Whenever we take a stand for life, we should recognize that we are ultimately taking a stand for relationships. We are standing in solidarity not only with unborn children, but with their frightened mothers and fathers...with the poor, the addict, the elderly, the immigrant, those tormented by mental illness--indeed, we stand with all who struggle and suffer. For God also wants us to be in relationship not just with friends and family, but with these most vulnerable among us, too.

 

 

 

Our plane landed in Seattle a little late, but no one complained because we knew the air traffic delays were to keep us safe. Anxious passengers rushed to make connecting flights.

As we prepared to deboard, I saw the young woman who had been seated in front of me. She had spent the flight chatting pleasantly with the man next to her. She and others had given me the odd stare, which I attributed to my all-black clerical attire and Roman collar. As I now walked behind the young woman as we left the aircraft, however, I couldn’t help but notice she kept re-adjusting her backpack so that a large button was nearly at my eye level. The button said, “I Am Pro-Choice and I Vote.”

All kinds of thoughts went through my head. I wondered how this young woman had gotten to that place...how had she grown from an innocent child to an adult who supports abortion? I briefly considered tapping her shoulder and telling her that even as a Catholic bishop, I am pro-choice, too--I just believe everyone should be able to make a choice, even the unborn babies now being deprived of their right to life through abortion.

A while later at baggage claim, I noticed the same young woman standing nearby on her phone. I heard her end the call with a heartfelt, “Oh, Mom, I love you so much!” Once again, I wanted to share words of truth and life with her by pointing out that, “In that proclamation of love, you just told your mother, ‘Thank you for choosing life.’” But I knew she wasn’t likely to welcome my wisdom, so I decided instead to pray for her, that she comes to see the connection between the profound love for her own mother and the unborn child who just wants to be loved, too.  

Witnessing the woman’s loving relationship with her mother prompted me to recall my ongoing Christmas reflection of Mary’s “yes” to the Archangel Gabriel--a “yes” that resulted in her carrying the Savior of the world in her womb and engaging in a most intimate relationship with human life. As the new Eve, Mary’s “yes” not only reversed the disobedience of our first parents, but also made sacred the entire procreative process of human life. With her “yes” to God, Mary agreed to be Mother of all the Living, and to live in relationship with all of us. Her “yes” proves it is love that saves us--and that only love will save the lives of unborn children in danger of dying from abortion.

On January 19, hundreds of thousands gathered in Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. This year’s theme was “Love Saves Lives.” This echoed our primary vocation in life, which is to love. God created each of us in His image and likeness out of love and He desires to be in a loving relationship with us even before we are conceived: “I knew you before you were knit in your mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5). The process of creating new human life was designed by God to put us in relationship with Him and each other from the beginning of our existence. This is why Pope Francis has repeatedly affirmed that, “Every child has a right to a mother and father.” The Holy Father is not naive; he realizes not every pregnancy occurs under ideal circumstances. But he also knows it is God’s design that every child have a loving relationship with his mother and father. 

Sadly, in our broken world, this is not always possible. Some pregnant couples may not believe they have the emotional or material resources to properly care for their child. In these cases, however, the loving response is not to eliminate the child through abortion, but to rally around that couple so their child can have loving parents, by providing additional resources so they can be good parents or creating a new family through adoption.

When we look at human life from natural conception to natural death, we must acknowledge that sacred vocation woven in the fabric of our being to “love another and be loved.” Too often, we hear of children neglected or abused, spouses assaulted, or special-needs persons and the elderly denigrated as useless because they are not “contributing” members of society. Immigrants are often tarred with that same dark brush, despite our nation being rooted in a beautiful plurality of cultures. It’s easy to overlook that the unborn child, the elderly, the disabled, and the immigrant have that same yearning in their hearts to love God and be loved by others. But they need the protection of America’s freedoms to pursue that deep need.   

Whenever we take a stand for life, we should recognize that we are ultimately taking a stand for relationships. We are standing in solidarity not only with unborn children, but with their frightened mothers and fathers...with the poor, the addict, the elderly, the immigrant, those tormented by mental illness--indeed, we stand with all who struggle and suffer. For God also wants us to be in relationship not just with friends and family, but with these most vulnerable among us, too.

Catholics make a good start on this when we boldly defend the unborn child against abortion. However, we must follow through by reaching out even after birth to those who need us. For example, do we offer diapers, meals, childcare, or even just our presence to the single mothers now caring for the newborns we’ve helped save from abortion? Our obligation to our brothers and sisters extends well beyond the womb; God wants us to care for people of all ages, especially those who feel nobody loves them.

We all desperately need someone to affirm that we’re loved and wanted. Mary experienced it at the foot of the Cross, upon which hung the child of her womb. When Christ said from the Cross, “Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother,” He lovingly cared for Mary even while dying. He also gave us a mother who says “yes” to a relationship with us, who wants to accompany us as we travel our own roads to Calvary. The crucifixion is proof that God does not want us to suffer alone, but to be in relationship with those among us who have the strongest need for love.

Unfortunately, our news is plagued with stories of disrespect for the sacredness of life, which suggests many have given up hope. This reflects a crisis of love--a crisis of relationship with God and with one another. Saint Teresa of Calcutta recognized this when she visited the United States in 1994, and referred to our country’s high abortion rate as a crisis of love. She said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody...that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

As Catholics, however, we know God’s grace can transform our crisis of love into a culture of love. May we all commit to reaching out to others, so that no one among us ever feels unwanted and unloved. May we always remember that “Love Saves Lives.”