The Right Choice and the Only Choice: To Be For Life

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde August 18, 2007, during the monthly Respect Life Mass at St. Lawrence Church in Alexandria.

In today's first scripture reading, we heard how "Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem and addressed them." It was their time of decision: "decide today whom you will serve" — the false gods or the true God. The people replied: "(W)e will serve the Lord, for he is our God." So then, Joshua told them: "(P)ut away the strange gods that are among you and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel." The people replied, promising Joshua, "We will serve the Lord, our God, and obey his voice."

This scene actually took place many, many centuries ago, yet it has been repeated down through the ages until even today. God keeps intervening, most especially through His Divine Son sent to become like us in all things except sin, sent to redeem and to save us and to show us how to live here so as to live forever hereafter. Yes, God intervenes in our lives as individuals and in our lives within the community called the Church. God tells us: "Decide whom you will serve, the strange and foreign gods in your midst — actually, non-gods — or Me, the only true God."

Oh, we ask, who are these strange and foreign gods? They have many names and disguises: ego, power, prestige, money, selfish pleasure. No doubt, the strongest and most seductive of these gods is false independence, an autonomy which either neglects or denies God and His authority in our lives. This false god says, "I alone decide what is right or wrong."

The clearest example of this false independence or autonomy is the attacks on human life from its first moment at conception to its last moment at natural death. The names of these unjust attacks on human life are so familiar: abortion, partial-birth abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and destruction, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. In fact, these attacks have become so familiar — and regrettably and sadly, so accepted in society — that we can run the risk of no longer being sickened, stunned and appalled.

Yet, God does keep intervening as He is doing right now during our monthly Respect Life Mass and, later, as we pray the rosary before the abortion chambers. "Decide now: are you for life or against life?"

Now, abortion is the primary and most fundamental attack on life. Today's Gospel account clearly refers to children and to Jesus' predilection for them. "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Abortion attacks the life of the most vulnerable of children, children in their earliest stages of human development. Yes, how much Jesus loved and loves these little children, these newly-conceived human beings.

The protection and defense of all human life, from conception to natural death, is the duty and responsibility of every member of the human family. Life must be protected and defended, upheld, nurtured and developed from its beginning at conception to its end at natural death and everywhere in between. For the baptized person, for the authentic disciple of Christ, the protection and defense of life is rooted in one's baptismal consecration. For the true disciple of Christ, the only choice is for life! This is why the phrase "pro-choice" is so misleading and, indeed, absolutely erroneous: to be authentically for choice means to choose that which is good and right and just from God's perspective, and He creates human life at the moment of conception. Of course, when the false god of autonomy and self-independence is adored, when "I alone decide what is right or wrong" is the controlling principle, then God's presence and authority is denied and, therefore, His perspective, His will, no longer directs one's decisions and actions.

I repeat, protecting and defending the gift of life flows from our baptismal consecration and is our Christian responsibility. Therefore, whatever the specific vocation we are living, it is God's will that we be "pro-life." Today's saint, Jane Frances de Chantal, is an outstanding example and a practical model of how to fulfill God's will in every vocation. St. Jane Frances was wife, mother, widow, religious and foundress. After she experienced a profound conversion, she desired only one thing: to love God and to do His holy will. She deeply appreciated the gift of human life, loving her husband and raising her four surviving children in the Christian life, tirelessly helping the sick and convincing local political leaders of their duty to make special provisions for the sick and the bereaved. From her, then, we learn that, whoever we are, the pro-life apostolate is ours.

Already, the media daily bombards us with the news about next year's presidential election. Each day, we see or hear how the candidates think about a wide range of issues, some of which affect the inestimable dignity of life. Many candidates at various levels, who claim to be practicing Catholics, do not appear to follow the Church's teaching on the life issues. Over the course of the next 14 months, I encourage you to practice faithful citizenship and learn about those running for office and how their policies would impact the life issues.

Each day brings the time of decision: to be for life or not. Choose the One and only true God, the God of life and the giver of every good gift, beginning with the inestimable gift of life. Once again, we seek the intercession of St. Jane Frances de Chantal as we echo today's opening prayer: "By her prayers help us to be faithful to our vocation and always to be the light of the world" and we add: "for the life of the world." Amen.

Bishop Paul S. Loverde


Bp. Paul S. Loverde is the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.

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