Archbishop Gregory Aymond delivered the homily Jan. 27 at the Closing Mass of the 2017 March for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Here are his words to the pro-life pilgrims:
Sometimes people come up to us, and they say, “I have good news and bad news. What do you want first?”
As we gather here this morning, we are here to remember that there is good news, and we want to hear that first.
The good news is that the abortion rate in the United States has hit the historic low since Roe versus Wade. The polls speculate as to the reasons, and a few are mentioned; one is not. And I would like to suggest that one of the reasons that the abortion rate has hit a historic low is because of the witness of so many people for life and, in a special way, our youth and young adults who are strongly pro-life in our world and in our church.
May I say to the young church, you are making a difference in the United States. Your voice is being heard, and you are helping to change a culture of death into a culture of life. And we are devoted to you. We express sincere gratitude to you for allowing God to use you as a voice and as a courageous voice for life.
In some ways the child in the womb has a voice, but it is a voice that is not really heard, and you speak for that child – adults and young adults and the youth of our church.
Some would ask, why do we as Christians and Catholics get so excited about this life issue? The Scriptures of today, my sisters and brothers, help us to answer that question.
In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we are told that God created the world and everything that is in it; but then he said, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness.”
In the divine image he has created us, and while still in the womb, God breathed his spirit into us. And today, God continues to breathe that spirit and to dwell in each of us.
Our life is sacred. We are made in the image and the likeness of God, and, yes, we do get excited about life and pro-life activities.
In the Gospel, people are bringing little children to Jesus, and when some hear that, they become very upset. The disciples wanted to keep them away: “Jesus doesn’t have time for these little kids. They should be seen and not heard. The child does not count. The child is powerless.”
And Jesus takes a very different stand in getting upset with them, and he says, “Let the children come to me. Let the children come to me.” And he touched them as a sign that the smallest of the smallest of the child is sacred. Their life is indeed sacred.
And that’s all very, very good news.
We also know that in our country and even beyond that there are challenges out there. Some say that what is in the womb is not a human being, that people have a right to their own body and their own decisions.
And you and I know when we hear that we must swim against the tide as the Holy Father reminds us. And Pope Francis has said very clearly that no one has the right to take life – in the womb and beyond.
And we gather here this morning because we will march for life today. And we also promise that each of us will be in dialogue with those who disagree with us, with those who do not see the value of life. We will dialogue respectfully with them that God may use us to change their hearts.
My sisters and brothers, and in a special way the young church, today we also come to pray for those who have had abortions, that they will come to ask for and experience God’s mercy and his healing.
Today, as we gather, we also remember that at this very moment those who are thinking about abortion may hear God’s call to life, and that, if possible, we be a sign of that call from God.
As we know, my sisters and brothers, for us as Christians, the basic life issue is the baby in the womb. It is a fundamental issue for us as pro-life people, but there are other issues that we cannot neglect.
When people can justify the taking of innocent life in the womb, it becomes easier to justify euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Why? So Grandma doesn’t have to suffer. So Maria, a young adult with terminal illness, can end her life.
Grandma and Maria were given the gift of life by God. And that life must be respected and given reverence.
Some can justify that Ralph, who took the life of his girlfriend, should be put on death row and he should be killed. Only God can take human life, is what you and I would say.
And what about Kate, who is involved in human trafficking. Her boss sells her body for sex, and we say she was made in the image and the likeness of God and her life and her body are indeed sacred, for that is where God dwells today.
Yes, my sisters and brothers, if our world justifies taking innocent life in the womb, it is easier to justify other ways in which we take life and do not respect it.
And what about Alberto, an immigrant, who is looking for freedom. He is looking for a new life to be freed from oppression and danger, and he seeks a new way of life for himself and his family. Jesus would say, “Let them come to me. Let them come to me.”
Today, my friends, we will march for life in the streets of Washington, D.C. We will walk the walk, and we will give witness to the world and especially to others in the United States that we stand for life and we promise to be a bold and courageous voice for life, not just today.
But when we go home or when we go back to our normal activity, we must continue to walk the walk in our own neighborhoods and parishes and communities, and we must talk the talk. What we stand for here and what we do here in Washington, D.C., must continue beyond the streets and beyond this march.
We walk the walk, and we talk the talk wherever we go. And we do so with courage. God wants to use you and me for those whose voices are not heard, those whose voices are disregarded.
Yes, my sisters and brothers, there is good news. You make a difference, and especially the young church and the young adult church. You have made a difference because you are changing our culture, and we depend upon you to continue to do that.
And so that is all very, very good news. But there are still some challenges ahead; we’re not finished. We must continue to witness. We must continue to be bold and courageous in what we do for pro-life because we believe that from the infant in the womb to natural death is the sacredness of human life.
So there is much more that we must do, and you and I will continue to witness, and with God’s help we will continue to be strong voices for the respect and the dignity of human life.