Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily at two Masses for Life Jan. 21 at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock.
With God everything is possible, there is nothing impossible for God. We see this in our readings today, we believe this in all of our pro-life efforts, and if we open our hearts we will also experience this in our own personal lives. With God everything is possible.
In our first reading God gives Jonah the seemingly impossible task of calling an entire pagan city to conversion. Jonah believes this to be impossible and tries to get out of what the Lord is asking of him. But finally he gives in and goes through the city of Nineveh proclaiming God’s word.
And lo and behold the impossible happens. They turned from their evil ways and put their faith in the one true God, for whom nothing is impossible.
In our Gospel we have the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. And just like Jonah, Jesus has a seemingly impossible task; in his case that of ushering in the Kingdom of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel.” And then fully convinced that this was what the Father was asking of him, Jesus begins to recruit others to his cause.
Simon and Andrew, James and John put their faith in him and do what their families must have considered the most irresponsible thing imaginable: leaving everything — their career, their family obligations — on nothing more than Jesus’ promise to make them “fishers of men.” Disciples who will gather others into this Kingdom of God so different from the false security of the only life that up to now they had ever known, the kingdom of this world.
Jesus proclaimed the way of truth and life in a world where lies and death prevailed and so do we in all of our pro-life activities. Light in a world shrouded in darkness. New possibilities in the face of evils that seem impossible to overcome. Because nothing is impossible for God.
I have been involved in pro-life activities for over 40 years. My first March for Life was in Washington, D.C., on the third anniversary of Roe v. Wade, in 1976 and so naturally it focused on the effort to end abortion. I remember that it was bitterly cold: snow and ice on the ground, sleet in the air and a strong, cutting north wind. And yet there were 65,000 of us marching. It seemed like everything was against us and not just the weather. The media downplayed our numbers and predicted that resistance to legalized abortion on demand would quickly fade.
But we knew that with God all things are possible and that the light is stronger than the darkness, and so we have continue to march year after year.
You and I, like Jonah, have the seemingly impossible task of calling an entire, increasingly pagan nation to conversion. And this is a monumental task.
First of all there are all the so-called “pro-choice” people, many of whom seem to want no restrictions on abortion whatsoever. I think we all know that our opposition to abortion is absolute — no need for me to go on about that — indeed, that’s the main focus of this Mass!
But then there are also so many people who call themselves pro-life but really are not. They are merely anti-abortion and are not the least bit merciful when it comes to those who are poor, vulnerable and powerless but already outside the womb. They lack a consistent ethic of life.
And as you may know, I will not be participating in the March and Rally for Life this year because the keynote speaker is Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who last year pushed very hard to secure the execution of four criminals who posed no further threat to society — actually, she tried for eight. The Diocese of Little Rock was very vocal in appealing for clemency for these men, but we were opposed at every turn by Attorney General Rutledge.
For that reason I asked Arkansas Right to Life to choose a more appropriate keynote speaker, indicating that I could not participate in what was supposed to be a pro-life event unless they did so. But they decided to keep her anyway. While you are still free to attend, this is the reason we are not promoting the Rally for Life at the state capitol this year. I imagine some of you may choose to go ahead and join in the march but then skip the rally.
In any event, this year we have seen a ruthless assault on all sorts of powerless people who again pose no real threat to us: the deportation of immigrants and refugees fleeing desperate situations, some of whom were brought here as children; demeaning and racially divisive rhetoric in the public square; capital punishment which I have already mentioned; cutbacks in access to medical care; tax policies that appear to favor the rich and powerful; character assassination on Twitter and the internet; silence in the face of hateful behavior.
These are pro-life issues too; anything impacting the life and dignity of the human person from the first moment of conception all the way to natural death and every stage in between. This is what a consistent ethic of life entails. Abortion is huge and we are resolute in our opposition to abortion, but there are other pro-life issues that are important too and boy, do we have our hands full. This is not an either/or situation; it is a both/and situation.
Like Jonah, we may feel tempted at times to give up, thinking that this battle for the hearts and minds of our nation is a battle that cannot be won — especially since we continue to lose ground in so many other areas of morality where the soul of our nation is being led astray.
But today’s Nineveh is not beyond saving and you and I have been sent by God to inspire people to turn from their evil ways and live lives worthy of the one true God of life and Jesus, who is the way the truth and the life, and for whom nothing is impossible.
Like Jesus and his disciples, you and I have been sent by God to proclaim the way of truth and life in a world where in a lot of ways evil prevails. The Gospel of life, of the intrinsic worth and God-given right to life of every person from the first moment of conception to natural death and every stage in between.
We are to be a light shining in a world shrouded in darkness, giving witness to the power of love in the face of evils that seem impossible to overcome. Because nothing is impossible for God.
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