Saturday, October 16, 2010

Homily from the Ottawa 40 Days for Life MidPoint Rally

I couldn't make it to the rally because I am just overwhelmed doing Mom things, but I received by email the copy of the speech that Fr. Matthew Wertin's gave. Here it is:

I am here in Ottawa to study Canon Law, and it would have been very easy and very tempting for me just to keep my head in the books, lay low, finish my degree and then head back home. I could’ve told myself, “don’t worry; you can get involved with the pro-life efforts once you’re back home.” However, for me, that was simply not an option. Do firefighters sit at the station learning new techniques, while across town there is a burning building with people inside? No, they go and do what they can to save those people. And to me, what happens every week in that building (65 Bank St.) is just as serious and just as urgent. I refuse to sit by, while innocent babies are violently killed and countless others are left seriously wounded, for the rest of their lives.

I am also convinced that when I give of my time to stand up for Life, in the ways that I can, God blesses and helps me to fulfill my other duties and responsibilities. I believe He will bless my studies and help me to learn what I need to learn to be the best Canon Lawyer possible, NOT because I ignored the abortion issue to dedicate all my time to studies, but precisely because I did not turn my back on these children, their parents, and everyone else involved in this life and death matter. I think that’s true for all of us, whatever our state in life. I believe that God sees and is pleased with what we’re doing, and because of that, He will bless us and help us with everything else.

I can now see that Ottawa has a critical role to play in the “big picture”. Because this is the nation’s capital, it is meant to be a beacon of light giving hope to every man, woman, and child of this land. But how can that be done when abortion is still legal and is still practiced, right here in beautiful downtown Ottawa? What kind of message does that send, and what kind of example does that give to everyone else across Canada? The good news is that every VICTORY that is won here for Life will have a positive effect across the entire land. Every victory will spread, and is spreading!

Take for example the arrested pro-life students at Carleton University. They remained calm, professional, and prayerful in their witness, but they didn’t back down either. They were right, and with tremendous courage they stood up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, in the midst of a hostile environment and unjust treatment. They are heroes! When you watch the video, you feel such a surge of energy, inspiring you to join with them in the fight for LIFE. I think Ruth Lobo has the potential to be one of THE foremost pro-life speakers and activists for all of Canada, and beyond, as she has clearly proved her integrity and strength in the midst of opposition, and you can tell she is a natural leader, one whom others will certainly follow. I would follow her. And you can see what new life and enthusiasm this event has given to so many tired warriors in the “trenches”, who often wonder if their efforts are doing any good. These faithful students are now inspiring people across the globe!

To be here, in this place, is to be at Calvary. The unthinkable happened to Our Lord, the greatest tragedy ever, and something unthinkable is happening now, in our own day and time. And so we keep watch, and pray. And yet, isn’t that exactly what Jesus told his followers to do, just hours before His death? “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41). We are here, at this modern day Calvary, the place of the skull, where countless innocent little children have been led like lambs to the slaughter, opening not their mouths, because they can’t. They’re not allowed to. There is a silence here: a grave, haunting silence that often causes a feeling of uneasiness in us when we come.

There are 2 other types of silences occurring in this great battle of Life vs. death. On the one hand, we who come here to pray JOIN Mary, Mary Magdalene, and John in their silence at the foot of the Cross, except now Our Crucified Lord is holding these little slain children and gazes upon those who have exacted this unjust crime, pleading the Father to forgive them, because they know not what they do. And many of them don’t, which is why they need our witness. Many people do not understand why we come here, and many people are afraid of what they don’t understand, so they lash out in anger from a place of insecurity or false confidence, convinced that we are the enemy and that we have come to condemn them and others. But they are not our enemies.

The other type of silence is from those who should be here with us but have not yet embraced the call and the courage to do so. They sit in 3 silence, often dismissing the opportunities to stand up for life by distracting themselves with other, “more important” things. This is frustrating for us, and we don’t understand. When someone finds out that innocent children are being violently killed, the response should be, “WHAT?! Where, when? We’ve got to stop it!” For whatever reason, too many are not responding this way. But they are not the enemies either, and they need our love and witness as well.

God is so patient and loving, and we see this in how he moves in our hearts to help us to grow in our witness to Life. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t born an avid pro-life activist. Sure, I’ve always been pro-life, but I haven’t always acted upon it. I’ve had to grow, little by little, and with the help of others. After several years of praying outside abortion mills and studying the issues, I saw the video, “No Greater Joy,” by Pro-Life Action League, and I was blown away. I highly recommend it, and you can see it on their website or on YouTube. It is a training video for sidewalk counselors, which shows actual sidewalk counselors and how they do what they do. One of them was a young priest. I was so inspired by his example that I too began taking the steps to do the same thing, and I can’t tell you what an amazing experience it has been.

Here, the set-up makes it particularly hard to see results. We’re already at a disadvantage in that these women have made the decision to come here by the time we encounter them. There is no other way for us to find them beforehand. And even then, it’s a busy city street, and there are other things going on in that building, so there are many things against us. BUT, we have our dedicated sidewalk counselors, along with our dedicated prayer warriors, and most importantly, we have God and His grace to work miracles through us despite the obstacles!

I have no direct knowledge of whether or not I have ever helped anyone to choose life for their child, but I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty – BECAUSE OF OUR PRAYERS AND WITNESS, LIVES ARE BEING SAVED AND LIVES ARE BEING CHANGED! I guarantee it. We may not see it, but it is happening. And we must not rely on knowing the results of our efforts, because on principle alone we should feel compelled to keep coming back until this evil doesn’t exist anymore. We must carry on, without counting the cost, and let God worry about the results. We simply 4 give our yes to God, do whatever He asks of us, and trust Him completely. The victories are His.

Shawn Carney, campaign director for 40 Days for Life, has been sharing stories of people who have come forward to say that they chose life for their baby because of Life Chains and because of people praying and witnessing outside abortion sites. Once, in Colorado, I noticed a black truck with tinted windows crept down the side street and parked. Then, the truck pulled into the parking lot of the abortion mill, and a woman got out and started coming over. She hollered, “Thanks! Thanks for being here!” Now, at first I thought she was being sarcastic and that she was picking a fight, so I braced myself. I calmly said, “You’re welcome.” She came closer and said, “I had two abortions, and people simply do not realize the damage. Thank you for coming here to pray so that other women won’t have to go through what I’ve gone through.” I said, “Are you getting the help that you need for healing?” She said she was, so I said as she parted, “God bless you.” She turned around and said, “No, God bless YOU!” So you see, we do have an impact, and we do help people, whether or not we see it or hear about it.

All of us have room to grow, and all of us are in need of constant conversion. Saint Longinus the Centurion was one of the roman soldiers who formally cooperated in the unjust crucifixion of Jesus, not unlike those in the abortion industry today. It was he who pierced our Lord’s side, and we know that along with the Blood and Water that flowed from Jesus’ Sacred Heart, the WITNESS of those who remained at the foot of the Cross aided in his conversion. He became such an avid follower of Jesus that eventually he too paid the price of martyrdom at the very same “washed” hands of Pontius Pilate. Like him, we have also been forgiven, and are now giving our lives completely to Jesus. This gift we have received, we should want for everyone else too, no matter what.

We will continue coming back to this spot, and any other place where the holy innocents are murdered and countless lives are ruined, so that hearts may be converted. Once hearts are converted, then minds will be converted, and once that happens, then the right actions and decisions will soon follow. Only true holiness, by God’s grace, can bring about the needed conversion in others. There is no substitute for holiness. That is our number one objective, because it is the number one most effective weapon 5 that we have in this fight. We have to change hearts! And we will, by prayer and love.

I have one final story to illustrate how this can happen. Towards the beginning of these 40 days for Life, I was praying one afternoon when an elderly lady approached. She looked at our signs, and then she looked up at me. She was very angry, and she said, “I don’t like what those priests did to those kids. It’s bad.” Then she said, “Are you a priest?” I said, “Yes, I am.” She took a step back and said, “Then I am ashamed to be standing on the same property that your feet are touching.” I replied, “What those priests did was horrible, and there is no excuse.” I could see that she started to lighten up. I then had the chance to explain to her that we detest that evil just as much as we detest the evil of abortion. She agreed and she finally said, “I don’t like this abortion. I will come back again later to join you here.” A victory for Life! She started off as my enemy, judging me and holding me in contempt for the sins of some of my brother priests, but she left as my buddy, ready to stand alongside me. This is the New Evangelization, this is how hearts are changed, and this is how we will win the battle, one soul at a time! “This is how we know what love is, that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters…Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16, 18). AMEN