Youth Rally and Mass for Life 2013 – Audio and Text of Homily from the Verizon Center Mass
Homily given by Rev. Carter Griffin
January 25, 2013
“Where the Battle Lies” (audio)
There is an ancient call and response in the Church; maybe you’ve heard it before. One person says, “Praised be Jesus Christ!” and the other responds, “Now and forever!” So let’s give it a try. “Praised be Jesus Christ!” – “Now and forever!” May it always be so. May he always be praised in our land, in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts.
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, brother priests, men and women in consecrated life, seminarians, dear people of God. This is a great day. A great day. It is true that what brings us together today is not a happy event – the 40th anniversary of that fateful decision by the Supreme Court that robbed the unborn of their right to life in all fifty states.
We here all know that abortion is wrong. Every abortion is a tragedy. Abortion is never, ever the answer. People of all faiths and none are working day in and day out to restore the protection in law for every human life. They and we will continue to work, and to strive, and to persevere, until the job is done!
But this is not a Mass against abortion. Today, right now, we are about something even deeper, something fundamentally positive. Look at your programs – this is a Mass for Life. It is a chance to reflect on the gift of life, the gift that we all share. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, young or old, beautiful or plain – you are precious in the eyes of God. Every human life is wanted, every human life is loved by God. Our dignity, our worth, does not depend on being healthy, on being smart, on being convenient, on being productive. And when every human being is cherished, from conception to natural death, including the weakest, the unborn, the disabled, the elderly; when children are welcomed with generosity as a gift from God; when we realize that every human life is worth protecting, then it will surely once again be enshrined in the laws of our land.
Forty years is a long time to restore this basic civil right to life. You know, forty years ago today I was a newborn infant; I was among the last. I had the right to be born. How many here are younger than forty years old? You did not have that right. So we can’t help but wonder why righting so great a wrong is taking such a long time. We heard in that first reading that the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years on their way to the Promised Land. I am sure they asked the same question – Lord, why is this taking so long? Why is this so hard? I’m sure, like many of us perhaps, they were tempted with discouragement. But the Scriptures tell us why the Lord allowed them to wander so long in the desert: “the LORD, your God,” it says, “has directed all your journeying in the wilderness so as to test you by affliction, to know what was in your heart.”
God allowed them to be tested to know what was in their heart, to draw out love, to open them to the promises of the Holy Land. We too are being tested on our own forty-year journey, and like the Israelites we have a choice – to give in to discouragement, despair, frustration – or to draw closer to the Lord, to grow in love, to open ourselves to his promise of salvation. That is where the battle lies today: the greatest civil rights battle of all time is taking place not only out there, but first in here. Before we can change laws we have to change hearts, starting with our own. Before pro-life is a political agenda it must become a personal agenda. Before we can take on the culture of death we have to become part of the culture of life, of eternal life!
We are in a sports arena. An arena is a place where battles are fought. And there is a battle being fought today. I don’t mean a battle with physical weapons or even political weapons. I mean a battle with spiritual weapons, a battle for peace, for life, for joy, for holiness. Listen to St. Paul’s epistle we just heard: “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God,” he tells us, “that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.”
“Our struggle is not with flesh and blood.” We in the pro-life movement don’t have human enemies, even those who do not share our views. We do not have human enemies: we have only potential friends and allies. Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. If Saul, in all his hatred and violence could by the grace of God become the great and holy apostle Paul, who are we to say that anybody is beyond the reach of conversion?
But even if we don’t have human enemies, we do have enemies. St. Paul says that our enemies are “the principalities, the powers, the world rulers of this present darkness.” Our enemies – the enemies of life – wield powerful weapons. Their weapons are doubt, fear, confusion, sadness. But the Lord has not left us unarmed. We too have weapons! Ours are faith, courage, mercy, holy purity, fidelity, and joy.
If you and I together look deep in our hearts, we will see where the battle lies. It is a battle for holiness. And every one of us gets up each day and wades into this battle, as St. Paul says, with “the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.” This is where you and I do battle for the cause of life. This is how you and I defend those unable to defend themselves. This is how you and I will change the hearts of our people and ultimately the laws of our land.
So what does this battle look like?
In the face of a culture that identifies power and money as the measure of our dignity, we respond that dignity is given to us – every one of us – by God himself, by His loving care, proven by the Blood His Son. In the face of a culture that trades in fear and uncertainty, we respond with the courage to hope that God is the Lord of History, that he knows what He is about, that in the end all will be well. In the face of a culture saturated in violence and intolerance, we reach out in compassion and mercy as instruments of God’s healing love, beginning, by the way, with those who – usually paralyzed by fear – have had or are considering abortions. In the face of a culture that says you can’t find happiness without indulging every sexual urge, we respond with the beauty and peace of holy purity in our thoughts, our words, and our actions. In the face of a culture that doubts truth itself, we “hold our ground” in proclaiming the Gospel, the full Gospel – even when it is hard to hear, even when some try to rob us of our freedom to do so.
If we want to change hearts, if we want to change our culture and our world, this is where the battle lies. The most important thing we can do to promote a culture of life – even more important than voting, marching, and speaking out (as important as those are) – is to grow in holiness. We are living in the midst of a new moment – Pope Benedict calls it the New Evangelization – a new chance to propose the gift of Jesus Christ to a world so deeply wounded by the weapons of our enemies.
The rich young man in today’s Gospel went away sad because he was afraid to give it all to Jesus, to follow him with everything he had. So many today are filled with doubts and fears and, like him, they too go away sad. Who here will go find that young man and bring him back to Jesus? Who here is ready to choose God? Who here is bold enough to give it all to the Lord, everything you have, your possessions, your reputation, your time, your very lives?
Blessed John Henry Newman once said that he would not give much for love that is not sometimes extravagant. That’s what the Lord is asking of you and me – an extravagant love. Don’t be a spectator in these battles of our day. Get in the arena and make a difference; do something great with your life. Set your sets on nothing lower than true holiness. It is a time of crisis, that’s true, but crises simply are times for heroes, for the greatest lovers of all: they are times for saints.
I won’t lie to you: our enemies are strong. The principalities and powers are ranged against us. Their weapons are frightening and they are relentless. But God has not been idle. Just look around you – see what He is doing in our midst! A new generation is on the rise. You are not alone! A generation open to life, open to love, open to faith. You are a force to be reckoned with! The battle for the soul of our culture is up to you. This is your moment! I promise you, if you are faithful, you will change the world!
And whatever challenges come, let them come. During the Korean War the legendary Marine Chester Puller, with a few thousand men surrounded by 200,000 enemy troops, told his Marines, “They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away from us now.” That’s our spirit!
And when, in this arena, in this battle for holiness, we are wounded and find ourselves covered in dust, sweat, and blood, we will return to the divine healer in our hearts, in the sacrament of confession. He will pick us up, dust us off, lovingly wipe away the sweat and blood, strengthen and restore us, so that we can once again return with joy and boldness to the great contest of our times.
You are the future of this movement for life. It is a great responsibility, an awesome task, and it will be your glory to have been a part of it. And whether it takes another four years, or forty years, or four hundred years, we will never give up. We are holding on and will not let go. We are in this thing to the end, until every man and woman and child, born and unborn, is loved in life, cherished in our hearts, and protected in our laws. Do you want to strike fear into the hearts of our true enemies, those principalities and powers St. Paul warns us about? Then pray with me, and tell yourself, tell God, deep in your hearts – in this battle for holiness, in this battle for life, we will never give up. Ever.
The Israelites were in the desert for forty years, like we have been. They like us were being tested in the arena of holiness, but they were also being fed. God sustained them in their desert with manna for their bodies. We too are being fed by God on our own journey with the miracle that is about to take place on this altar. It is not manna for our bodies, but for our souls. The Holy Eucharist is God’s promise that he will never leave us to fight alone. It is not just our duty, but our joy, to receive the Bread of Angels every Sunday, even if possible every day, and to kneel before Him in prayer.
If we are faithful and courageous in the battle for love, for peace, and for holiness, if we persevere to the end, then we can be sure, like those Israelites, that we will reach the Promised Land, the heavenly kingdom, the place of undimmed joy that He has prepared for us from all eternity. And that, truly, is a reason to celebrate life.
Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever. Amen.
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