“I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” These words spoken by John the Baptist and recorded in the Gospel of John, 1:34, leave no doubt to listeners as to our Lord’s parentage. These words were also appropriate for the annual Diocesan Respect Life Mass, held on Sunday, Jan. 19 at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Camp Hill.
Bishop Ronald Gainer, homilist and celebrant of the Mass, explained to those gathered from throughout the Diocese, that these words spoken by John the Baptist as our Lord approached the River Jordan made him think of another Biblical story where John gives testament that Jesus is the Son of God.
“Remember at the scene of the Annunciation, our Blessed Mother finds out from the angel Gabriel that her older cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant. As soon as the Annunciation ends, Mary makes haste to go to the hill country where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived, to assist her older cousin. And when she enters their home, John the Baptist leaps, six months in the womb, he leaps at the presence of the newly incarnate Son of God in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two unborn children proclaiming the presence of God in our midst. What an appropriate thought as we celebrate today our annual sanctity of life Mass here in our Diocese,” said Bishop Gainer.
He added what was heard in the first reading from Isaiah, when Isaiah speaks of a mysterious figure who would liberate God’s people and bring them back to Him.
“We heard Him say, you formed me as your servant in the womb. God had a plan for this servant and He begins this preparation not when he’s 6 years old or 26 years old. The preparation of that person began pre-born. After his conception in the womb of his mother. God’s plan for his servant was already in place,” said Bishop Gainer. “Again an appropriate reading for us to reflect on today, the dignity and sanctity of human life from the moment of conception.”
“Let us pray, brothers and sisters, in this special Mass for the sanctity of the life that is in each one of us, that awareness will be intensified, to respect those around us with a greater intensity, to recognize the holiness, the sanctity, the dignity of every person who’s path crosses our path in life. Let us resolve today to continue praying and working to bring about a change in the laws in our land so that a culture of life, a culture of the dignity and the sanctity of human life, might be restored and that all life, from the moment of conception until the moment natural death, at every stage and in every condition, that each human person may be recognized as God’s masterpiece in the image and likeness of our loving creator,” said Bishop Gainer.
“The Respect Life Mass is an opportunity for Catholics throughout the Diocese to commemorate the Roe v. Wade decision and the millions of lives that have been lost to abortion since 1973,” said Thomas O’Neill, director of the Family & Respect Life Ministries for the Diocese. “Typically taking place the week of the March for Life rally in Washington, pro-life advocates, volunteers, and ordinary Catholics celebrate Mass with a priest who has taken a prominent role in supporting life.”
The Diocese has many Respect Life Ministries, some Diocesan and other parishes based. One of the most notable respect life events the Diocese that many of its parishes participate in is the annual March for Life, which takes place on Friday, Jan. 24 in Washington D.C.
This year, the Diocese is also participating in the first ever Pennsylvania March for Life. Similar to the national march, this state based march will be on Monday, May 18 at the state Capital in Harrisburg. Well known speakers, both state and national, will kick off the event at 11 a.m. with a rally, followed by a march throughout the downtown Harrisburg area. This first state-based March for Life in Pennsylvania is a great opportunity to let your voice be heard by your local legislators on the importance of respect life issues. More information on the Pennsylvania March for Life can be found at www.PaMarchForLife.org.
The annual Diocesan Respect Life Mass is planned by the Diocesan Office of Family and Respect Life. This office provides education to parishes, schools and other groups on the sanctity of life; encourages parishes and individuals to be more involved in pro-life groups and issues; and encourages individuals to vote in favor of, and petition their legislators for, pro-life and pro-family value legislation.
This office also works with several pregnancy resource centers to assist women, and men, faced with an unplanned pregnancy. For more information on the Office of Family and Respect Life, visit www.hbgdiocese.org/respectlife.
By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness