Praised be Jesus Christ, now and for ever. Amen.
By the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, our Lord Jesus provides us with a fundamental instruction on how to pray. He teaches us, first, the foundation of all prayer in our relationship with God. Prayer can only be true prayer when it flows from a filial relationship with God, a relationship of humble gratitude and ready obedience. At the same time, true prayer fosters the humility and confidence which define our relationship with God our Father. The Pharisee approaches prayer as the opportunity to praise himself before God. With his words, he thanks God that he is a righteous man, but, in his heart, he is convinced that his righteousness is all his own doing. His prayer is a monologue about his greatness, which leaves no opening for God to speak to his heart and to invite him to and strengthen him for a greater holiness of life.
The Publican, on the other hand, recognizing his own lowliness before the perfect goodness of God, keeps his eyes downcast and prays in simple words which express fully our relationship with God: "O God, be merciful to me a sinner" (Gospel). In his prayer, he does not presume to praise himself before God but, rather, opens his mind and heart, which he knows to be affected by sin, to the mercy and grace of God. Our Lord concludes His teaching in the Parable with these words:
"I tell you, the latter [the Publican] went home justified, not the former [the Pharisee];
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Gospel)
The Publican goes home, continuing to pray and to ask for the gift of God's mercy in his life. He is not confident in himself and his righteousness, but he is confident in God's never-failing mercy. He trusts in the Lord Who alone makes him righteous.
The Publican's prayer in the temple reflects the wisdom expressed in today's reading from the Book of Sirach:
"The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay." (Reading I)
Our relationship with God, expressed, above all, in our prayer, acknowledges that we can do nothing without the help of God's grace and, at the same time, is confident that God, in His mercy, always hears our prayers and answers them. With the help of divine grace, poured forth into our souls by God in answer to our humble prayers, we are able to do what is good and right for the sake of our own salvation and the transformation of our world.
Bringing to conclusion our annual Archdiocesan Respect Life Convention, we are filled with humility, with the deepest sense of our total dependence upon the grace of God in the work of transforming the culture of death, in which we live, into a civilization of His life and love. With the Publican, we offer our prayer with eyes downcast, for we are conscious of our own sinfulness and of how it has permitted the culture of death to establish itself in our society. At the same time, we are filled with confidence and we pray with the Publican: "O God, be merciful to me a sinner." Our confidence does not rest upon ourselves, for we know too well how man, in his pride, has betrayed God's plan for us and for our world, a plan written upon our very hearts. Our confidence, rather, rests upon the gift of God's mercy and love, the outpouring of His grace from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, healing us of our sin and strengthening us to do what is right and good.
Our challenges in carrying out the new evangelization through the teaching and living of the Gospel of Life are indeed great. Since November of last year, we face the formidable challenge of reversing an action taken by the citizens of our state, which placed an amendment into the Constitution of the State of Missouri, guaranteeing the right to generate artificially human life in order to destroy it for the sake of scientific experiments. The provisions of the amendment are a prideful affront to God and His plan for the procreation of human life and for the protection and development of embryonic human life. For the sake of the good of all in our state, we must do everything possible to remove the amendment from our state constitution. We must act together with all men of good will. We must act with a clarity and coherence which does not contribute to the confusion and error which has brought us to such a reprehensible situation. We must never forget that Satan takes no rest from his destructive work of confusion and discouragement. He enters into our very midst, appearing to be a lamb, but he is a wolf who wants only to devour us. He, most of all, wants to convince us that the victory of life is our work; he wants us to forget that God alone can save us from our sin and strengthen us to do what is right, what serves the good of all.
When Cardinal John Carberry set forth the plan for the Pro-Life Committee, now the Respect Life Apostolate, in the Archdiocese, some 34 and a half years ago, he articulated four essential activities which must proceed, one from the other. The four activities are spiritual initiatives, education, pastoral assistance and public-policy advocacy. While the various activities of the Apostolate are carried out simultaneously, the last two flow from the first two. We will only be able to carry out, in a Christlike manner, the work of pastoral assistance and public-policy advocacy, if we first pray daily for the help of God's grace and devote ourselves to know deeply the truth about human life. If we are not grounded in prayer and in a solid grasp of the natural moral law, our pastoral assistance and public-policy advocacy will lack their proper mind and heart. Indeed, in striving to do good, we will risk doing what is wrong, that is, what betrays the truth about human life.
As we renew our engagement in the Respect Life Apostolate, I urge a new attention to the importance of prayer, above all, the praying of the Rosary and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, asking God for the grace to teach and practice the Gospel of Life. Let us renew our Rosary Crusade for the Safeguarding of Embryonic Human Life, praying the Rosary for the intention of the victory of life in our homes, our parishes, our Catholic schools and parish schools of religion, and all of our institutions and organizations. Let us go to our Lord, in His Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance, and pray with all our heart for the sake of our tiniest brothers and sisters, and for the sake of us all who are called, in the depths of our hearts, to be the guardians of every human life, from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death. Let us entrust the cause of human life in our nation to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, who holds each human life in the crossing of her maternal arms and who counts upon us to be her messengers in announcing the immeasurable mercy of God toward all whom He has called to life.
I also urge a new attention to the work of knowing and communicating the truth about human life. The campaign which we waged to defeat the infamous "Amendment 2" has undeniably taught us that there is there is a lack of knowledge of the truth about the integrity of human procreation, the inviolability of embryonic human life, and about the grave wrong involved in doing what is always evil for the sake of accomplishing some good. Let us all continue to deepen our own knowledge of the truths of reason and faith pertaining to the procreation of human life and the respect for all human life, from the first moment of its inception. Let us use all of the means of communication available to communicate the truths of reason and faith to our society for the sake of the good of all in our society, especially those who are defenseless and those who are in most need. In a particular way, I commend the work of Metanoia Films in producing the film Bella, which is an eloquent and powerful tool for teaching the truth about our first vocation, that is, our call to safeguard and foster all human life.
As we are now offering to almighty God our most perfect prayer of praise and thanksgiving, of expiation and petition, I express my deepest gratitude to the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate; to the Director of the Apostolate, Christina Heddell and to the Moderator, Monsignor Gregory Schmidt; to the chairs of the Convention, Dr. Michael and Vonda Temporal; to the presenters and exhibitors at the Convention. At the same time, I express the deepest gratitude to all who participated in the Convention and, in a particular way, to the leaders of the Respect Life Apostolate in each of our parishes.
Let us now lift up our sinful hearts to the Pierced Heart of Jesus in His Eucharistic Sacrifice. With total humility and total confidence, let us seek in His Sacred Heart the forgiveness of our sins and the strength to be faithful and generous apostles of the Gospel of Life.
Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness, have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.
Saint Louis of France, pray for us.
Saint Vincent de Paul, pray for us.
Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, pray for us.