do this every time we live our lives the way Jesus intended humans to live, every time you say no to sex before marriage, and yes to purity, every time you say no to materialism and yes to helping the less fortunate, every time you help a friend to say no to abortion, and yes to life, and every time you help someone who has been involved in an abortion to get help, then you are setting an example that will lead to the end of the culture of death and the beginning to a culture of life, the culture that we were created to live in.

My dear friends, it is so clear that the human person is naturally pro-life, because the human person was created in the image and likeness of God. But when we lose sight of Christ, like Bruce lost his mother, we’ll never know how we’re supposed to live, we’ll never reach our full potential and like Bruce we’ll spend our days quacking at pick-up trucks when we should be flying.

They may tell us that it will take a miracle to change the culture of this country, but that shouldn’t bother us, because we can do miracles.


Chieko Noguchi
Office of Communications
[email protected]