We have returned to the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. You will notice that a noble simplicity has returned in the church decorations and the ceremonies of the Mass. This season does not highlight any particular mystery of salvation. Rather, we reflect upon the events of the life and ministry of Jesus as the Gospel of Matthew is proclaimed in more or less continuous fashion from now until the beginning of Lent.
In today’s Gospel passage Saint John the Baptist fulfills his destiny as herald of the Messiah when he attests that Jesus “is the Son of God.” We remain at the scene of Jesus’ baptism, commemorated last Sunday. The testimony of the Father, the Holy Spirit and John the Baptist is further interpreted by Isaiah’s prophecy about a “servant” who will be “a light to the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (First Reading) This prophecy continues the Epiphany theme of the universality of God’s plan of salvation and the image of light as a symbol of God’s self-revelation in Christ. We, as disciples of Jesus and members of the Church, are reminded by Saint Paul that we are “called to be holy” (Second Reading) as we bear the torch of righteousness in our world.
JANUARY 22 DAY OF PENANCE AND PRAYER
The Catholic Bishops of the United States have decreed that January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, is to be observed annually as a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. Texts appropriate for this observance will be used in Wednesday’s Mass.
The destruction of the unborn child has always been particularly abhorrent in the eyes of the Church and, until recently, to all of humanity. Physicians, taking the classical Hippocratic Oath, swore not to give a woman a drug to induce an abortion. The ecumenical consensus among Christians prior to 1973 was to oppose abortion. Canon law reinforces the Catholic Church’s disdain for abortion by attaching an excommunication to all involved in a completed abortion. Lost in all pro-abortion rhetoric and legislation is the humanity of the unborn child. More recent scientific knowledge has affirmed that the unborn child can feel pain, and can respond to sounds from outside the womb such as music or his or her parents’ voices. One of the best abortion deterrents is the ultrasound, where the unborn child can be seen as a living, moving human being. In fact it was observing the ultrasound of an abortion procedure that brought about the conversion of at least one Planned Parenthood employee, as recounted in the movie Unplanned. I find reprehensible legislation that blocks such information from being made known, as though it is all right to conceal the true nature of abortion in order to make it easier for a woman to go through with it. Perhaps the most fundamental reason abortion remains as acceptable as it is is the denial of the reality of what it actually is: the deliberate killing of a living child before birth. The truth remains: “Abortion stops a beating heart.”
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concludes this Saturday, January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. This year’s theme is taken from Acts 28:2, “They Showed Us Unusual Kindness.” Again this year we pray that the scandal of a divided Christendom may be overcome, a stated priority for Pope Francis.
Pray the Rosary again this week for the unity of Christians, for an end to legalized abortion and the many other crimes against human life and dignity, for victory over the wildfires in Australia and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.