David Vacheresse is the former general manager of EWTN Global Catholic Radio.
This is not the end of our battle. In many ways, it is only the beginning.
On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States of America wrongly decided a case that has now ended more than 63 million innocent, unborn lives through legal abortion. Of course, the atrocity of the death of innocent children through legal abortion didn’t start there. The National Library of Medicine reports that from mid-1970 to mid-1972 abortion clinics in the state of New York alone (which had liberalized its abortion laws during that period) performed approximately 402,000 abortions!
The original decision regarding Roe v. Wade was not the beginning of this abomination and its reversal will not be the end. With that said, there is no doubt that this is a monumental victory — an opportunity to return this to the individual states and take up our cause there. In some ways, after journeying for almost 50 years, we have reached the Promised Land. We are at the border and are close enough to begin building strategies for what lies ahead.
I can’t help but be drawn back to another time and place when a group of people had arrived at the border of the Promised Land after a lengthy journey. We find this account in the 13th chapter of the Book of Numbers.
I will set the table for the story that follows. The Lord has led his chosen people out of Egypt through many signs and wonders. They have now come to the border of the land God had promised to give them. When they arrive there, God asks Moses to choose 12 men, one leader from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. These 12 men are to be sent to spy out the promised land for 40 days and 40 nights. When they return, God instructs Moses to gather the people together so the 12 spies could give an account of what they had observed and found in the land to which they had been sent.
This is their initial report upon their return:
We came to the land to which you sent us. It does indeed flow with milk and honey, and here is its fruit. However, the people who are living in the land are powerful, and the towns are fortified and very large. Besides, we saw descendants of the anakim (giants) there.
Despite having seen God face to face and having been permitted to eat and drink in his presence (Exodus 24:9-11), along with being witnesses to his many miracles along their journey, these leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel succumb to fear at the sight of strong armies, fortified cities and purported giants in the land. They are frozen and unwilling to stand on the promise that God had made to give them the land.
However, there is one man of faith among the 12 who is willing not only to stand on the promise God has made but is strong enough to encourage the people to do the same:
Caleb, however, quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We ought to go up at once and occupy the land for we are well able to overcome it.’
Caleb’s exhortation is not based on his own strength or ability, or that of the people, but a recollection of the power God has shown in bringing them to this place. God has proven himself worthy of their trust. Caleb assures the people that God will complete the task he has begun with them. Later in the story, Joshua, another one of the 12 spies, joins Caleb in this exhortation toward faith and standing on the promise that God has made to his chosen people. Unfortunately, the other 10 spies double down on their spirit of fear, stating, “We cannot attack these people; they are too strong for us.”
So, they spread discouraging reports among the Israelites about the land they had spied out, saying:
The land that we went through is a land that consumes its inhabitants. And all the people we saw there are huge. …In our own eyes we appeared to be like grasshoppers, and so we appeared to them.
I believe their last statement is the most telling of all: “In our own eyes we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”In its reading, it is clear they decided first that, compared to the inhabitants of the land, they were insects, grasshoppers. Once they had made that decision about themselves they then declared that is how the people in the land regard them. But let’s be clear: they decided first.
Can you imagine coming to that decision after all they had experienced? After their personal encounters with God? Even after all of that, to hold the belief that you are incapable of overcoming this enemy? That, in fact, you see yourself as an insect when compared with them? Because they could not overcome this fear and, because the people chose to join themselves to their message of fear rather than to the message of faith being shared by Caleb and Joshua, they were consigned to wander the desert for 40 years while a generation of faith was raised up who could finally occupy the land that had been promised to them.
The 40 years that followed were filled with times of great struggle and times of great celebration. Times of incredible victories and crushing defeats. Even after the 40 years passed, and the people of God we’re finally ready to stand on God’s promise of entering and occupying the Promised Land, many battles were still in their future. These had to be fought and won before they could truly declare that the land was theirs. But, because of their faith in God’s promise, they won the ultimate victory. They stood on the promise and reaped the rewards.
We are in the 50th year of our own particular desert journey. Looking back, we have to be honest and declare that along the way, even before the devastating decision that provided for legalized abortion throughout our land, we (the people of God) decided we were grasshoppers. We made the decision both before and after that diabolical proclamation that we were not strong enough or didn’t possess the right to prevail upon our fellow citizens to uphold an absolute right to life from conception to natural death.
Justice William Brennan, the lone Catholic on the court in January 1973, played a vital role in the Roe v. Wade decision. There was some talk of even excommunicating him because of his assent to legalizing the murder of innocent children. But alas, nothing came of that.
At the time of its passing, there were certainly voices of dissent from Roe v. Wade and those individuals are ultimately responsible for where we stand today, and for the growth of the pro-life movement over these past 50 years. They were the Joshuas and Calebs of their day.
But there were far too many voices among the household of God that were either silent or, dare I say it, in agreement with the decision. They were the voices proclaiming that there were giants in the land and we were not able to defeat them because we were only grasshoppers compared to them. In those years, and in the years since we have followed a go-along-to-get-along approach in many circumstances. We assumed that if we left them alone on this issue they would be satisfied and would not interfere with our ability to practice what we believe in our own parishes, congregations, and synagogues. We thought we could somehow live at peace with one another.
That could not have been further from the truth. Evil is never satisfied. It is always on the march. We have seen great evidence of that since Jan. 22, 1973. Even the most ardent supporters of legalized abortion in 1973 couldn’t have imagined the debauchery that has become commonplace in our society since that time. The legalization of abortion led to the breakdown of traditional marriage and the family, along with everything that flows from that — an extreme rise in single-parent homes, drug use, human trafficking, and violence in our streets and in our schools.
All the while, with very few exceptions, we continued to act like grasshoppers among giants. Now the battle continues — not only to save the lives of our brothers and sisters in the womb but also for the hearts and minds of people in our homes, our communities, each state, and throughout our country. The few who proclaimed from the beginning that they were not grasshoppers but sons and daughters of a loving God (who is the creator and defender of all life) have become many who believe and stand for the same thing. We are the new Joshuas and Calebs who fight against the idea of being insignificant insects and proclaim together, “Let us go up at once and occupy the land, for we are well able to overcome it!”
This is not the end of our battle. In many ways, it is only the beginning.
But let it be said — and let it be heard and believed — that we will stand on the promises that God has made to be with us, and that ultimate victory will come by his hand and his might. The weapons that have been formed against life cannot prosper. We go into battle in the only position where we find ultimate victory — on our knees praying for grace and strength from God so that we can be faithful followers of Christ for the salvation of many. In that way, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
And, we are grasshoppers no longer!