‘Our indignation over the murder of millions of unborn children must never turn into an unholy anger,’ Archbishop Blair warned, challenging marchers to keep hope in this spiritual battle.
Editor’s Note: Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, celebrated Mass ahead of the Connecticut March for Life on March 22. It is reprinted here with permission.
Brothers and sisters, as we draw closer to the celebration of the great Paschal mysteries, Holy Week, and Easter, our reading from St. John today presents us with a cosmic dimension, really, of redemption and of Christ’s place in the cosmos and the words that lead, as he himself tells us, to either life or death, that is to say, eternal life or eternal death. And as always, it is a matter of human freedom, and the true meaning of human choice, because the choice is one of eternal life or eternal death. And the grace of God is always there to accompany us in our weakness and fallen nature, to raise us, to save us, and to enable us to make the right choices that lead to life.
As we gather for Mass, in preparation for our own March for Life here in Connecticut today, we’re well aware of the magnitude of the challenge that faces us as Christian believers. We are witnesses to the God-given dignity of human life, in a culture that espouses death, under a veneer of freedom of choice and self-serving moral reasoning that is divorced from the truth that comes from God.
We’re here, however, not to be weighed down by the challenge. But we’re here to be lifted up; we are lifted out by the realization that whatever the evils that are present in the world, whatever the challenge is that a person of faith has to face, God’s purpose and God’s plan are always being accomplished. And that is something so central to the mysteries, the Paschal mysteries, that you know, the victory has already been won. Christ has already conquered sin and death. He said, “In the world, you will have trouble. But take heart because I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
This victory is magnificently proclaimed, and today’s readings are so appropriate for this morning. They’re the readings of this weekday of Lent; they lend themselves very beautifully to what we’re about. And I think the most powerful thing in the readings is this: In Isaiah, God says, “Can a mother forget her infant? Be without tenderness for the child in the womb? Even should she forget? I will never forget you for a shame.”
We can only respond to God’s rhetorical question by saying in our world, Lord, in Connecticut today, Lord, in our country, there is no such tenderness for many infants in the womb. And even though forgetfulness is claimed by many, it remains a deep wound in many would-be mothers and fathers.
Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, is the Supreme Lord of Life. As he tells us, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” And yet, as the Gospel of John expresses it, it is precisely at the moment of his crucifixion, that the glory of Christ is mysteriously revealed. What a cause of hope that has to be for us, amid this vale of tears. And yet what a challenge, what a stretch of faith it is for us to see victory at the foot of the cross, to see the victory of life in the midst of a cold culture of death, in our state, in our country in our world.
But as we struggle on, as we bear faithful witness, and we apply this mystery to ourselves, I am reminded of something that appears in the Divine Office where, for the feast of martyrs, it really is a rousing chorus of the holy ones of the saints [and reminds] us to never lose heart. It envisions us in a great arena, engaged in a contest, and this is what it says: “God and his angels looked down upon us; Christ, too, look at us as we do battle in the contest of faith. What great dignity and glory are ours? What happiness to struggle in the presence of God, and to be crowned by Christ our judge.”
So brothers and sisters, let us be armed with great determination, pure in heart, and full of courage and be prepared to face the combat. And, of course, the combat, referred to is not a material one of the weapons of war or violence. But it is a spiritual one of love and fidelity and truth. You know, the Greek word “martyr” simply means “witness”; and about that, we can say two things. First, being a witness to Christ is always demanding a sacrifice of us. It means being a sign of contradiction. It means being out of step and, therefore, paying the price.
And my brothers and sisters, until Catholics wake up to this truth, they will be lulled more and more away from the truth of the Gospel, exchanging, like the Jews who made a golden calf, exchanging the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. And, second, being a witness means testifying to someone else, and not to ourselves; in our pro-life efforts in particular we must not forget this. If we think that the fate of the world or of society, and of the unborn and the vulnerable if we think that rests with us, we are forgetting who God is. Yes, we are players in the drama of human history. And we make every grace-filled effort to effect what is right and just, but, ultimately, we know that the Lord of the world is God alone.
That is why our indignation over the murder of millions of unborn children must never turn into an unholy anger. That is why our unrelenting challenge for those who willfully promote abortion and other crimes against life must not lead us to vilify or demonize. That is why our dismay at the deaths of so many innocents never turns into desperate acts or despair. Any temptation to think that the only justice to be had here is here on earth is overcome by the knowledge that there is a just judge in heaven. God’s purpose and plan have always been accomplished. And all of us, whether in life or in death, belongs to the Lord.
So today, fortified by Our Lord’s words, and by our deep faith in his victory over death and sin and all evil, we go to be witnesses — that most Christian of words, to be witnesses — witnesses to life, witnesses to the truth, witnesses to the goodness of God, and, above all, witnesses to Christ’s victory over all that overshadows us, over death that threatens us, confident that, if we persevere with him, we shall indeed be one with him in eternal life.