By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
On this past Sunday of the Word of God, the third Sunday in Ordinary time each year, we heard the summons of the Lord Jesus to his first disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John, a call that is ever ancient and ever new. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand; reform your lives and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:14-20) Events unfold rapidly in the Gospel of Mark.
In the space of half of the first chapter, the reader is blessed to know that the Good News is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is then baptized, tempted in the desert, and propelled into daily life announcing the Kingdom of God. This Good News is revealed at the Lord’s baptism when the voice from heaven lovingly proclaims, “you are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Reforming one’s life is about hearing the Lord, following him along the path of life, turning away from sin, and allowing him to transform our hearts and minds. This is the work of lifetime, but the call to holiness of life is daily.
The heart of the Good News is that we embrace our own identity as beloved daughters and sons of God, the crown of creation, made in the image and likeness of our creator. “If God is for us, who or what can be against us,” as St. Paul who was grasped by Christ, boldly writes. (Romans 8:31)
As the church began to grow and spread throughout the ancient world, the early Christians, in the face of martyrdom, but with minds and hearts transformed, witnessed to an astounding new way of living. Indeed, they preached the Good News to the poor, fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, cared for the sick and the dying, buried the dead, shunned violence, and rejected the Roman customs of infanticide and abortion. While worshipping the Lord who called them from darkness into his marvelous light, they also witnessed to a profound respect for life that grew organically form faith in their crucified and risen Lord.
In every generation then, the disciples of the Lord, the church, proclaim this Good News of salvation, the gift for time and eternity. Against the backdrop of so many violent protests throughout 2020, culminating with the protest that morphed into the disgraceful assault on the hallowed halls of government, today, January 29, marks the anniversary of the March for Life. Faithful pilgrims on behalf of life have marched peacefully for nearly five decades, 100s of thousands each year. Thank you, Pro-Life activists, for your witness on behalf of life, and these days, for your witness to the integrity of the first amendment of our constitution, upholding the right to assemble peacefully. America, please take notice on both counts. In conclusion, the 2021 statement for the March for Life to be held virtually, portrays a profound and comprehensive respect for life.
“The protection of all of those who participate in the annual March, as well as the many law enforcement personnel and others who work tirelessly each year to ensure a safe and peaceful event, is a top priority of the March for Life. In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different. The annual rally will take place virtually and we are asking all participants to stay home and to join the March virtually. We will invite a small group of pro-life leaders from across the country to march in Washington, DC this year. These leaders will represent pro-life Americans everywhere who, each in their own unique ways, work to make abortion unthinkable and build a culture where every human life is valued and protected. We are profoundly grateful for the countless women, men, and families who sacrifice to come out in such great numbers each year as a witness for life – and we look forward to being together in person next year. As for this year’s march, we look forward to being with you virtually. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.”