Starting a new conversation in the culture of life

Tom Bartolomeo
3rd Sunday Ordinary C 2013
Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10; Psalm 19: 8-10, 15;
1 Corinthians 12: 12-30; Luke 1: 1-4, 14,21
Reproduced with Permission

Nearly 50 years of shame had passed since the Jews, held captive in Babylon were led by Nehemiah to return to their homes in Jerusalem. Nearly 50 years of shame before they could gather together again and hear the Law of God read to them by the priest Ezra which we also heard:

all the people raised their hands and answered, 'Amen! Amen" . . . bowed down and face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. And Ezra read from the Law, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read, 'This day is sacred to the lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.' For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law." Tears of regret, relief and joy for them.

When will that day come for us after forty years of shame since the Supreme Court of our land legalized abortion 4o years ago on January 22nd last week, 40 years of shame for the deaths of 55 million children destroyed in their mothers wombs? Little if any of our collective shame has affected our public discourse and national conscience. We have grown so used to the shame that we hardly recognize our former selves wearied and dispirited by contraception, abortion, divorce and a weakened suffrage for children, a birth rate lower than at any time in our records. (Worse than the blindness of the people of the Third Reich and the extermination of six million Jews during the Second World War.) We are essentially on our way to extinction without a change of heart. Do I exaggerate? Our Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted in two decades as our declining birth rate continues. Look around in your pews. How many adolescents or young adults are among us? You should see what I see.

I don't say this in despair but in hope, a crisis we can change with God's grace by opposing the culture of death as Blessed Pope John Paul II entreated us and reviving a culture of life in our land. Until now we have naively approached the matter with tolerance towards the purveyors of evil, not distinguishing their evil ways from their persons. (We are so concerned about offending anyone.) We are not only called to suppress evil but to hate evil as Bishop Fulton Sheen said (whose candidacy for beatification is proceeding) that

Real love involves hatred: whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and the urge to drive the sellers from the temples has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.

Isn' t that the "truth" Christ laid down his life for?

We clearly need to start a new personal and public "conversation" in raising up the culture life. First, we can begin by recognizing the disease of self-indulgence and self-gratification infecting society which the profiteers of evil rely on who fill the airways of our televisions, computers, smartphones and media with their blatant advertising and degrading sensuality and vanity, appealing to our basest appetites just to make a sale. Why do we tolerate such shameful behavior with our silence and purchases? Again, Bishop Sheen explained:

There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance . . . Tolerance applies only to persons. Intolerance applies to principles but never to persons. We tolerate this shameful behavior with the products and services we buy from those who support these enticements and advertisements.

An attorney and friend once told me that the world is divided into two groups, givers and takers. I would add a third: receivers, givers and takers. In the matter of life we are all receivers. Were it not true, it would be inconceivable that God our Father would choose to share his creative power with us, giving us the power to pay forward the gift of life we have received without charge--depending on us to continue human life, ultimately to people heaven with us. In the world of heaven contraception and abortion would be unthinkable, yet in this world the United Nations and our country promote the culture of death mandating abortion and contracepton as a condition of foreign aid to other countries. That mandate now obliges us to pay for contraception, abortion and sterilization in our nation in our health insurance policies and dismissing whatever moral objections we may have.

We live in this "vale of tears", however, in hope of a new world to come, that Jesus among us and in us can show us "the way, the truth and the life", the reason why we gather here today, looking to Him, our lives bound together in faith, hope and love.

We need to start and carry forward a new "conversation" of life where so many have been mislead by the culture of death which sacrifices life for pleasure and life alone and which, we all know, is so fleeting--while a child lives forever as does his father and mother. How deceived and short-sighted we can be worrying about the burden or expense of having children although it did not prevent our parents from bearing us. The association of adults and children in life can reveal so much about ourselves, often opportunities to revisit our own childhood mysteries and improving our own lives.

Why adopted children seek out their birth parents. Why we subscribe to or question aunts and uncles about our grandparents' lives. How children, for instance, live lives in wonder and discovery, things we often take for granted and need to revive and relive daily in our own lives as adults. This is the gift of life children give their parents and all of us. Isn't that the appeal in the movie we watch on Christmas Eve, It's a Wonderful Life or the appeal in the movie Life is Beautiful despite the cruelty depicted in the movie? Through our children we come to understand how and why we are the way we are. Ultimately, our wonder should focus on the life-to-come, that sense of "timelessness" implanted by God our Father in each of us and drawing us to Him. Do not be overwhelmed by the culture of death in the world. Embrace your lives and pass on the gift of life we all share and have received. It should be celebrated not feared. We have Jesus Christ here with us in our Nazareth where he says

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord's year of favor.