Responding to society’s deep division over the fundamental right to life, Bishop Ronald Gainer spoke in his homily at the Diocesan Respect Life Mass of the need for a vaccination of God’s grace and love against a culture of death.
Celebrating the Mass two days after the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, the bishop celebrated the pro-life liturgy Jan. 24 at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg.
“I imagine that all of us here are very concerned right now about the unity of our nation, the need to foster a better mutual respect and a harmony among all our citizens,” Bishop Gainer said in his homily.
“However, when the teaching Church – and some believing members of the Church – as well as many in society at large, are so radically divided on such a fundamental issue regarding human life, we are certainly in need of prayer,” he said. “A vaccination; not of some serum, but a vaccination of God’s grace and God’s love against the violence of the culture of death. We need an inoculation of God’s grace and love into our hearts and into our souls, and into the heart and soul of America.”
Proponents of abortion, framing it as a right codified by the Supreme Court to legally end a human life, tear apart the Church’s teaching authority, the bishop said.
“By rooting abortion in the concept of a right, abortion proponents are calling on the most fundamental and cherished American moral ideals,” he said. “We are a nation where our Founding Fathers recognized inalienable, God-given rights and established for us a rule of law to promote and protect our legitimate rights. Our guard is always raised whenever there is a suggestion that someone’s rights have been restricted or denied, and we ought to be on guard to protect the rights of every human person.
“But if there is a right to take the life of the unborn, then that necessarily implies that our Catholic position on abortion is not only wrong, legally speaking, but that it is necessarily immoral, and that those of us who accept and following the teaching are ourselves immoral; that is to say, that the Church teaches falsehood when it teaches one of its most rigorously held and preeminent moral doctrines on the sanctity of all human life. To hold a position contrary to this teaching of the Church is to tear apart the very fabric of the Church’s teaching authority,” he remarked.
Scripture’s Messages for Pro-Life Efforts
Bishop Gainer offered reflections on the Readings for the Liturgy, and what they can present for us in our pro-life efforts.
In the First Reading, (Jonah 3:1-5, 10) Jonah warns the warlike and merciful-less people of Ninevah, “Forty days more, and Ninevah shall be destroyed.” Heeding Jonah’s warning, the citizens repented in one day, and God preserved the city.
“In Jonah’s story, God reveals himself as one who wants to save, to preserve life and give new beginnings. For anyone who felt at that time that abortion was the only choice to make, God is merciful,” Bishop Gainer said. “That mercy is readily offered, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God wants to preserve you, God wants to give you a new beginning.”
Jonah’s story also illustrates that obedience to God’s will, even by one person, can bring about the conversion of many, the bishop said – an uplifting message for those who strive to promote the sacredness of human life.
“You and I can easily be discouraged in praying and advocating for the legal protection of all human life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. That legal protection seems often to be an outcome too far away, a real long shot,” he said. “We should remain hope-filled in our pro-life efforts and expect the unexpected when we witness to God’s will and when we stand with the truth.”
The Gospel Reading (Mark 1:14-20) of Jesus beginning his public ministry comes after John the Baptist’s arrest at the hands of King Herod.
“The arrest and execution of John the Baptist reminds us that we must always speak the truth to others, especially those in positions of civil authority, despite the cost we might have to pay,” Bishop Gainer remarked. “Silence is not an option for authentic disciples whom Christ has called to follow him.”
“At the very least, we need to pray privately, pray together, and pray as we do this morning in our most fruitful form of prayer, the Sacred Liturgy,” the bishop urged. “We must pray with confident faith, and pray as though lives depend upon our prayer – because they do.”
“One truth that the Bible teaches over and over is that prayer changes wrongs into rights. We can be confident that one day, legal abortion will end,” Bishop Gainer said. “In our Second Reading, St. Paul assured the Christians in Corinth that ‘The world in its present form is passing away.’ Whatever finds its origin in lies and in evil has no hope, has no lasting value. Salvation history shows us that the mightiest forces based on lies and evil have and will always fall.”
Join Bishop Gainer in Rosary for Life
Dioceses across the country are participating in the nationwide Prayer Vigil for Life, Jan. 28 and 29. In the 48 years since the legalization of abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, more than 60 million lives have been lost.
Each January, the National Prayer Vigil for Life is hosted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Pro-Life Secretariat, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and The Catholic University of America’s Office of Campus Ministry to pray for an end to abortion and a greater respect for all human life.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Basilica will not be open to the public this year. Instead, in addition to the televised Mass, bishops across the country will lead Rosaries and Holy Hours throughout the all-night vigil.
Join Bishop Gainer at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28 to pray the Rosary for the protection of all life. Then, join with Catholics across the country for the Prayer Vigil for Life, beginning at 8 p.m. The Rosary will be available on the Diocesan Facebook and YouTube pages.
Live television broadcasts will be available on EWTN, Jan. 28 from 8-11 p.m., and on Jan. 29 from 8-9 a.m. Live-streaming information for the overnight bishop-led holy hours from various dioceses will be provided on the USCCB’s website.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness