The following is a homily given by Most. Rev. Jeffrey M. Monforton, Bishop of Steubenville, on the anniversary of the legalization of Roe vs. Wade.
A few years ago when I was rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit a number of seminarians approached me and indicated that in this month of January they had hoped to host a dinner for a number of people. The evening would begin with Mass and the celebration of the Eucharist, immediately followed by a fish fry.
Two or three speakers would then speak about the dignity of life and would afford us the opportunity to reflect and meditate on how we might serve Our Lord in serving our brothers and sisters. We would ponder the dignity of all human life, and how we are all made in God’s image and likeness.
As Rector of the Seminary, I agreed to the seminarian’s plan and then asked, of course, “will our cooks be the ones preparing the fish?” The seminarians replied that no, they, themselves would be preparing the fish. With some helpful assistance from the seminary cooks, they were taught how to properly prepare fish. To this day their annual fish fry has been a great success, serving over 150 guests every year.
I’m sharing this story because it illustrates how it takes many diverse initiatives and all of our effort to educate and strengthen our brothers and sisters in the pro-life cause. Let us be emboldened in our efforts to recognize and witness that the dignity of all human life should be preserved and never compromised.
This week sadly commemorates the fortieth anniversary of the legalization of abortion with the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade. This is especially important right now in our nation’s history because, while we will pray and continue to pray for the rapid end to the legalization of abortion, we are now confronted with an attack on our own religious liberty in the form of a Health and Human Services mandate. The mandate demands that we compromise our Christian integrity. This is a question of conscience and it is a question of truth.
The Letter of James tells us that faith requires works. Our faith is not private. Our faith is public and at the same time, personal. Is it not Jesus who is the perfect model of how we conduct ourselves? Jesus is the agent of God’s will. We witness God’s will through Jesus’ total and undivided commitment in his service to all. This perfect fidelity is also the perfect model by which we model our service and commitment.
This invariably entails sacrifice and yes, self-denial.
Jesus’ perfect self-surrender demonstrates not simply the action, but the attitude we must possess in taking up our cross and following Him. Our faith cannot be static or complacent. Our Church ill affords complacent individuals. We are co-heirs with Jesus and he invites us to imitate him in all ways and at all costs.
As we commemorate this dark anniversary, this fortieth anniversary of the legalization of abortion, we need to recognize that all the things we might do to protect and defend the dignity of human life are worthwhile.
Whether it is praying the Rosary in front of an abortion mill, or assisting those who are now suffering from having an abortion, or reaching out in other ways to those who might be contemplating abortion, we are called in all these cases to be witnesses, to be selfless individuals. We celebrate life from conception to natural death. That means we are called, even in a quiet way, to make a bold statement that we will defend life all the way to the cross, all the way to our own cross through our own self-surrender. It is our firm grounding in the Catholic faith which will enable us to persevere in our own works.
While we find ourselves in some dark recesses of our culture in this era that diminishes the integrity of human life in all its forms and normalizes abortion, we cannot be complacent; yet at the same time you and I cannot despair. We are agents of hope.
You and I are ambassadors of Our Lord Jesus Christ. As long as we allow our faith to burn brightly, the flame for all to see—throughout the present, and even more so in later trials—the standard of the cross remains before us.
We will be victorious. Our work in promoting life is apostolic work. It is in following our Lord that we enrich the world and evangelize our brothers and sisters. It is through our works that we, as St. James tells us, demonstrate our faith to others through those selfless works.
Some may look at our works as being bold or innovative, but admittedly we simply are being who we are, followers of Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father for you and for me so that we may live in Him.