2016.10.2 – Life Begins at Conception
I have participated in thirteen March for Life Pilgrimages. All of these March for Life pilgrimages were with catholic youth who wanted to protest the laws of abortion in our land. These trips were always faith filled trips that allowed its pilgrims to become a ‘voice for the voiceless’ and to courageously step forward to let our nation know that life begins at conception. Needless to say, it was disappointing that the national media always tried to suppress their voice through a conspiracy of silence. Year after year, literally hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would make pilgrimage to Washington D.C. to speak on behalf of the unborn. And year after year mainstream media ignored the story or misrepresented its numbers. If this was any other issue in our nation, with even one-quarter of the level of participation, the mainstream media would blast it out through every venue. But since it has to do with overturning the laws of abortion the protest is met with a conspiracy of silence. The young people who have gone on these trips could use the words of our first reading, “I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene.” But, undaunted, the March for Life trip continues to happen. Men and women, young and old, continue to speak the message, “Life begins at conception,” knowing that it is important for us to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak on behalf of themselves.
The slogan we used for Bishop Carroll’s March for Life Trip was, “One step. One life.” It is based on the idea that if one step, from heel to toe, was sixteen inches in length then it takes 4000 steps to walk one mile. That is the the approximate number of children that are lost to abortion each day: 4000. So each step became a statement for life. One step. One life. In this way each pilgrim was able to fulfill Isaiah’s word, “Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; proclaim to my people their transgression.”
The Catholic Church’s efforts to protect life in the womb are not a new in the history of the Church either. It has been the constant practice of our Catholic faith to protect human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Even as early as the year 200 AD, 1800 years ago, the official teachings of the Church spoke against ending life in the womb. A document called the Didache written in the second century stated, “You shall not kill a child in the womb nor expose infants.” Practices of abortion have been constant part of human society throughout history; and, equally constant, has been the Catholic Church’s stand against abortion.
This Sunday is ‘Right to Life Sunday.’ It is a moment for us to recall our fundamental teaching on life in the womb and our moral obligation to overthrow the laws of abortion in our land. As Pope Benedict says, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia… There may even be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
Life begins at Conception. And we, as Catholics, must help educate people on the preciousness life from the womb to the tomb. Remember, Jesus Christ became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. At the moment of the Incarnation, when Gabriel declared to Mary that she was called to be the Mother of God, at the moment when she said, “Fiat: let it be done to me according to your word,” Jesus entered her womb and became man. In this way he revealed to us that life begins at conception in the womb of a mother because that is the moment when he became man. As Psalm 139 states, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb…I praise you, because I am wonderfully made.” How precious is life in the womb! God himself “knit” us together. He knows every fiber of our being. Not a single stich of us is out of place. God loved us into existence and that existence begins in the womb of our mother with the participation of our father. Remember, God bestows every human person with an immortal and free soul at the moment of conception. Only God can create a soul; and God places this immortal and free soul into every person at conception.
There is another way that the bible teaches us the life begins in the womb. Not only did Jesus become man at the moment of the incarnation but there was also interaction between him and John the Baptist while both of them were in the womb. Recall that Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth while both of them were pregnant. When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house the two of them went to embrace one another. As they drew near to each other Elizabeth cried out, “At the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44). You see, Jesus testifies that life begins in the womb by showing us that even he and John the Baptist were aware of one, and could interact with one another, while they were in their mother’s womb.
Because life begins at conception, because God infuses every human person with a free soul at the moment of conception, all humans possess a fundamental right to life. John Paul II said that the right to life is “most basic and fundamental right” and “the first right, on which all others are based.” Even our constitution states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
John Paul II goes on to say: “The right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture is false and illusory if the right to life… is not defended with maximum determination” (Christifideles Laici 38)
Direct abortion is always and everywhere wrong and can never be justified for any purpose or in any circumstance. The unborn child is always an innocent party, and no law may permit the taking of his life. As John Paul II also says, “it is never licit to obey a law permitting abortion, nor to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it.” (73)
Pope Francis also states, “Unborn children are 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. …The defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. … I want to be completely honest in this regard. …It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.” EG 213.
Abortion is always and everywhere wrong. This has been the constant teaching of the Church throughout history. No government has the right to establish laws that permit the taking of a human life while in the womb. We have an obligation to work to overturn the laws of abortion in our land. Jesus himself teaches us by his incarnation and by his interaction with John in the womb that life begins at Conception. Our most recent popes throughout history have reechoed this message again and again. Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict, Pope Francis, all teach that the defense of the unborn is the first priority in the defense of all human rights. We must share this truth with our society.
Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in our country 43 years ago. We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent to this law nor to become weary of attempting to overturn it. As St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “God did not give you a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” Each of us must courageously work to educate others on the preciousness of human life. We must work to establish and support structures that help girls and boys in in crisis situations so that they can choose adoption over abortion or to be able to have their basic needs met so that a mother can be supported in her decision to give birth.
St. Paul goes on to say, “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord.” Being Catholic is not only about a private faith that is between me and my God. Nor is it a faith that we share only in comfortable circumstances or on generic teachings. Catholicism seeks to form society. This is also why St. Paul continues to say that each of us must, “bear your share of the hardship of the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” We each have a role to play in one way or another. The Gospel of life is a part of our ancient Catholic heritage. It is a message of freedom and of respect for human life. Let us find ways to share this Gospel of life in various circumstances: in our home, our family, our workplace, our politics, our parish, our world. To the degree that this teaching is difficult for us to fully understand let us then makes the words of today’s Gospel our own, “Lord, increase our faith.”
Life begins at conception and ends at natural death. Let us be a voice for the voiceless. Let us overthrow the conspiracy of silence. Let us support those girls and boys who are in crisis. Let us each join in our own way with the march of hundreds of thousands of people in taking one step for one life.