Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hear Their Cry!

Msgr. K. Bartholomew Smith's Sunday Homily:

It is always startling to hear the Sadducees and Pharisees interrogate Jesus, as if they were in a position to judge Him.
They were really trying to convince all hearers
that the real faithful would follow them,
and be part of their party.
And Jesus always responded with the truth
so simply and clearly stated – and lived –
that the interrogators were shown to be the foolish ones.

Today the Pharisees seem to think
that because Jesus had just made the Sadducees look bad,
He could possibly be maneuvered into being on their side.
But he reveals a higher union than they can offer him,
a union with the divine law of love.

And so I find myself in these days,
as powerful parties and platforms
try to pull me into their political embrace.
I am terribly discouraged by so much that I see around me,
aware of my obligation
to lead the flock entrusted to my care,
to protect you from harm and protect you from sin.

And I hear the voice of Jesus
tell us what is the first and greatest commandment,
greater than all the rest,
and rejoice to hope that here, there is wisdom;
here there is direction.

Now, as I try to uncover for all of us
just what it means to us
that one commandment is greater than all the others,
please bear with me as I quote (at some length) a recent article by Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia.

Our own common sense tells us
that not every issue is of the same importance.
At various times in history,
a people or nation is confronted with an issue
that transcends others in importance
and that demands a courageous response.

The transcending issue of our day
is the intentional destruction of innocent human life,
as in abortion.
We wish with all our hearts
that no candidate and no party
were advocating this heinous act against the human person.  However, since it is a transcending issue,
and even supported in its most extreme and horrific forms,
we must proclaim time and time again that no intrinsic evil
can ever be supported in any way,
most especially when it concerns
the gravest of all intrinsic evils: the taking of an innocent life.

The late Pope John Paul II wrote
of the mission of the Catholic laity thus:
“The inviolability of the person
which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God,
finds its primary and fundamental expression
in the inviolability of human life.
Above all, the common outcry,
which is justly made on behalf of human rights
— for example, the right to health,
to home, to work, to family, to culture —
is false and illusory if the right to life,
the most basic and fundamental right
and the condition for all other personal rights,
is not defended with maximum determination” (Christifideles Laici, 38).

At this moment in our country’s history,
defense of innocent human life
is a moral responsibility for all of us.
The same God who thundered from Mount Sinai:
“Thou shalt not kill,” thunders still.
When life in the womb is destroyed,
God thunders: “This is a child!”
When by the most barbaric means,
unworthy of any civilized people,
the brain of a child is sucked out of his or her head
by a vacuum, God thunders: “This is a child!”
When a baby is left to die of exposure on a shelf
because of a failed abortion,
and this is considered a “right” by any leader,
God, the Source of all law and authority, thunders:
“This is a child!”
When we are faced with every modern means
of education and communication,
in addition to the law placed in our hearts at creation,
no one, and most especially, no Catholic,
can ever say: “I did not know.”

End quote.

Personally, I don’t feel like thundering.
I am grieved to the point of tears by believing Catholics
following foolishness and falsehoods to determine that really, the lives of millions of unborn children, human children,
are just one more issue to be considered
among so many other policy options.

The bishops remind us this year that
The Church is involved in the political process
but is not partisan.
The Church cannot champion any candidate or party.
Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity
and the protection of the weak and vulnerable” (Faithful Citizenship, 59)

But they also quote our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI
when he states that the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice” (Deus Caritas Est, 28 as cited in Faithful Citizenship, 15).

Those who would woo Christians into their camp
will not even name abortion,
but rather call it simply a “choice” that must remain “private”.  Members of both parties in our nation
have yielded to the ease of ignoring those who have no voice in favor of those who clamor loudly
for what serves their special interests.

While proposals and personalities may be attractive,
I turn away in revulsion, lest I be fooled
into cooperating with a claim
to be building a shining, sharing society,
that somehow justifies its foundation
on heaps of broken and bloody infant bodies.

In this way, and possibly only this way, I am like Jesus --
I will not be drawn into either party.
And so I stand, unaligned, but I hope not alone.

If every Catholic in America would in solidarity
refuse tolerate any candidate or party
that advocates this death-dealing,
by the next electoral cycle,
not one candidate for national office
would support the abortion license.
Then we could all freely participate
in both parties’ attempts to resolve the problems of our day according to their best lights.

It is appalling, but not surprising, that
one candidate to lead our people
has publicly promised that one of his first acts as president
will be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act,
thus destroying at a stroke
the minor protections of unborn life
that the people of our country have managed to erect
since the dreadful and deranged judicial decision
of Roe vs Wade.
It is appalling AND surprising
that many Catholics seem to have been convinced
that this is a reasonable step on the road to change.

In the book of Exodus we hear today,
that the God of Israel does care deeply
how his chosen nation is governed, how it is ruled:
God speaks clearly, and in his own voice commands:
You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.
But notice his logic – his divine reasoning.
You yourselves were once thus.
So too the newly arrived life in the womb,
is a fresh immigrant arrival to the human situation,
the beginning of a new neighbor,
made, like ourselves, in the very image and likeness of God
whom we are called to love with all our heart,
with all our soul,
and with all our mind.

If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.

It is not my office to tell anyone what to do,
but it is my obligation to point out  what is at stake.
I have no expectation of influencing the election,
but every hope of helping you, for the sake of your soul,
choose the good and avoid doing evil.

For weeks, I have been asking God
to help me know what I should say.
Perhaps it is because I never quite got the dictation,
that I quoted what Cardinal Rigali has to say.

I guess that is because you don’t really need
to hear what I have to say,
poor, foolish attempt at a Christian that I am.

I would have you hear instead, what God has to say:
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.

Better yet, I would have you hear what God hears –
I would hope you hear their cry.

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