Shining a light in the darkness of abortion

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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: January 23, 2011
Isa 8:23–9:3; Ps 27; 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17; Matt 4:12-23

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” The original context of these words from the prophet Isaiah was a mass deportation by the Assyrian Empire in the 8th century B.C. The land of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali was near the northern end of the Holy Land, alongside the Sea of Galilee. And when the Assyrian Empire conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel in 722, these lands were the first to have the Jewish people forcibly deported and resettled far away, and foreign peoples brought in to live there. They were the first to suffer in this way. And how fitting that these lands should also be the first to receive the blessing of feeling the footsteps of Jesus; of hearing his message of hope; of witnessing his healing miracles, and receiving his call.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” These images are evocative; and so these words speak to us as well of our own experience of suffering and darkness, and of our longing for the healing and life-giving touch of the Lord—whether we have already known that touch, or we are still waiting for it.

This weekend is one when we think of pro-life issues in our country, since yesterday was the 38th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states, and tomorrow is the annual March for Life in the streets of Washington. And the experience of our country with these years of abortion has been one of darkness: of confusion and of sorrow; of conflict and of being conflicted. It is an experience of conflict between the two sides, pro-life and pro-choice. And it is an experience of feeling conflicted, for those in the middle, not ready to join one side or the other.

For what do Americans in the middle believe?—and this might describe some of you here today, or surely many people that you know. They believe that abortion means the death of a baby; and certainly that is a matter of darkness and gloom. And yet they also believe that women with unexpected pregnancies face great difficulties: in poor finances; lack of prenatal care; disruptions to their job or education; the lack of good family support; and other reasons. And this too is darkness and anguish and distress. And facing these two forms of darkness, what are they to do? And so a significant middle group in our country continues to reluctantly accept abortion, out of the belief that at least it can switch the light back on for the pregnant woman.

But the problem is that it does not. It does not switch the light back on for her; but instead it smashes the bulb. And that is the secret pain that has begun to be told, more and more in recent years. Sure, an abortion might smooth out financial decisions or a career path. But it pierces the heart and scars the soul. For the woman who has an abortion—often pressured into it—abortion is not the end of the darkness but the beginning of a much deeper darkness: a darkness of pain and guilt and regret; of sadness and hopelessness; of nightmares and a feeling that they can never be forgiven. This is indeed a terrible burden that they feel they cannot throw off, a punishing taskmaster that they cannot escape. And it affects many around them as well: the father of the child; future husband and children; their parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters; all of these relationships.

This is darkness indeed. But, brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus Christ is still in the light business. As surely as the light of a star guided the Magi to his miraculous birth; as startlingly as he appeared, preaching and healing in Galilee, at the beginning of his public ministry, in today’s Gospel; and as vividly as the new fire blazes out of the darkness at every Easter Vigil to signify the power of his resurrection, conquering the forces of sin and death; so his light still shines; his power still liberates; his mercy still pours forth to forgive and heal; and his love still conquers all.

Brothers and sisters, our world needs to know, now more than ever, that Jesus saves. Jesus forgives and heals. Jesus brings joy, abundant joy; he brings light out of darkness; and he brings life out of death.

And he does not do this alone. As we heard him call Peter and Andrew today to follow him and be fishers of men, so he calls each of us to plug into him and be the light of the world. And we heard him call James and John, who were sitting there mending their nets; and he might as well have said, “Follow me and I will make you menders of hearts.” For this is his great project of Redemption, and he wants us to be part of it.

Does that surprise you? Does it seem unlikely? Do you look at your limitations—and we all have limitations; or things from your past—and we all have things in our past; and wonder whether our Lord Jesus could ever use you to bring his light to others? But he can. For St. Paul had quite a past, and he wrote often about how God uses the weak, the foolish, those who are not held as honorable by the world, to work his healing and wisdom and power in them, and to work through them to show this to the world. And indeed St. Paul says in that letter to the Corinthians [2 Cor 1:3-4]:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.

Limitations and past sins and mistakes are not obstacles to God using us to bring light and life to others; again and again, they are exactly what he chooses to use. And St. Paul knew this very well indeed in his own life.

And so we proclaim to the world that our Lord Jesus is the light that they have been longing for; and we allow our own hands and feet to be used to give others what they need. Will you be the generous heart who is ready to give them what they need?

  • Will you give them the witness of your faith in Christ; the balm of your hope; and the love of a listening ear and a caring heart?
  • Will you point them to the resources that can supply the strength and support they need? Resources like local crisis pregnancy centers; the Gabriel Project; and our diocese’s Birthing and Care Program; which together help to provide the financial help, medical services, legal advice, counseling, housing, education, or jobs that they need, to give life to their child?
  • Will you point them to the Project Rachel Ministry, in which caring priests and deacons, counselors, and support groups can help them to find forgiveness and healing? Will you point them to Father David and me, who are always ready to talk with them and to bring them God’s mercy and forgiveness in confession?

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils.

The Lord is my light and my salvation. Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.

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Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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