Last Sunday we hosted a special Mass in preparation for the Chicago March for Life that gathered several thousand people at the Federal Plaza to listen to a number of speakers giving their perspective on the Pro-Life emphasis that has seized our attention each year at this time as we recall the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision of the United States Supreme Court. It is important that all of us as followers of Jesus take time to reflect on the constant teaching of the Church concerning the sacredness of life from the moment of conception to natural death as well as the seriousness of the sin of abortion down through the ages right up to the present day.
The Roman Catholic Church has consistently condemned abortion—the direct and purposeful taking of the life of the unborn child. In principle, Catholic Christians believe that the taking of innocent human life, whether born or unborn, is morally wrong. The Church teaches, “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God, and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origins and on the Dignity of Procreation, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, February 22, 1987) #5.
The respect for the sacredness of life in the womb originates in Christianity’s Jewish roots. The ancient Jewish world was much different from the surrounding cultures of Palestine where infanticide, infant sacrifice and abortion were not uncommon, and in some cases prevalent. For the Jewish people of those times and Orthodox Jews to this day, all human life has as its author the one God whose creative power produces the child in the mother’s womb and brings it step-by-step to full life. The Old Testament revelation, which the Church inherited and accepted, gives clear evidence that the life in the womb was considered as sacred.
Moses proclaimed, “When you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, all these blessings will come upon you and overwhelm you: May you be blessed in the city, and blessed in the country! Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks! Blessed be your grain bin and your kneading bowl! May you be blessed in your coming in and blessed in your going out!” (Dt 28:2-6). The angel told the mother of Sampson, “As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb!” (Jgs 31:15. In Psalm 139:13, we pray, “Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.”
The Greco-Roman world at the time of our Lord and in which Christianity grew permitted abortion and infanticide. In Roman law, the two acts were really not distinguished because an infant did not have legal status until accepted by the pater familias, the head of the family; until accepted, the infant was a non-person who could be destroyed. In some parts of the Roman Empire, abortion and infanticide were so prevalent that reproduction rates were below the zero-growth level.
Nevertheless, the Christians upheld the sanctity of the life of the unborn child, not only because of the Old Testament revelation as cited but also because of the mystery of the Incarnation. The early Christians, as we still do, believed that Mary had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through her, Jesus Christ became also true man. No faithful Christian would ever deny that Jesus was a true person whose life was sacred from the first moment of his conception in the womb of his blessed Mother Mary.
Given the revelation of the Old and New Testaments, with special emphasis on the mystery of the Incarnation, the Roman Catholic Church has condemned the practice of abortion. Several examples of teaching which span the first three hundred years of the Church include the following: the “Didache” c. 80 A.D. asserted, “You shall not procure abortion. You shall destroy the newborn child.” Tertullian (197) asserted, “To prevent birth is anticipated murder; it makes little difference whether one destroys a life already born or does away with it in its nascent stage. The one who will be man is already one.” After the legalization of Christianity in 313, the condemnation against abortion remained. St. Basil in a letter to a local bishop in 374 clearly pronounces the Church’s teaching: “A woman who has deliberately destroyed a fetus must pay the penalty for murder.”
While many other examples could be offered, the key point is that the Roman Catholic Church from the beginning has consistently upheld the sanctity of the life of the unborn child and condemned the act of direct abortion. As our nation marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we as Catholic Christians pray for a change of heart in all citizens and courageously teach and defend the sanctity of human life, particularly that of the defenseless, innocent unborn children.
At the same time, it is important that we remind everyone that Pope Francis has given confessors throughout the world the faculty to forgive the sin of abortion in Christ’s name. Therefore I want to encourage anyone who might have had an abortion in the past but has never brought that sin to be forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation is invited and encouraged to do so as soon as possible. There can be many reasons why a person may have felt the necessity to procure an abortion, and there is every reason why now is the time to ask the Lord for forgiveness of a choice made under duress previously. Please do not hesitate nor delay any longer.
Also I would suggest that you learn more about a wonderful ministry here in the Archdiocese called Project Rachel. It is a ministry for those who have had an abortion in the past and now want to go about a process of healing. To learn more about Project Rachel, you can go to the internet and type in that name, or to learn about where you can join this ministry, go to the Archdiocese of Chicago’s website www.archchicago.org.
THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Today’s readings invite us to reflect on the quality of our response to Jesus’ invitation to walk in the spirit of Christ in our daily lives. Will our response be halfhearted, or are we willing to allow ourselves to be radically changed by our calling?
The First Reading tells a parable about Jonah, who was called to announce a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh in ancient Assyria. The city was so big that Jonah walked for three days to get across it. Immediately on hearing Jonah’s words, every person in Nineveh believed God and repented. But some verses of Jonah’s story are missing from this reading. In them we see that Jonah was a self-righteous prophet. When God first called him to go to Nineveh, he ran the other way! And when he finally warned the Ninevites and God forgave them, Jonah became furious because he wanted God to destroy Nineveh, not treat them with compassion and mercy. Guess who most needed to experience conversion of heart!
Today’s Gospel story also focuses on conversion of heart. Jesus appears on the scene at the beginning of his public ministry proclaiming God’s Gospel—that God’s reign is already on the doorstep—and shouting, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” The energy and immediacy of the story is palpable. Thus, when Jesus calls his disciples, they respond immediately, leaving their old lives behind and following Jesus.
In today’s Second Reading, Paul describes the radical conversion of heart required of those who would follow Christ. Everything they would normally be expected to do should be done in entirely new ways in the light of the coming reign of God.
By grace Jonah kept God’s favor, and by grace the people of Nineveh were given a chance to repent. By grace God comes into our lives and offers his presence to us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that grace is God’s favor, free and undeserved help that God gives us in our ordinary lives (#1996). It also states that grace is our participation in the life of God (#1997). Reflection on God’s blessings is a guarantee that grace is at work in us.
For Your Reflection: How has another, through word or deed, helped you to recognize and turn away from a sinful pattern? How could you make time in your prayer life to listen to God call you to the path you are to follow? How is God calling you to believe more fully in the Gospel?
A FEW REMINDERS FOR THE NEW YEAR
When we come into church, it is customary that we dip our fingers into the holy water of the baptismal font, and then make the sign of the cross “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This gesture reminds us of our own baptism when we received the life of Jesus for the first time and how we are called to deepen that relationship with Him each day.
Secondly, one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given us is the Eucharist and the ability for us to receive His Body and Blood in Holy Communion. We believe that at the words of consecration the bread and wine become just that: Jesus’ Body and Blood. We call this the Real Presence. Whatever consecrated hosts remain after all have been served are then placed in the tabernacle to be used for the sick and for future Masses. Therefore, when we come into church we acknowledge this Real Presence by either genuflecting or, if one’s knees are failing, a reverent bow. We do the same as we leave the pew at the end of Mass. Sometimes I think we forget all this and make no gesture of reverence as though we were in a movie theater or an auditorium rather than in church.
Thirdly, the Mass ends with the recessional hymn, not with Communion. All too frequently I notice that a number of people exit the church immediately after receiving Communion without any thought of a period of reflection and thanksgiving. We have just received the Body and Blood of the Lord to be our food and nourishment for the day. Out of respect I ask you to please stay until the end of Mass unless you are ill, must use the restroom, or have an appointment or a train to make.
Thank you for taking these reminders into consideration as you participate in the Eucharist here at St. Peter’s.
THE NEW CATHOLIC SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIP
FOR THE 2018/19 SCHOOL YEAR
Through the “Invest in Kids Act,” the state of Illinois has created a new way to fund scholarships for children from low-income households who want to attend private schools. This program provides an opportunity for more students to receive a quality Catholic education. The tax credit scholarships offered through this program could cover up to 100 percent of tuition and fees for eligible, low-income students. Not all families will be eligible for the new scholarships, but we want to make sure all families are aware of the program.
Program details are still being finalized, but you can find information on the scholarships, the application process and the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s website, www.archchicago.org/tcs. If you have any questions about tax credit scholarships, please contact the Archdiocese at [email protected] or you may call 312-534-5321.
THE ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL
Next weekend we begin our work of preparing for the Annual Catholic Appeal. We will cooperate with the Archdiocese to help you understand the purpose of the appeal, to learn how the monies collected will be distributed to assist a number of ministries that are necessary for people in need, and to hopefully motivate all of us to make a gift or a pledge to make these causes happen. Please come prepared to listen and to be open to the message.
+MR. JOHN CANNON
We bring to your attention the death of Mr. John Cannon, who served as a faithful lector at St. Peter’s for close to thirty years. John worked for Peoples Gas in the Loop for forty years and would take the train from Cary every day. He often came to St. Peter’s for Mass at noontime and then began to read as a service to our people. Even after he retired in 1997, he still came downtown on Wednesdays first to read at the 7:15 Mass and then to visit with friends especially at the Credit Union.
John had been suffering from a heart ailment for a number of years. He is survived by his wife Christine and five of his six children and nine grandchildren. Please remember John and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE
The teacher asked one of her young students if he knew his numbers.
“Yes,” he said. “I do. My father taught me.”
“Good. What comes after three?”
“Four,” answers the boy.
“What comes after six?”
“Very good,” says the teacher. “Your dad did a good job. What comes after ten?”
“A jack,” says the little boy.