Five years ago the State of Georgia executed a criminal on death row. Troy Davis was given the death penalty for killing a cop several years earlier. Over the years many questions and doubts had been raised regarding the evidence that was used to indict him, but at the end the execution was not stopped at the last moment. Many people begged and pleaded that his life be spared. Even the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, asked that Troy Davis be shown mercy.
No one can be 100 percent sure that Troy Davis was guilty or innocent. We as a civilized society do not want to put an innocent man to death. How can we execute someone if there is even a shade of doubt? Only God knows what really happened. In trying to carry out an execution such as this, we want to play God. We want to decide who deserves to live and who deserves to die.
As I watched this story unfold, I could not but think of all the innocent, helpless babies that are killed every day. And yet, there is hardly anyone to take up their cause. Ironically even some of those who are vehemently against the death penalty have absolutely no qualms of conscience in getting rid of lives in the womb. Once again our society wants to play God. It has usurped the right to decide who deserves to live and who deserves to die.
This temptation to play God is as old as humanity itself. What was the first sin of Adam and Eve? It was not merely eating a fruit. It was a profound desire to become like God and so get rid of God altogether from their lives. Remember the tempter’s words to Eve: “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." We humans have succumbed to that temptation over and over again. With regard to life issues, that is exactly what we are doing – trying to do away with God and take His place.
October is set aside as the Respect Life Month. We are called upon by the Church to reflect on our attitudes and our actions as a parish and as individuals. We need to embrace life in its entire range – from natural conception to natural death, and heeding the call of the late Cardinal Bernardin, we must uphold the seamless garment of life. We need to protect unborn babies. We need to peacefully resist war and violence. We need to care for the elderly and recognize the redemptive value of suffering. We need to fight every form of euthanasia. We need to oppose capital punishment. We need to provide for the poor and the vulnerable in our society so that they can live in dignity. Both as the parish and as families we need to nurture the culture of life and resist the culture of death.
In the concrete, here are some things all of us can do:
First of all, we need to pray. We need to pray for the conversion of our nation especially with regard to life issues. We need to pray that we will recognize the foolhardiness of trying to play God. We need to pray for all those who are working to promote the culture of life: those who work towards changing the laws of the land; those who are elected to make our laws; those who counsel and support pregnant women; women who find themselves in difficult situations and feel alone; young people who are learning the ways of love; and parents who teach their children the right values regarding chastity. We need to pray for mothers who have lost children. We need to pray for women who have had abortions so that they will find peace and reconciliation.
Second, let us teach our children that every life is precious in the eyes of God. We need to make them aware that God alone gives life and He alone can take it away. He is the Sovereign Master. We need to educate our young people that sexuality is a sacred gift that must be used with responsibility within the commitment of marriage. We must help our young people to appreciate chastity and encourage them to resist the seduction of our sexualized pop culture. We must applaud young women who say “No” to abortion. We must tell our young people that God loves them infinitely more than they can imagine. He loves every child that is given life. As parents, we must recognize that even our children are not our own. They are God’s gifts to us. They belong to Him but He found us worthy to be their parents. We need to appreciate the gift and the privilege.
Finally, in our own personal lives, let us be life-givers. We must note that God calls all of us to give life. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: “I have chosen you so that you may go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” We must find ways to give life to those around us. We must avoid anything that will in any way diminish the lives of others, especially those in our families. Let us imitate the Lord who came so that we may have life and have it in abundance.
I would like to invite the entire parish to a significant talk that will be given this afternoon by Vicki Thorn, the founder of Project Rachel. Vicki has been in the forefront of helping women and men experience God’s mercy and reconciliation after an abortion. I have known her since my days at Marquette as she is the wife of my graduate program advisor, Professor Bill Thorn. Her talk will be enlightening for all, young and old alike.
I thank our Respect Life Committee for the extraordinary efforts they are making to help our parish to be truly a pro-life parish. May the Lord bless them because they are collaborating with God Himself Who alone is the Life-Giver!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...