By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The Sacred Scripture proclaimed at all Masses last weekend were inspired texts at the outset of the month of October which is devoted to the Church’s pro-life vision for our world. A world convulsed by violence, destruction, abuse and neglect. The prophet Habakkuk laments the devastation to the human community and to the Jerusalem of ancient Israel and pleas to God for relief. “How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen! I cry out to you, violence, but you do not intervene.” God’s response to the prophet did not immediately end the violence, nor the impending threat of devastation from the Chaldeans, but rather invited Habakkuk to increase his faith and expand his horizons in order to understand God’s vision for Israel. “Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one because of his faith, shall live.”
From the Gospel of Luke last weekend we hear the disciples’ plea to the Lord to increase their faith. Similar to the response of Israel’s God in the first reading, Jesus replied, “if you had faith the size of a mustard seed” you could do so much more. You could change the landscape of this world on behalf of the Kingdom of God as virulently as does the Kudzu overtake all in its path. As we heard in the second reading from Saint Paul’s letter to Timothy sandwiched between Habakkuk and Luke, many early disciples did allow the Holy Spirit to enlarge their faith, the gift and treasure dwelling within through faith and baptism. Saint Paul addressed them and all of us, when he wrote, “for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power, and love, and self-control.
The Holy Spirit, of course, inspires the pro-life vision of the Catholic Church for our nation and for our world. The right to life of the unborn is the foundation for the totality of the Church’s unyielding and fearless pro-life posture to the world. Steadfast prayer, a living faith and solidarity with Christians and all people of good will are required to foster conversion, a change of heart and mind in the face of a “throw-a-way culture,” in the words of Pope Francis, that includes the unborn. Sexual behaviors that have little regard for self-control and love that endures, and stoked by the pollutants of pervasive pornography, further cheapens the gift of sexuality and the preciousness of life in the womb. To recreate a garden of life, justice and peace is daunting for every generation of disciples, but it is the Lord’s work and we are privileged to foster God’s vision for this world. Does the temptation to lose heart and succumb to cynicism and indifference press upon us? Of course! Let us return to the final words of Habakkuk to allow the Lord to increase our faith and to find encouragement to bear our share of the hardship that the Gospel entails. “For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disappear from the field and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God. God, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.”
God never stops restoring and inspiring the hearts and minds of those who hunger to cultivate the garden of life in this world. The vision begins with life in the womb and continues across the stages of a person’s life. Human dignity endures to the moment of the final breath when the unique soul, the breath of the living God, is born into eternal life. This is our hope in Jesus Christ. Therefore, aware that our citizenship is in heaven and that life in this world has eternal value we can recommit ourselves to work on behalf of the dignity of the human person while we ourselves have the breath of life. Between the beginning and the end of life in this world there are legions of dedicated disciples who lay down their lives daily on behalf of life, justice and peace. Later in this month dedicated to pro-life, we can shine the light upon the many pathways that lead to life and build up God’s Kingdom in this world that are thriving in our diocese and beyond. The web of life that embraces the pro-life vision is an intricate masterpiece that must be nurtured in its entirety. Peace to you and to all who cherish the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ in this world.
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz