Mass for Peace and Justice
[Scripture Readings: James 3:13-18; Mat 5:38-48 ]
It almost seems a bit strange to be offering a mass for the intention of legal protection of unborn. To a “naïve” mind, it would seem that this is what laws are for: to protect those who are weak, vulnerable, who can't speak for themselves or their own rights, the marginal. Laws are meant to insure behavior which promotes common good. Our instincts might lead us in a proper direction, but they are often unreliable and victims of emotions and feelings. Laws help to educate and channel our actions. They are the grammar of our relationships. They articulate and hold up a vision of the dignity of the human person and the mutual responsibility of those who share in that community.
But the problem is that there has been a shift in society's vision of what it is to be human, and this has led to shift in laws it promulgates and enforces. Rather than educating us in our responsibilities, they are defined to limit our responsibility, our liability. They are written to protect us from any limitation or infringement on individual liberty and the self's own interpretation of what that liberty means. It is the vision of what it means to be human that creates a society and its laws. Ours is a vision which has allowed us to become calculating, callous, and coercive. It is governed by a vision and wisdom that James would call “earthly, materialistic, unspiritual, demonic.” Jealousy and selfish ambition go unnoticed as normal, as the coin of the realm.
It is calculating, callous, and coercive to pretend to presume we can determine when life is viable. And then, what is a viable and worthy life. The assumption is that life is rooted solely in observable biological processes which we can manage and control. What is most sacred is that which surpasses human control. The moment of the concurrence of the divine and human at the moment of conception evades our inspection. It is the sacred beginning of a life given by God. The evils of abortion are rooted in a different vision of human life. In his recent exhortation on The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis has said “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church's effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”
Today's gospel might almost seem to be poorly chosen for a day in which our prayer is inspired by a resistance to the extension of a mentality which legally exonerates and promotes abortion. But I think that its message is that our response to the challenges to a Christian view of human dignity must be rooted in that Gospel we proclaim. It is a Gospel born out of the radicality of God's love which is all-embracing and inclusive, impartial and undivided. Our prayer is meant to rise from the love of God manifest in the paschal sacrifice of Christ. Its voice is muted by the unwritten laws we follow in our own lives in relating to others: we do turn our backs at the need of others, we do retaliate, we do favor our friends and reject the “unlovable.” Gospel love is effective care for anyone who needs it.