Yesterday around 70,000 people, mostly under 30 years of age, testified to the sacred value of every human life by walking down Market Street here in San Francisco. It was an overwhelming witness to the peace and joy of knowing there is a God and He holds each of us in His hands. Pope Francis coined the term “throw away culture.” We throw away perfectly good food, we throw away usable clothing, cars, and electronics. Try to get a pair of shoes or a clock radio fixed these days—they tell you it’s easier and cheaper to just get a new one. And not only material things: we too easily give up on marriages that could be repaired and friendships that just need a little loving care. Our throw away culture began, however, when we began throwing away our children, first through contraception and then through abortion. In pushing life away from us, we have pushed aside the very source of our joy. We have become a sad and fretful people, a homeless people because we have emptied the home of children.
The Joy of the Gospel
In the first reading, Ezra the priest reads from the Books of the Law to the Jewish people who had been deprived of God’s Word for 50 years during their Babylonian Captivity. Proclaiming the Torah from daybreak to midday, Ezra sees the people weep as they hear God’s love for them. “Do not weep,” Ezra says, “and do not be sad, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!” In the Gospel, the Lord himself reads from Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue, where he had grown up. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to bring glad tidings, to proclaim liberty, recovery of sight, to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” God is with us, and we are acceptable to the Him, no matter what we have done or had done to us. If God is a father to us, we are ever-young, children who know a benevolent father will protect and provide for us. He alone can restore the joy of our youth.
Why is the prolife movement so young? It’s not only filled with children and teens, young adults and young families, but the older people who have been praying in front of abortion clinics for 30 years are filled with joy and hope. It is born of a conviction that we are free and can be at peace with nature. The laws of nature do not restrict but free the creatures she governs.
One of nature’s laws is that every human being has inalienable rights. In other words, as St. Paul says in today’s epistle, “the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you’ nor the head to the feet ‘I do not need you.’” Every human life is needed. If our society is suffering a sense of isolation, of disunity and disembodiment, it is because we have been eliminating an entire part of the human family since 1973. Since Roe v. Wade at least 60 million lives have been thrown away, and if you and I do not say something, their blood is on our hands. The loss of even one human life is my loss, an irreparable loss to humanity. Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist whose story was made famous in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List, saved 1200 Jews from Nazi extermination. In the end, he wept that he had not sold his car or his gold ring to save even one more life. He recalled the Jewish proverb “To save one life is to save the whole world.” If we go to church every Sunday, and practice kindness and honesty, but say nothing about the killing of unborn human beings in America, their blood is on our hands.
The best of the prolife movement, however, is not motivated by guilt or anger. It is a movement propelled by the joy of youth. Last night I prayed with folks at the only Planned Parenthood still operating in San Francisco, as our parish does every Thursday night. A young adult led the prayers, but I marveled at Dr. Ron Konopaski, a retired dentist who coordinates San Francisco’s 40 Days for Life every year. He spends 12 hours every day for six weeks in front of the abortion facility. He is never sad. He is never frustrated, even though in this city of a million people few join him. I’ve never seen him angry at the sometimes-furious disrespect we endure from passersby. The other morning, on my way to say an early Mass for the Missionaries of Charity, I passed him on the moonlit street, hurrying to the Carmelites. Every morning he walks three miles to and from Cristo Rey for early Mass. What a way to spend your retirement! What a way to keep yourself ever young! You, O Lord, will restore the joy of my youth.