Last week you remember I attended a conference in Jacksonville, which you can read about in the New York Times and see a picture giving evidence that I was really there.

At the conference a woman shared a story of how an elderly man in simple clothing came to a church but no one paid attention to him. The church needed a new building and was asking for donations. Long story short, the woman took the time to approach people personally regardless of their status and when she asked the gentleman, he ended up being a millionaire who paid for the building. The moral of the story is that we don’t see the worth of someone based on outside appearance. And because of this we can easily miss what is most valuable for our lives. In the Gospel, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. John sees Jesus as the sacrificial lamb, the suffering servant, that Isaiah introduces us to in the First Reading. No one but John recognized him. Many people were around but they could not recognize him. Because John had the Spirit of God he could see what others did not see and it was his job, his role, to help others to see Jesus for who is: The Son of God. Now, something similar happens in the Mass.

Jesus makes his appearance and only those who have the Spirit of God will recognize him when the priest elevates the Host, the Holy Eucharist, and repeats the same words from John and says: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And when we truly recognize Jesus in this way, we, like John, want others to recognize him, too. Again it is the Holy Spirit that we received at our Baptism that helps us to see Jesus and tell others about him. This is the work of evangelization, that is, spreading the Gospel, the Good News.

That Good News is that God loves us so much that he has given us life. He loves each one of us here and has formed each of us in the wombs of our mothers. We began as a dream in his mind and then his dream came true and we were born into the world. And through the miracle of baptism the Lord reforms our souls in the womb of Mother Church and we are born again as children of God. We know that the womb of a mother is a very sacred place that should be the safest place on earth – a place that nourishes and protects the new life of a developing baby. Likewise, the Church is like a mother and it too is a very sacred place where life is respected and protected so that many through baptism can be born again and begin to grow in God’s love. And with the spirit of God we become like Christ, a servant of God, even if we have to suffer for love of God.

In the First Reading Isaiah says the Lord “formed me as his servant from the womb.” This prophecy that points to the birth of Jesus applies to us, also. All of us who have been formed in the wombs of our mothers and then born again through baptism are servants of the Lord. Isaiah goes on to say “It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” So we become more than servants but lights to the world. That is why every life is sacred from the very first moment that it is conceived in the womb. Even if mistakes are made or something is unplanned, the life conceived is still a gift of love from God, a new light to brighten the world. And so we want to help others to see that God has a plan for every life.

This Gospel of Life is so needed in our modern world because life is not respected or protected. It is not seen as something sacred even at its most vulnerable stage. And when someone fails to respect the dignity of something or to see its sacredness, what do they do? They discard it, throw it away. This is what our new pope calls the “throwaway culture.” Pope Francis said last week, “Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food or disposable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as if they were unnecessary.” He said “It is horrifying just to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day.” Abortion destroys the light of life, the gift of God’s love. And so we see another plan at work in our world, a plan of darkness promoted through organizations like Planned Parenthood, that think nothing of throwing away the life of a child in the womb. And more often they pick on the poor, minorities and immigrants. Tomorrow is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. He said that a race cannot win if it is willing to sacrifice the futures of its children for immediate personal comfort and safety. And we know that abortion was not part of his dream of equal rights for all peoples. This week I will go to Washington D.C. and join thousands of people for the March for Life. It occurs this Wednesday January 22nd, the anniversary of the legalization of abortion in America, which has since led to the death of more than 50 million babies in the U.S. and over 1 billion babies worldwide. Will you please pray and fast this week, especially this Wednesday, for the end of abortion? Pray that people may see the true value of these little ones.

Although abortion is the greatest evil of our time, this is not an occasion to be depressed but an opportunity to be grateful that all of us have the gift of life from God, that we, like Isaiah the prophet said, are “made glorious in the sight of the Lord.” So let us use this life as a glorious witness that God loves us! Ours is not a condemning witness but a hopeful and encouraging witness. So motivated by love, let us protect and promote life from the very beginning to its natural end and help others see that every life reflects God’s glory: those in the womb, those who are handicapped, those who are illegal immigrants, those who are on death row, and those who are approaching the end of life. This is God’s will for his servants. So if we are his true servants, we will want to do his will as we prayed in the Responsorial Psalm: “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will” not “my will.”

As true Christians we do God’s will even if we have to sacrifice comforts and suffer a little for spreading the light of the Gospel. Jesus suffered on the Cross not so we can have an easy life on earth but that we may learn to exchange an easy life on earth for a life of ease in eternity. The world needs this witness. And often it’s not just going to a pro-life rally or holding up a sign on the street that communicates this message, although these are important. More often it is just by being faithful. Mothers who choose to give their babies life are perhaps the greatest witnesses. They are true suffering servants that bring new life, like Christ whose suffering brought new life to the world. And so we see that God has a plan for everything and uses everything for the good, even our sufferings, when we offer them in love.

And so today at Mass, let us behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the sin of abortion and all crimes against the dignity of life, and be happy that we are called to his table, to be forgiven for all our sins and to be strengthened by his Body and Blood so to have new life and become like him and work for him, not against him, and to help others to see Jesus as the God of love who offers us everlasting life. Amen.

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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