View an online slide show from the Mass and march.
The following is the homily delivered by Bishop John LeVoir of New Ulm at the Mass for Life at the Cathedral of St. Paul Jan. 22.
My dear friends in Christ,
Jesus came proclaiming the Gospel of God: “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
These words of Our Lord are spoken at the very beginning of His public ministry. This is the way Jesus starts out: By reminding His listeners that the Kingdom of God is at hand; that God desires to heal the ancient wound inflicted upon the human race by the sin of our first parents. Jesus is telling the people that in Him, the Kingdom of God has come; in Him, the healing grace of God is now made available to them.
But, in order to participate in the Kingdom, Jesus calls them to repent. What does that mean? To repent means to be sorry for something and to turn away from it. To repent means to re-form one’s life. What is Jesus calling His listeners to repent from; to be sorry for and to turn away from? Sin and evil.
Our Lord began His public ministry by reminding His listeners that they are sinners; that there have been times in their lives when they have turned away from God and rejected His love. Consequently, Our Lord is calling His listeners to be sorry for those times and to turn away from them. “Turn away from sin.”
However, when Jesus’ listeners answer His call to repent and to turn away from sin, He calls them to something else. Turning away from sin is not good enough. What does Jesus call His listeners to turn towards; to go to and to embrace? “Belief in the Gospel.”
In other words, He calls them to belief in God; to belief in Him (Jesus) because He is God: God the Son, Who has become man. This is how one participates in the Kingdom of God: “To repent and to believe in the Gospel.”
My dear friends, Jesus is proclaiming to us today, through the liturgy of the Church, the same message with which He began His ministry some 2,000 years ago: “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” In other words, the participation in God’s Kingdom; the acceptance of God’s healing grace is now present for us. So, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Reject sin and accept God.
In order for us to repent and believe in the Gospel, there needs to be a conversion of heart; a change of heart. There needs to be a change inside of us. In other words, there needs to be a change in what we love and who we love: a change from loving the things of the world; the things that take us away from God to a renewed commitment to loving God. In most of us, this conversion is called for each day.
Today is the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision permitting abortion in our country. Just think, 39 years of abortion in our country — our country! Up to the time of this decision in 1973, I thought that abortion would never be legalized in our country. The legalization of abortion could take place in other countries, but not our own. How wrong I was.
After 39 years of legalized abortion in our land, it is more urgent now than ever to work and pray; pray and work; that our nation turns away from the evil of abortion and once again turns towards God, His love, and His merciful healing touch.
In “Faithful Citizenship,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops teaches that: “Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Direct attacks on innocent persons are never morally acceptable, at any stage or in any condition.” “In our society,” the document continues, “Human life is especially under direct attack from abortion” (no. 44).
Does this mean that the Catholic Church is concerned only with the issue of abortion? No. As “Faithful Citizenship” states: “Catholic teaching about the dignity of life calls us to oppose torture, unjust war, and the use of the death penalty; to prevent genocide and attacks against noncombatants; to oppose racism; and to overcome poverty and suffering” (no. 45). “Faithful Citizenship” also states: “Other direct threats to the sanctity of human life include euthanasia, human cloning, and the destruction of human embryos for research” (no. 44).
Nevertheless, the document teaches that “Every human being has a right to life” and that the right to life is “the fundamental right that makes all other rights possible” (no. 39). This right to life is inherent in the infinite dignity of the “little one” in the womb.
About life in the womb, Pope Benedict has said: “[T]here is no reason not to consider [the human embryo] a person from conception. It’s not a question of a collection of biological material, but of a new living being, dynamic and marvelously ordered, a new individual of the human species. This is how Jesus was in Mary’s womb; this is how we each were in our mother’s womb” (Vigil for all Nascent Human Life; St. Peter’s Basilica; Saturday, November 27, 2010).
Now is the time to make sure that we are wholeheartedly prolife. Let us pray for the conversion of our hearts if we are not. Now is the time to work and pray; pray and work; that our nation turns away from the evil of abortion and once again turns towards God, His love, and His merciful healing touch.
Just yesterday, I saw an example of the work that is being done to promote life and a culture of life. There was a letter to the editor in the New Ulm Journal by a local Catholic doctor warning of the deadly effects of webcam abortions.
In this scenario, a woman can go to a clinic near her, speak to a physician via a web camera (over the internet) — the doctor would be in another town. After speaking with the woman over the internet, the doctor can then “push a button” at the office in the town where he is and a drawer pops open at the clinic where the woman is. In the drawer are the abortion pills for her to take. All this takes place over the internet, not face to face, not even in the same town. It is a chilling use of technology! Maybe someone reading the letter will have a conversion of heart.
An example of prayer for a culture of life is what we are doing today, in this Cathedral and at the Capitol later on today. It is prayer; prayer for life. It is prayer repeated day in and day out that will bring about a conversion of hearts in our country — a conversion that will help us to build a culture of life to replace the culture of death. It is our prayer that everyone would see the infinite dignity of unborn children and promote a culture of life that would treasure the lives of the unborn and assist their parents to have their babies, and to provide a good home for them, especially in instances of a troubled pregnancy.
Jesus came proclaiming the Gospel of God: “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Convert and believe in God. Work and pray for life and for the conversion of our country’s culture from a culture of death to a culture of life.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.