The centurion had asked for a healing, and yesterday about 15,000 of us were asking for a healing: healing for our country. It’s been 49 years since the Supreme Court declared a so-called right to kill an innocent human being. We are sick of hearing about it, but since the problem has not yet been resolved, I have to say that abortion is a cancer that is killing our nation. But we are healing, by the grace of God. Among the speakers in our annual Walk for Life West Coast yesterday was Christi Davenport, a young woman with Downs Syndrome, which limited her ability to articulate. She spoke haltingly but with great intensity about her struggle to be accepted in American society as an imperfect human being. Christi described her life’s achievements, which would be considered limited by the cool kids: graduation from high school, becoming a junior college drama teaching assistant, and now a teachers’ aide at a Catholic school. Unlike most people with Downs, she was able to marry, but her husband tragically died last year. Struggling to articulate her love of life and gratitude to God, she told us: “most think people with Downs Syndrome can’t do much of anything. But we’re really good at love!” So true, as you know if you’ve ever been around a person with Downs. They have the gift of natural affection and understanding love. They are so human. The current law allows a baby with Downs to be killed rather than live a “life not worth living,” in the words Hitler’s eugenicists. Human illnesses and disabilities, to those who want to control everything, are a horror that must be eliminated. For Christians, though, human weakness is a mystery that God permits, for a greater purpose that we come to realize in its own time.
I think, and I hope, that future generations will consider this period of legal abortion as a shameful chapter in our nation’s history. We certainly consider the nation’s legalization of slavery in the nineteenth century as an aberration, and we are still working to correct it. We were blind to certain truths at that time, and we are blind to certain truths now. How can we pretend that the child in his or her mother’s womb is not a child? How can we deny the simple science and the principles of civil rights that motivated the abolitionist movement a century ago? Certainly the abortion of a human fetus is more private, and less publicly obvious, than the enslavement of adults. But both are questions of human rights, and indeed the former denies even the right to life, as well as the right to liberty.
The centurion in today’s Gospel, a pagan with no formal religious training, but clearly a good man, chose Christ. He said “Lord, I am not worthy, but only say the word…” Say the word and I will obey it. I will submit to your Gospel. We say those words three times before receiving Holy Communion. Now we must make good on that word. We must submit ourselves to His word and His laws, the “laws of nature and of nature’s God,” in the words of our founding document. This is never easy, and I’ve known not a few “pro-life” Catholics who, when their own teen-ager gets pregnant, quietly drive them to the abortion clinic.
Let us hope that the Supreme Court will make the right decision in the Dobbs case this Spring. Then the protection of unborn Americans will be sent back to the States, and the governor of our State has promised to make California a “sanctuary” state for abortion: a place where abortion is the “blessed sacrament,” where we worship the pagan gods who demand our own children in sacrifice. After the Walk last night, Archbishop Cordileone concluded the day with these words: “I can only say, ‘we have not yet begun to fight.’” We fight in many ways, but at this Mass, we say with the pagan centurion who had more faith than the apostles themselves (at that moment), “Lord, I am not worthy. Only say the word, and my soul will be healed.”