Respect Life

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gen 2: 18-24; Heb 2: 9-11; Mk 10: 2-16

Dc. Larry Brockman


“Because of the hardness of your hearts, he wrote this command”.  Such was Jesus comment to the Pharisees about Moses as they tried to justify divorce.  Jesus then defined the Christian understanding of marriage, quoting from Genesis, the same part of Genesis as our First Reading.  The words are very clear.  One man and one woman marry and become one, and what God joins together, no man should separate.  And yet, even after his clear words to the Pharisees, the apostles called Jesus aside and questioned him.  And so Jesus adds that to divorce and marry another is adultery- pretty strong words.  They are a direct and explicit moral teaching on marriage. 

Indeed, this Gospel confirms for us that there are moral absolutes.  They are absolutes because God said so, and that God’s word is really not negotiable.  Let me elaborate.  

Recall that during the description of the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis, just after the part we read today, Adam and Eve were told that “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” was off limits.  But they ate the fruit because they wanted to be like God, and know good and evil.  But man is not permitted to define good and evil.  That charter, defining good and evil, is God’s charter.  Rather, man must follow the natural law and the moral law that God has defined to us because we are not Gods, and do not have God’s wisdom. So, we cannot discern good and evil.  We live this life in an imperfect world until we learn to follow God’s will and keep his commandments accordingly.


Now God handed down the law to us in various ways:  It’s in the ten commandments, It’s in the Mosaic law, and it’s in the moral teachings in the Gospels and the Christian letters that form the New Testament.  God also defines His law in the workings of nature- that is called natural law.  In its wisdom, the Church has accumulated and made sense of God’s law for us.  That’s what the Catechism of the Church summarizes: a definition of what we believe and what God has defined as right and wrong.


Today is Right to Life Sunday.  It is essential that practicing Catholics understand the above principle on God’s role in matters of faith and morals as background to the Right to Life.  Otherwise, we will be confused by man’s wisdom, and man’s law that follows from it.  Because man’s wisdom sometimes attempts to define good and evil apart from God, and that is the sin of Adam and Eve.  And so, man’s law can be flawed. 

Now we Catholics have a solemn obligation to follow the Church’s teachings on Right to Life Issues rather than accept man made wisdom and laws.  The Right to Life is one of the most important areas covered by the Catechism, and so we should know what the Church teaches and follow it. 

Right to Life includes many hot button issues that are being discussed and debated in the public domain:  Abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic research, war, and capital punishment are a few of these areas.  But life itself is integrally connected with quality of life.  And so the Right to Life includes one’s access to food, water, and shelter as well.  Simply stated, the poor and the marginalized have a right to life, just like those who hold a more fortunate position in society.  And that is why the Right to Life is such an important issue.  Because it is pervasive; it touches everything that society and government struggle with to provide for people.


So, what are some of the teachings of the Church on Right to Life straight out of the Catechism?  Well, that life begins at Conception (Jer 1:5); that abortion is wrong and that it is wrong to kill infants (Did 2:2);  that it is wrong, by an act of omission or commission, to cause a sick and diminished person to die, that’s called Euthanasia; that it is wrong to take one’s own life; and that everyone is entitled to basic needs- food, clothing, housing, etc. 

It is not enough, however, to know these things, and believe them personally, and then be silent about them when these basic rights are violated in society around us.  We have an obligation to get involved, and to do what we can to assure that our government guarantees these rights.  We do that by voting for the right candidates, speaking out against government officials and policies when they infringe on the Right to Life, and by our own personal example in living our daily lives at work, in school and as a homemaker.


In the last couple of months, the Respect Life Organization has been extremely pleased with your response to all three of our recent appeals.   3,000 post cards were sent to our Senators and representatives opposing the Freedom of Choice Act.  Over $10,000 was collected in the baby bottle appeal.  On both counts, this is more than any other parish in the Diocese.  Over 1700 of you signed up for spiritual adoption of an unborn baby.  These were absolutely outstanding responses from our Parish.  Congratulations to all of you for your support and help.


But these are troubled times for Right to Life in America.  There was a change in government this year that brought a sweeping change in philosophy with it.  The philosophy confuses rights with wants.  Pro-choice, for example, confuses the wants of a mother, with the rights of an unborn child; and gay marriage confuses the wants of two gay people, with the right of a man and a woman to procreate. 

Not only that, we have become a victim to a mantra of “judge not, lest you be judged”  As an excuse for allowing and even sanctioning people’s so-called right to do what is morally wrong by Christian Standards.  But as we have shown earlier, there are moral absolutes:  Abortion and Euthanasia are wrong; marriage is for a man and a woman.  These are moral absolutes.  We are not judging people- that is up to God.  We are judging the morality of certain acts by the standards we are supposed to believe in, the standards in our Catechism; and we don’t want society to legislate morality that is counter to those standards. 


Now many of our current leaders, including so-called Catholics, are outspoken opponents of the Right to Life.  Several of them I can think of have publicly denied the teaching of the Church, claiming that they are following their consciences.  This is another argument one hears often-  that our consciences prevail over church laws and statutes.  After all, following God’s law is something that needs to come from the heart, and that’s what our consciences determine.  Indeed, the Catechism does advise us that we must be allowed to act in conformity with our conscience.  But there is an important catch, because the Catechism also says that our consciences must be informed and enlightened in moral judgment.  If one chooses to ignore or reject God’s law, than they have not properly formed their conscience.

What is most alarming about Catholic public officials opposing the Church’s teaching on Right to Life is the bad example it sets for other Catholics, and the impression it gives to greater society that the matter is open for debate in the Church.  In Church Canon Law, that is called causing scandal. That is why it is important for those of us who are committed Catholics to be heard, to make a correct moral judgment, and to speak out and validate the position of the Church. 


There are many ways that you can help.  Respect life is conducting a membership campaign- sign up and get involved.  They have access to many resources that can help you to get involved- for example, by writing your elected officials; by participating in programs that help people struggling with a decision on abortion; and by helping the marginalized and elderly.

Last but not least, there is a very easy way for you all to demonstrate your commitment to the Right to Life today.  Because from 1:30 PM to 3 PM today, we will be forming the Life Chain out on Apopka Vineland in front of the Church.  You are invited to be there.  Make it a memorable event, a massive demonstration for the Right to Life.  Fr. Ennis will be there, and so will I.  See you then. 

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