Youth Rally and Mass for Life 2012 Homily from the D.C. Armory Event
Text of the homily from Fr. Greg Shaffer
January 23, 2012
How many of you are loving life? You are loving life! You’re here at the rally and Mass for life…with your friends and classmates… and getting ready for the march. This is such a great time. But, you are really loving life cuz…THIS ISN’T SCHOOL! You are here because you love life and hopefully you love your life. One of the most important things to know is that you are surrounded by people who love you…who love your life. The Church loves you!
So, do you love babies? You love babies in the womb? Out of the womb? Do you love big babies? Will you love the big babies who will protest us today? Jesus calls us to love all babies…big or small…even our enemies. If you love babies, you are in the right place. Not every building in Washington, DC loves babies, unfortunately.
How many of you came here from outside the Washington, DC area? So many of you have traveled long distances to be here…rode on buses, slept on floors, gone without showers. We smell you, I mean, we love you and thank you for your sacrifices! How many of you are from the Archdiocese of Washington? For those of you not from here, our sports teams in DC don’t give us much to cheer about, so we just cheer for…the Archdiocese/Catholic…yeah, Church! We do want to thank the Archdiocese of Washington for hosting us today. Get it up! They do an incredible job with the rally and Mass for life every year and we are eternally grateful.
My name is Father Greg Shaffer. I am a priest of Washington and the chaplain of the Newman Center at George Washington University here in DC. It is a tremendous privilege to be the homilist at this Mass. I want to start with an impression. It’s a man who is very popular…a man of God who puts his faith in Christ out there for all to see. That’s right, Pope Benedict! I was just Benedict-ing.
No, that was Tim Tebow, the quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Yeah, Tebow! He is an extraordinary athlete and even better person. There is so much good to say about him; he is a great example to you in so many ways. The one thing I want to say is that Tim Tebow is not afraid. He is not afraid to be himself…to be the man God calls him to be. He is not afraid to follow Christ…to be a virgin…and to be pro-life…and for the whole world to know it! So, none of you should be afraid to be Catholic…to be chaste…to be pro-life.
How many of you have received the sacrament of Confirmation? That is an awesome sacrament! In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit sealed the deal on your gifts from Baptism. One of those gifts is courage. This is a gift that each one of you needs to be Catholic…to be chaste…to be pro-life. It’s harder now more than ever to be a teenager and to be Catholic. Your friends might make fun of you for going to Mass or youth group or a Newman Center in college…or for waiting until you’re married to have sex…or for trying to avoid pornography and masturbation…or for coming to the March for Life. It will take some courage to post on Facebook later today that you were here. You will get comments like, “Oh, you’re one of those anti-abortion people?” Simply reply, “I’m pro life.”
This event -and, really, this whole day- is such a victory for life! This really is awesome. This place is a chamber of Heaven today. So, we are experiencing Heaven on Earth! And, a victory for life. How do we continue this in our lives? How do we win victory in life and for life? I would like to offer three suggestions:
The first is that if we want to win victory, we need to know the way to victory. Back to Tim Tebow – he and his teammates were given the way to victory before the season began. It came in the form of a playbook…a big, fat playbook with a ton of plays and complex terminology. They had coaches who helped them learn the playbook and implement the plays. They had to work together and play as a team in order for the playbook to work and to have a chance to win.
It’s the same with our faith. God has given us a playbook – the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What about the Bible, you ask? Well, the Catechism is based on Scripture and contains all of the main teachings of the Bible. It explains how to live the Bible. Now, you might be thinking, ‘the Catechism is huge! I don’t know it and wouldn’t know how to learn it’. Well, you also have coaches to help you – parents, teachers, youth ministers, priests, religious, bishops, and even the Pope! This pope is a great teacher and a HUGE advocate of youth…as was his predecessor, John Paul II.
So, your coaches will help you to see that the Catechism tells us the way to victory in life….the way to happiness. It is in living the virtues. How many of you know what the virtue of chastity is? See, you know the Catechism! Living chastity means living sexual purity. If you want success in relationships, then chastity is the way. Chastity is all about control.
It’s just like football. The most successful teams in football are all about control. A good defense controls the offense; girls, do you hear me? A good offense controls the football and the clock; guys, do you hear me? The offenses that are out of control, looking for a quick score or touchdown are not the most successful. It’s the ones that take their time, control the ball, and patiently go down the field that have the most success. It’s not the most exciting team to have, but it is the most successful…and fulfilling. Couples who do the same with relationships find the same results. Those who show control in living emotional and physical chastity and wait until they are married to have sex – wait until they cross the goal line to score a touchdown – they win victory. Those who don’t, well…one study (University of Chicago, 1992) found that men who have had sex before marriage are 63% more likely to get divorced than if they had not; women are 76% more likely to divorce if they have premarital sex. Chastity and all the virtues are the way to victory.
We need to know the truth in order to win victory. Football teams spend about half of their time preparing for their games by learning the truth about their opponents. We need to know our opponent and what his game plan is. Part of our opponent’s game plan is to attack life in the womb through abortion. He is going after our MVPs who are mothers. He wants to destroy the bond between mother and child which is the strongest bond on earth. He recognizes that motherhood is the most important work on earth. Let me repeat that to all of our young women here: motherhood is the most important work on earth. He has gone of offense to destroy not only life but marriage and family. He has some strong players in the game to do this: divorce, contraception, same-sex marriage, and pornography. And, now, he is attacking one of our best players: religious freedom. We need to know the truth about our opponent, the devil, and his culture of death.
We also need to know the truth about our team, the culture of life. A young woman named Kristen was pro-choice. She went to spend the night at the house of a long-time friend. On her way in, she noticed a pro-life bumper sticker on her car. Later that night, they were talking, and she asked, “What’s the deal with that bumper sticker? Aren’t you for a woman’s right to choose?” They then got into a discussion about abortion and her friend shredded every one of Kristen’s arguments, as Kristen has put it. Her friend knew her stuff and she told her the truth about life in the womb – that the baby has DNA at conception, a heartbeat at 18 days, brain waves at six weeks, and so forth. The baby in the womb is a person with rights, especially the right to life. Kristen said that her friend spoke with such wisdom and truth that she became pro-life that night! Now, she is a pro-life advocate. By the way, a short video called “180” is excellent in learning the truth about life in the womb and abortion – check it out on 180.com. Know the truth and speak the truth! As St. Paul writes, “Be a good minister of Christ…let no one have contempt for your youth…save both yourself and those who listen to you”. We need to know the truth to win victory….for ourselves, for others, and for life!
Finally, we need to know the life. If you were listening to the Gospel, and I hope you were, you know where I am going with this. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” We need to know Christ to win victory. Christ is the life! He is life itself. In the incredible first reading from Deuteronomy 30, God says when you can choose between death and life, choose life. We know that this really means to choose Christ…and His Gospel of Life. It’s not until we choose Christ that our life really begins. He is the life. He became life for us. He entered into death – the man was dead on the Cross – and rose from the dead. He became life for us!
It is in the resurrection of Christ that we win victory. The Resurrection is our Victory! He won victory over death…over sin…over abortion…over the culture of death. He is the winning team. The game has been won…forever. The question is, then, will we be on the winning team? Will we share in Christ’s victory?
At this Mass, we share in His victory. When we come to the Eucharist, Confession, or any of the sacraments, we share in the victory. Christ gives us His Grace that is a share in God’s victory…a share in God’s life. This life is soooo sweet! It is the sweetest life on earth. The life is so beautiful, so good, so holy, so pure, so exciting, and so joyful. It is Heaven on Earth.
If you know people living the life, you can see their joy. You can see a glow to them. There’s a secret to them and to anyone living the life. It is the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that we encounter “the living God”, as St Paul writes. The Eucharist is the center of the life. It is the center of the lives of the saints…it is how to become a saint! It is the center of the lives if the saints you know. They go to daily Mass (in addition to Sunday Mass) and Eucharistic Adoration. They are living the life and they are loving life. I see it with so many of the students at GW who are coming out to the Eucharist in droves. They are finding out what Jesus has said that whoever receives the Eucharist has life…and will bear much fruit…and will live forever.
If you and I center our lives on the Eucharist, we will win victory and find happiness. I promise you that. Also, I promise you that if you center your life on the Eucharist, you will find your vocation…you will find your calling. I like to say the Eucharist is “C.O.O.L.” – center of our lives. If we make the Eucharist “COOL”, we will find happiness in this life and in eternal life.
Last point, and this is one that I make to my students all the time. You are good and you are loved. I want you to truly believe those two things deeply in your heart. If people really believed in their hearts that they are good and they are loved, the world would be a different place (and most counselors would be out of business). You are good. God created you, and God don’t make junk! Everything that comes from God is good. God actually said that you are very good when He created you. You are loved. I truly hope that you know that you are loved here. We love your life. I hope you each love your life. God loves your life. He loves you. He loves you for who you are. Before He formed you in the womb, He knew you and loved you. There is no one else in the world like you. God has a unique love for you. It’s very important on this day of big crowds and lots of faces for each of us to not lose sight of our uniqueness…and that we are persons and children of God. I think it’s important that each one of us says our first name aloud right now: and then say you are good and you are loved. Can I get an “Amen”? Amen.
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