Today I offered three Masses. The first was a Latin High Mass in a hotel room, at a conference for the Sacred Liturgy in Monterey. As the mighty Pacific roared before us, we sang of the Lion of Judah, whose oceans of mercy are never spent. The second Mass was on a sidewalk, in front of San Francisco’s abortion clinic. As passersby hurled insults and threats at us, we prayed to God for the grace to love our enemies. The third Mass is right now, with all of you, in a beautiful church on Geary Boulevard, built by Irish horse farmers in 1914. Although we are few in number, a remnant will never cease to offer the Holy Mass until Christ returns on the clouds of heaven.
Loving our Enemies
It is about that second Mass that I would like to speak. Lent begins in just three days, and will stretch fifty days from now until Easter. Then we will celebrate Eastertide for another fifty days until Pentecost. A vast river of grace spreads before us, one hundred days, a full third of the liturgical year. Lent itself is forty days long (not counting Sundays), and so a group called Forty Days for Life spends every day of Lent praying in front of abortion clinics. The Forty Days for Life folks of San Francisco asked me to begin the season with a Mass in front of Planned Parenthood in our city. We set up the altar, spread the vestments, and lit the candles. Before Mass I pointed out that the Gospel of the day, from the Sermon on the Mount, commands us to love our enemies. Jesus urges us to pray for our persecutors. “So if anyone insults you during Mass today,” I told the thirty people gathered on the sidewalk, “do not respond to them. The Lord, in today’s very Gospel, commands us to turn the other cheek.” Thirty seconds after I said that a tall, white man came up to me, got in my face, and said “you should be ashamed of yourself!” Immediately I replied to his face “and you should be ashamed of yourself for promoting the killing of babies.” The man walked away, and I turned to face my congregation, who were regarding me silently. “OK, OK,” I said to them: “he got me. I’m sorry. Well, do what I say and not what I do… Next time I’ll turn the other cheek.”
You are that Temple
We began Mass, and a lector read from the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. “Do you not know, brethren, that you are the temple of God. If anyone destroys that temple, God will destroy that man.” At those words I stopped breathing. It was prophecy against the people working the clinic in front of us. God vows to destroy those who destroy innocent human life. Suddenly I realized that we were at the clinic not only to pray for the unborn children, and for their mothers and fathers. We had come to throw ourselves between the abortion industry and the wrath of God. We were interceding also for the physicians and attorneys and staff of Planned Parenthood, who unknowingly stand on the edge of a black chasm. Surely no one who profits on the death of innocent lives will not be brought to justice, if not in this life than in the next. All of us are sinners, of course, but “do you not know, brothers, that God will destroy the man who destroys his temple?” I began to pray for my enemies in a whole new way. And I realized, again, that if I pray for my enemies, I won’t have any. That’s why Jesus commands us to do so. As much as my enemies hurt me, I do not want to see God destroy them. We have at least this common ground between us, that we all long for peace and reconciliation. We all want to love and be loved.
If you want love, give love. Love your enemies, and you won’t have any. May God grant us the grace!