The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Respect Life Mass on the Optional Memorial of St. Blaise at St. James Parish in Falls Church.
Some very sound advice has just been given to us through today's first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. "Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind." These words really are an invitation from God to us to reach out to those in need even at the point of personal sacrifice. Indeed, we must never forget those truly in need, whether the need be physical or spiritual.
Among the truly needy are the victims of our contemporary profound disrespect for life: for example, the aborted child, the discarded embryo, the person duped by false information or glib rhetoric, those who have participated in direct attacks on life, often through fear or desperation. Yes, all these are victims in one sense or other. God tells us: "Do not neglect to do good." Certainly, this includes proclaiming the truth about the life issues, in a word, to proclaim the Gospel of Life both by word and by personal witness.
But, the Lord says further "Do not neglect to share what you have." What is it that we have which we can share? We have accurate information, positive support and practical aid. Above all, we have the truth about life!
Jesus Himself looks at our real world, and sees now what He first saw in the Gospel scene just proclaimed. "they were like sheep without a shepherd" and so "his heart was moved with pity for them." Jesus then "began to teach them many things." Jesus still continues to teach, now through us, by word, action and witness.
Yesterday, we celebrated the Lord's Presentation in the Temple and heard once again that Christ is "a light for revelation to the Gentiles." The Lord Jesus is the Light of the world and His light enables us to understand His Word more clearly, to anchor all our actions more fully in His love and to be steadfast and brave in our witness day by day.
Today, we honor St. Blaise, who himself was a martyr for his witness to the Risen Lord Jesus. Saint Blaise is invoked as a healer and protector from illness, especially throat diseases.
We hear so much today about the healing and cures which can hopefully be brought about by stem-cell research. Now, the role of science and technology can be good, but the conclusions and practices which result from this research and the very process of researching must always be in harmony with the dignity of every human person, born and unborn.
Of course, the Catholic Church deeply desires that cures be found for those illnesses which continue to plague so many people. We are not opposed to stem-cell research that does not destroy human life and is therefore in accord with the moral law. By using adult stem-cell research, positive and documentable progress has already been made. Illnesses have already been arrested or cured. On the other hand, embryonic stem-cell research has produced nothing of real value. However, we do not hear about these facts in the media. Instead, we are still being pressured to accept and to approve embryonic stem-cell research. But to do so is to engage in the direct destruction of a human life. This is why the Church opposes embryonic stem-cell research yet supports research using adult stem cells, cells found in cord blood and bone marrow and now — in a new discovery — stem cells from the amniotic fluid surrounding unborn children in the womb. These latter cells "may have the practical advantage of embryonic stem cells for helping patients with none of the practical or moral disadvantages. And the 4 million live births in this country every year offer an ample supply of such cells for treatments without harming anyone" (cf. "Fact vs. Politics on Stem Cells" by Richard M. Doerflinger).
Being "pro life" impels us never to neglect to do good and to share what we have. The Gospel of Life, if understood correctly and lived faithfully, enables us truly to help everyone in need and to share the truth fully and without any ambiguity. Not only in the issue of embryonic stem-cell research but in every attack on life, beginning with the unjust attack on a defenseless pre-born human being through abortion, we must proclaim the truth, set straight the facts, invite dialogue and discussion, advocate for legal protections and seek the conversion of hearts. Then, we will be real witnesses, like St. Blaise; then we will be promoting the real healing that comes from living the Gospel of Life.