Adam and Eve on Valentine’s Day

everib

Leave it to the good Lord.

By pure happenstance of the Lectionary: We read at Holy Mass on Valentine’s Day about God putting Adam and Eve together in the garden. Because “it is not good for man to be alone.” God told us: be fruitful and multiply. Which means men and women falling in love, exchanging Valentines, getting married, and having families.

Which came first? Mankind or the other animals?

Holy Scripture does not exactly answer this question. But the order in time matters much less than the order in being.

We human beings, alone among the animals, can conceive of the world as a whole, as God does. We alone can give distinct names to all the various parts of the world, the creatures that make up God’s creation. Alone among the animals, we form a spiritual bridge between the earth and the mind of God. The marriage of a man and a woman gives us a visible image of the union between God and mankind brought about by the God-man, Jesus Christ.

We know that the pro-abortion, “pro-choice” position betrays the truth. One way you can tell: the very euphemism that the pro-abortion movement chooses for itself. “Reproductive rights.”

Algae “reproduce.” Plants, bugs, other animals—they “reproduce.” Human beings marry. Human beings have families.

If you use words that apply to lower creatures to defend your position when it comes to human beings, you can be sure that you have strayed into a territory where violence reigns. “Reproductive rights” is a phrase from Orwell’s 1984, a mask to cover over systematic bloodshed.

On the other hand: Love. Marriage. Family.

That is the way that God gave to mankind, in the garden, before the Fall. The original gift of God—love, marriage, and family–makes Valentine’s Day happy.

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At the Lincoln Memorial

Martin Luther King I Have a Dream

Lord Jesus gave the homily in his hometown church. At first they loved and praised Him. But then He brought up some painful facts. [Spanish]

‘Our prophet Elijah did not save one of our widows from starvation. He saved a pagan widow–a Gentile foreigner. And our prophet Elisha did not cure the leprosy of one of our Jewish generals. He cured a Syrian who didn’t even want to wash himself in our Jordan River. He thought of it as a muddy creek. But our Elisha healed him in those very waters anyway.’

So the Nazarenes got mad at their countryman for pointing out that God loves the Gentiles as much as the Jews. As you will likely get mad at me, before I’m done here.

Most of the world now knows that there’s a Catholic boys school in Covington, Kentucky. At least everyone with a smartphone knows it. And everyone knows that a group of Covington-Catholic boys traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., to march for life. To stand up for the innocent and defenseless unborn children—the most vulnerable class of people in contemporary America.

After the March ended, the boys visited the Lincoln Memorial. In hindsight, they now think to themselves—and all those who know and love them think—they should have stayed inside the Memorial, quietly reading and meditating on the Gettysburg Address. It’s chiseled into the marble wall.

MAGA hat.pngInstead, the boys stayed outside. And mixed it up with some strange characters.

A dishonest person made a cellphone video, and accused the boys. ‘They surrounded a Native-American man beating a peace drum! Then mocked him and threatened him! An aggressive racist mob!’

Once the video hit the internet, another aggressive mob took over. The social-media mob. A bandwagon of moral indignation. ‘These boys should be expelled from school! They make us Catholic pro-lifers look bad! They stand for everything racist and unjust in this country!’

I myself first saw the “viral” video late that Saturday evening, when I “checked my Twitter.” I did not at first notice the “Make America Great Again” caps that some of the boys wore. I just saw high-school kids making more noise than they should, as high-school kids often do. And a Native-American man beating a drum endlessly for no immediately apparent reason. And a staring contest that made no sense.

I watched the video with my own particular interest, because I know that spot very well, as I imagine many of us do. One of my college jobs involved giving tours of the National Mall. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech right where the famous video was shot. The east staircase of the Lincoln Memorial, at the western end of the Reflecting Pool. A uniquely beautiful place, a place for quiet reflection—not for beating drums, or school chants, or staring contests.

But, like I said, when I watched the video, I didn’t notice the MAGA hats at first, because I’m not a particularly observant person. But a lot of people did notice the hats. That’s why they jumped to unreasonable conclusions. As they checked their Twitters and facebooks that Saturday, they saw the caps, and they immediately suspected the boys of harboring ill will towards non-whites.

lincolnNot fair. Not fair to judge the morals of a high-school boy, based solely on his cap. In the ensuing days, the truth emerged, about what happened between the boys and the Native-American with his drum. The boys had not mobbed anyone. The original viral video had a context. Other cellphone videos, recorded at the scene, revealed the full sequence of events. Then some people in the original social-media mob faced up to the truth and admitted their serious mistake. They looked in the mirror and realized that they had done to the boys what they had accused the boys of doing. Forming a cruel mob.

But, we’re not done here yet, fellow Israelites. We cannot simply say: Vindication for the good, pro-life boys; episode over. No.

The political life of our president began years ago. That is, it began when he claimed that our previous president, the first non-white President of the United States, actually came from Africa, not the USA.

Then Donald Trump began his campaign for president with a particular premise: Namely, that Mexicans steal, rape, and murder.

The social-media mob saw MAGA hats and over-reacted. Over-reacted big time. But: Had someone given them cause to over-react? Had someone given the MAGA hat a particular meaning? Namely: This country is primarily for white people. Yes, someone did give the hat that meaning. Donald J. Trump gave the hat that meaning.

Ok. The whole business at the Lincoln Memorial upset a lot of people. And I probably upset you, by even bringing it up. Do what’s the antidote?

Guess what? Ain’t hard. The antidote is: Going to Mass.

Some people think the internet is pure evil. Some people think it’s where we can finally find true democracy. One thing is for sure: Everything on the internet gets put in perspective when we come to Mass.

Yes, we can learn beautiful things that we never knew, over the internet. And we can join cruel, irrational mobs from our own couches, over the internet.

But the fundamental social network—it’s not on the internet. It’s at the holy altar of Jesus Christ. Where people actually know each other, and give each other the benefit of the doubt, and recognize each other not as “legals” and “illegals” but as: fellow sinners in need of God’s loving mercy.

I have probably said something that makes you mad. But I’m just trying to do my job as a priest–whose main job is: to say Mass. Holy Mass is the opposite of a viral video causing a “Twitter storm.” At the altar of Jesus Christ, dear reader, we can actually find peace with each other.

Integrity of the Womb and the Confessional

confessional“Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (Mark 2:7)

Indeed.

Sin involves corrupting the pure integrity of God’s beautiful plan. A plan for the salvation and glorification of all things.

We pray for the marchers up in Washington. We share their zeal. In the womb, God knits together an unfathomable plan. It’s like a little Garden of Eden. May no hand of violence ever desecrate that garden.

God, the pure One, can forgive the sins of us impure ones. He even uses some of us impure ones as His instruments of mercy. The Son of God entrusted “the power of the keys” to His Church. He gave His Apostles and their successors in office the authority to forgive sins in the name of God. To continue the Incarnation, so to speak. Jesus, when He walked the earth, had the authority to forgive sins. Bishops and priests have that same authority, as ministers of Christ.

But a profound responsibility accompanies that authority, doesn’t it? When we go to confession, we go with faith in the power of the keys. But we also need to have confidence in the human integrity of the confessor. We have to trust that the priest who hears my confession will respond according to true discipline, guided by holy teaching.

That is: He won’t distort my own conscience by calling good evil or evil good. He won’t betray God’s mercy by being too hard on me, or betray God’s justice by being too easy on me.

My point is: The supernatural grace of Holy Orders means that even a sinner can offer Christ’s sacraments. But in the confessional, our faith in that supernatural grace has to meet a representative of a human institution with integrity. Yes, all priests are sinners, too. But a confessor receiving penitents cannot be a liar. He cannot be a swindler or a sodomite. He cannot be an atheist or a heretic.

unborn…On March-for-Life Day, the young Catholic Church in America takes Her vigorous stand. Faith, hope, and love show up on Constitution Avenue.

But She limps this year. Her faith God invigorates Her as always. But Her inability to trust in the fundamental integrity of the clerical hierarchy saps Her strength.

Our faith in the triune God does not contradict reason. But, at the beginning of 2019, we cannot rationally claim that our clerical hierarchy has integrity. If we did claim that, reasonable non-Catholics would make arguments to the contrary. And we would have no answers.

May God send us leaders to get our footing back. It will take a long time. But we can do it, if we hold on. We sinners, who want to live honest lives.

Zeal for the Temple

cleansing

Zeal for your house will consume me. (Psalm 69:10)

As we read in St. John’s gospel, the Lord’s disciples thought of this psalm verse when Jesus cleansed the Temple. Took the worldliness out of it, the cynicism, the selfish dishonesty. The Lord gave back to the Temple the purity of its prayerfulness.

In Genesis we read about how our father Jacob dreamed of a ladder that stretched up to the realm of the angels. When he woke up, Jacob said, “The house of God is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:16)

Thanks be to God, we have a lovely temple here (Rocky Mount, Va.), a building worthy of housing the celebration of Holy Mass. Ditto in Martinsville.

But, of course, the outward temple exists to serve the inward temple. The true temple is: the human person, made in the image and likeness of God. Consecrated in Christ as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

This is why we Christians understand crimes against the spiritual and bodily integrity of a human being—we understand the whole business in a special light. Pope John Paul II explained it all in his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae.

God destines and guides every human being towards divine communion; He has made everyone a temple of His own glory. Whenever anyone attacks or abuses the spiritual and bodily integrity of a human being, we have to stand up. We lament it. We condemn it. We cry out for justice. And we pray.

It all begins at the moment of conception in the mother’s womb. We Catholics incorrigibly insist on the right to life. With the Supreme Court transition underway here in the US, our bishops have proposed that we pray for nine Fridays, starting today. Pray that our nation will respect the right to life.

And let’s pray, while we’re at it, that our Church will be the Church of Evangelium Vitae. The Church of the New Evangelization. A true, cleansed temple.

45-Year Dream Come True

Junipero Serra Mass Monterey harbor

I am sending you as a prophet to a rebellious house.” (cf. Ezekiel 2:3) [Spanish]

This week we keep a double national anniversary. We are American Catholics, with a homeland stretching from sea to shining sea. So we rejoice in the 242nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which took place here on the English-speaking East Coast. And we rejoice in the 249th anniversary of the landing of St. Junipero Serra in San Diego Bay, on what was then the Spanish-speaking West Coast.

As we read in the gospel this Sunday, Lord Jesus went home to Nazareth to speak the truth to His own people. Our own people are the people of America. And we Americans find ourselves at a dazzling turning point in our history right here and now.

Forty-five years ago, the US Supreme Court did something the Constitution never empowered it to do, namely: the Court laid down a national law permitting abortion. It made no sense 45 years ago; it makes no sense now.

For two generations, Roe v. Wade has hung over the life of our nation like a tropical storm front, full of lies. And all our cities and towns have missing people because of it. Sixty million missing friends and neighbors. All sacrificed to a cruel, false god of shame and fear, by heartless pagan priests in ramshackle “clinics.”

flag-mapNow, suddenly, in the summer of 2018, we find ourselves at a point in our history when we can reasonably hope that this will change. With a new justice, the Supreme Court likely will abandon its claim to govern the country when it comes to abortion. Sometime in the next year or two. Lawmaking authority in this area would then return to the normal democratic process. This is something that we have hoped and prayed for, for decades.

We Catholics are pro-life. As Pope St. John Paul II explained to us, we Catholics simply cannot accept the idea of elective abortion. Accepting it would mean betraying the most central realities of our Christian faith.

That said, we also love, and sympathize with, all mothers who find themselves in situations which might tempt them to seek abortions. The culture of death, the throwaway culture—it poisons many minds, with its hopeless, dark fear of the future. We Catholic Americans fight the culture of death in our country not with anger and judgment, but with love.

Roe v. Wade accorded a “right” to abortion that does not exist. The irony is: this actually short-changed pregnant women of the rights they do, in fact, possess.

Every pregnant woman has the right to love and support, without being judged. Every pregnant woman has the right to the best healthcare available for her and her baby. Every pregnant woman deserves our friendship, our advocacy, our help.

Before too long, we will, in all likelihood, vote in elections in which laws about abortion in the State of Virginia will be a real campaign issues. So let’s begin to reflect clearly on where we stand.

No one has the right to kill an innocent unborn child. Healthcare does not include abortion. The idea that abortion counts as healthcare is a bald-faced lie. No honest doctor, nurse, or sonogram operator could maintain that lie for five minutes.

unbornOn the other hand, pregnant women can and do experience complications, including grave ones that can threaten the lives of both baby and mother. A good and reasonable doctor, treating a pregnant mother for a life-threatening complication, could apply a therapy or procedure that the baby cannot survive. That would not be an abortion, but rather a tragedy.

Now, we know that plenty of people fear what will happen when an abortion case reaches the Supreme Court with a pro-life majority and the whole legal situation changes.

Let’s sympathize with that fear. Let’s acknowledge that something has to fill the vacuum that Roe v. Wade will no longer fill. Something has to occupy the psychological space that the abortion industry has occupied in these last, lawless 45 years.

Let’s pledge ourselves: We American Catholics will fill that space with our Christian love. When the tropical storm that is Roe v. Wade finally blows out to sea, away from these shores, and the sun comes back out again: We will stand there with acceptance, support, and tender loving care for every pregnant woman.

There’s another irony here–one that I myself take great delight in considering. It’s a fact that the abortion industry kills a disproportionate number of non-white babies. Abortion has suppressed the population growth of non-white America for decades.

Our current President will appoint a justice who likely will tip the balance, and the Roe-v.-Wade abortion regime will end. Then the non-white proportion of the US population will begin to increase at an even greater rate.

So, thank you in advance, President Trump, for giving us more brown, red, and yellow native-born-American fellow citizens to welcome into our beloved nation!

The Place Where Abortion is Illegal

Ireland voted to nullify its constitutional amendment protecting the unborn. Most people see this as: Huge victory for modern liberal ways. Huge defeat for traditional Catholicism.

cathleen-kavenyProfessor Cathleen Kaveny wants to see it differently. She has written a brief essay in Commonweal magazine that 1. lays out some moral realities about as clearly as you can and then 2. neglects to face them with real love.

Kaveny thinks that Roe v. Wade framed the moral issue in the wrong way. The court based its decision on the idea that the unborn child is not a person, at least not in the eyes of the law. To summarize Part IX of Justice Blackmun’s opinion for the Court: The unborn are not “persons,” as the word is used in the US Constitution. If they were, then the case arguing a right to abortion would “collapse.”

Kaveny thinks focusing on the personhood of the unborn child warps the argument, like this:

Pro-life = Yes, the unborn child is a person with the right to life. Therefore, abortion is homicide.

Pro-choice = No, the unborn child is not a person. Therefore, the mother’s right to make decisions about her own body can include a decision to abort a pregnancy.

Kaveny wants to frame the issue differently. In my book, she makes an enormously helpful set of points. First, let’s all, “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” concede the following:

1. Abortion involves taking the life of an individual human being.

2. That individual depends completely on the mother. Providing for a totally dependent unborn child imposes great burdens on the mother.

Amen.

All the pro-lifers I know would agree: We don’t want any pro-life ‘allies’ who do not sympathize with the difficulties faced by pregnant women. Yes, the child has a right to life; no doubt. But that “right” has no meaning without the sacrifice of the mother. The real pro-life movement has no interest whatsoever in getting ‘in between’ the baby and the mother. As the old slogan has it: Love them both.

unbornCareful Catholic bio-ethical thinking long ago fully grasped this at its depths. Turning the “right to life” of the unborn child into some kind of absolute value leads you to an unpleasant place: Mother Nature Herself does not respect this right.

Many pregnancies end in miscarriage, a.k.a. spontaneous abortion. Many fertilized eggs never implant in the uterus. That means countless human beings in the first stage of life who disappear into a dark oblivion, with only God and His angels ever having known that they existed.

Kaveny gets it wonderfully right here. The problem of procured abortion is not, ultimately, a metaphysical matter. We have to focus solely on the simple moral question. Can it be right to choose to have an abortion?

At this point in her essay, Kaveny leaves us with only a handful of dust. She suggests that the Church, without having a ready answer to the question above, should rather “accompany” our contemporaries who think the answer is Yes. We should take the risk of “having conversations.”

Now, I am confident in saying that most of us priests with some years of experience under our belts have had quite a few conversations. ‘Father, the child will be born with a handicap.’ ‘Father, I’m pregnant with my boyfriend’s baby, but I want to go to college.’ ‘Father, he ran away with the hygienist. But I’m pregnant with our fourth.’

Now, if we (priests and all Christian believers) don’t patiently listen, sympathize, and offer support and helpful proposals, we s**k. But, by the same token, no honest moral calculus exists which could include a proposal that aborting the baby might be the right thing to do.

Because the baby is, manifestly, a baby, and not a Volkswagen. And it is this mother’s baby. The mother’s life, and the baby’s, are already entwined in such a way that violence against the one is ipso facto violence against the other.

To countenance the idea that abortion could be the right thing to do–that would involve a failure of charity towards both baby and mother. Just like refusing to sympathize with the burdens faced by the mother would involve a failure of charity towards both of them.

Kaveny rightly points out that the law fears to tread into the territory where blameworthy homicide and justifiable withdrawal of life-support come so close that they almost touch each other.

But she misses the one absolutely certain thing, the principle that can and does lead in the direction of a resolution of all the problems involved in any pregnancy: Intentionally killing the baby is not the right thing to do.

We human beings cannot see into the future. We can only make decisions based on our best lights right now.

I have argued for most of my life that we do not need faith in order to know that abortion is wrong, since sonograms clearly show us that is is.

But, on the other hand, it is faith that protects us from the hubris that justifies abortion, based on uncertain predictions about the future. Every line of thinking that leads to the idea that abortion could be the right thing to do–all of them start with fear of the future. From that fear of the future comes the compulsive attempt to control it, through violence.

If you read my review of Ross Douthat’s book about Pope Francis, you know that I deeply reject the distinction between “modern liberal” and “traditional Catholic.” But Kaveny’s essay actually leads us to a place where that distinction touches something real and stark.

Holding the faith of the Church means believing that God will provide. Abortion offers a false promise about controlling the future. In the Church of Christ, we must have the courage to say, in every case: God has a real future for you and your baby.

 

Who Will Give the Concession Speech?

Elections usually end with a concession speech. The defeated candidate acknowledges that the voters have chosen his or her opponent. The loser of the election promises to abide by the choice of the voters. The contest ends.

But who will concede the Irish referendum? Can the unborn children whose lives now stand in danger–can these little ones take to the microphones to acknowledge that the voters have chosen to grant abortionists the authority to kill them with impunity?

____

Pope Benedict wrote some penetrating, wise things to the Catholics of Ireland in the spring of 2010. He tried to help them recover from devastating revelations about pervasive child-sex-abuse cover-ups.

Pope Benedict Easter candleSeems like a good day today to consider a couple paragraphs of that letter. We could apply the Pope’s words to ourselves here in the US, too.

In recent decades the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The program of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it.

Young people of Ireland, I wish to offer you a particular word of encouragement. Your experience of the Church is very different from that of your parents and grandparents. The world has changed greatly since they were your age. Yet all people, in every generation, are called to travel the same path through life, whatever their circumstances may be. We are all scandalized by the sins and failures of some of the Church’s members, particularly those who were chosen especially to guide and serve young people. But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever. He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his Church, for he will never betray your trust! He alone can satisfy your deepest longings and give your lives their fullest meaning by directing them to the service of others. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and his goodness, and shelter the flame of faith in your heart.

A young person’s experience of the Church should always bear fruit in a personal and life-giving encounter with Jesus Christ within a loving, nourishing community. In this environment, young people should be encouraged to grow to their full human and spiritual stature, to aspire to high ideals of holiness, charity and truth, and to draw inspiration from the riches of a great religious and cultural tradition. In our increasingly secularized society, where even we Christians often find it difficult to speak of the transcendent dimension of our existence, we need to find new ways to pass on to young people the beauty and richness of friendship with Jesus Christ in the communion of his Church… By treading the path marked out by the Gospel, by observing the commandments and by conforming your lives ever more closely to the figure of Jesus Christ, you will surely experience the profound renewal that is so urgently needed at this time. I invite you all to persevere along this path.

____

We are pro-woman and pro-life. The referendum in Ireland means a crushing short-term victory for unrealistic propaganda and the empty promises of sexual libertinism.

Pope St. John Paul II explained very thoroughly how a Christian must be pro-life. And he explained how a pro-lifer must be kind and sympathetic.

We separate the moral failings that can lead to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy from the simple good of a human life. We say Go to Confession, and start fresh; we stand beside you. The abortion movement offers no helping hand and piles shame on top of shame, saying: Go, Kill the fruit of your dishonest sex.

Love will win in the end. Dear brother and sister Catholics of Ireland, we American Catholics welcome you to the trenches. We will work to build the Culture of Life from the ground up, until the Lord calls us home.

Concession speech? No. We concede nothing.

Elephants and Ireland

Brooklyn Bridge elephants

One hundred thirty-five years ago today, the Brooklyn Bridge opened. Twenty-one of P.T. Barnum’s elephants paraded across, to prove to the public how strong and safe the bridge is.

Exactly one hundred twenty years later, to the day, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, a native of New York, ordained your unworthy servant a priest.

Everyone will be salted with fire. But if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor?  (Mark 9:49-50) You can’t salt salt. Salt has to stay salty.

The Church of Christ must salt this earth, with the message of justice, truth, and selfless love. We do not merit such a mission. But God has summoned us to it anyway.

When Holy Mother Church met in solemn Council at the Vatican in the early 1960’s, She articulated a vision of universal solidarity among all the people of the earth. Our Church gave the human race hope for a worldwide civilization of love.

Vatican II did not base that vision on empty optimism or naïvete. The Church knows that She always faces a battle against evil. She spoke as She did at Vatican II because of the preaching of Her founder Jesus Christ, and because of Her hope in His unfailing grace.

Last week the Apostolic See published a moral study of the contemporary world financial system, which sounded an echo of James 5 and Psalm 49 (which we read at today’s Holy Mass).

The Catholic Church continues to have the guts to point out to the world that no one can adequately understand “the economy” without adequately understanding man—human nature, the meaning of life, of work, of social interactions and exchanges among people. And no one can understand the meaning of human life without Christ, the Son of God.

brooklyn bridge elephants coverEven with the supposedly wonderful internet, it seems obvious that we have not really progressed toward a more unified and peaceful world over the course of the past generation. The rich have gotten richer and the poor poorer. Greedy people have enriched themselves by taking irrational risks with other peoples’ money, including public money belonging to entire nations and peoples. Someone has to have the guts to say this isn’t right. The Catholic Church has the guts.

Speaking of the poor and defenseless, and of entire nations and peoples, and of having some guts: Let’s pray hard for the voters of  mother Ireland. Tomorrow they vote on making abortion legal.

Someday, to be sure, they will look back with horror and shame that they ever thought it prudent or good to put the human rights of the innocent to a majority vote. But still we must pray hard for a pro-life outcome of tomorrow’s national referendum on their constitutional amendment that protects the unborn child.

Those agitating for a repeal of the pro-life amendment argue as if making abortion legal involves a step “forward.” They forget that killing infants was perfectly legal under the inhumane emperors of old, like Nero and Caligula.

In fact, Ireland has the kind of forward-looking abortion laws that every country ought to have, including ours. May the Civilization of Love gain an electoral victory tomorrow, so that Ireland can continue to show the world the right way.

Abraham and a March-on-Washington Partnership

us-capitolGod established His alliance with Abraham and promised a wonderful future. Abraham’s faith in that future makes him our father in faith. He willingly left behind everything that was familiar to him, in order to obey God.

Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ. The Messiah fulfilled the promises God had made so many centuries before.

So: On the one hand, Abraham’s all-consuming faith, which freed him to pursue the mysterious future God had prepared. On the other hand, the reward of that faith.

Now, what is it? The reward of faith? What can we call it, other than life? The day of Christ = the day of Life. Not toilsome life as we know it now—ephemeral, fleeting, dangerous, burdened by one anxious care after another. No. The life of Christ crucified and risen is life liberated from all these diminishments. Life primordial; life full of promise; endlessly youthful life.

Which brings us to: the youthful spokespeople for this Saturday’s “March for Our Lives.” They paint an evocative picture in their speeches. Where would the lost friends and classmates be now, had they lived?

The students killed in Florida last month would be preparing for mid-term exams. The little children killed in Connecticut in 2012 would be in middle-school. The high-schoolers killed in Colorado back in 1999 would be parents themselves, with their own children in elementary or middle school.

unbornLife. A future. Doesn’t it seem utterly obvious that this March-for-Our-Lives rhetoric could also take into account the other young victims of unjust violence—the little ones who never lived to see the light of day at all?

I myself am just old enough not to have to number the classmates and confreres that I might have had. I was already 1½ by the time Roe v. Wade came down.

But everyone younger than me has to live with the Roe-v.-Wade ghosts. The victims of violence who might have been childhood friends, or co-workers in the first job, or the Mr. or Mrs. Right that you could never find.

Christ came to reward faith with life. Our Gospel is the Gospel of Life. Can’t we imagine a better day, if all the true advocates of life could unite? If we could stand up together for all the innocent victims of violence that could have–and should have–lived to see the sun rise this morning?

Whose Future is it?

unbornForty-five years ago today: Roe v. Wade.

On the one hand: To many of us it seems obvious that procured abortion involves the snuffing-out of an innocent life. All of us began to be “human” at the moment of our conception in our mothers’ wombs. The more science studies prenatal life, the more Neanderthal does the reasoning of Roe v. Wade appear.

On the other hand: Many others consider it obvious that the freedom to choose for oneself must trump all disagreements about when human life begins. The freedom to choose must trump all disagreements about what God wills. If pregnant women could not procure abortions when they decided to do so, this would not truly be a free country, according to these presuppositions. “Authority” cannot legitimately interfere with family matters.

–But what about the pictures on the ultrasound?! What about the unique and unrepeatable DNA?! What about all the support that pro-life pregnancy centers can and do offer any pregnant woman willing to reckon with the truth?!

None of that touches the point, the other side would say. At least, I think that’s what the other side would say. None of that reaches the heart of the matter. This disagreement doesn’t have to do with scientific facts or practical problems, like who’s going to pay for the diapers. This disagreement has to do with God.

Or, to be more precise: It has to do with, Who is God? Many, many people—the spiritual sons and daughters of the 20th century—these people consider it perfectly obvious that the god of this world is Man. After all, we see no other. Man must control his own future. Man must make life comfortable for himself. Who else will? The realistic person acknowledges that man has no heavenly protector—so man must protect himself!

Problem is that this desperate battle that man fights to make life comfortable for himself inevitably leads to violence. When all we see is a violent cosmos in which life has to fight to survive, then we wind up considering human acts of violence to be par for the course.

Yes, we pro-lifers have science on our side. But, fundamentally, what we stand for is this: God will provide. The future of the human race does not ultimately lie in our hands. It lies in much better hands. We can reckon with the uncomfortable facts of reality–like the fact that many babies face an insecure future—we can reckon with all this, and not have recourse to violence, because we trust in God.

So: May we always trust Him. May we always welcome the strangers and sojourners that He sends. May we never do violence because we can’t find comfort in our future prospects. The future does not belong to us. It belongs to Someone much better.