The Respect Life Committee at Christ King Parish in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin recently sponsored a fabulous two-part lecture by their associate pastor, Fr. John Burns, and Bishop Donald Hying called "Time for Life"
Fr. Burns' segment was titled: Living Faith/Generous Love and in his talk he shared insights on how to speak to others about the value of human life.
Fr. Burns said that the foundations of the pro-life movement are faith, hope and love; these are the pillars of our proclamation of the Gospel of life. God loves us and wants us to be happy, we live in hope when we set our sights on that happiness that God desires for us and we arrive there by faith. Real love counteracts the human tendency to focus on ourselves.
The greatest human fear is to be alone, there is a fear of loneliness which is why death is so fearsome. The Good News (Gospel) that we proclaim is that in Jesus Christ death is overcome. The core of our proclamation has to be the loving insistence that each and every person is loved by God. Look in their eyes and let them know that God loves them personally. So many people don't know that they are loved. Proclaim by witness and our own conviction that heaven is real, that we will overcome this valley of tears. Remind people that we will truly be fulfilled in heaven.
He spoke about the importance of being a living witness to the Gospel in joyfully living out our lives. When we successfully do this, we will attract others to the faith. He used Cardinal Dolan and his joyful personality as an example of this attractive living.
He said that sacrificial love, the love of parents for their children, applies to everyone. Love is not about being happy; it's about living at the center of my being. And who is at the center of my being? Jesus. Jesus Christ showed us how to love and let us know that we are all loved. He shared a frequent example used by Fr. Robert Barron in which he compares the beauty of a rose window to the spiritual life. Jesus is always at the center of the window and all of creation is rightly ordered around Jesus.
To be pro-life is to be true to the Gospel, the Good News. The laity are called to a secular vocation. We bring God into the world in places where priests and bishops cannot go. We are to be a leaven in the workplace, in the home, among our friends and family, and thereby cause a lifting of the human heart. That's pro-life; to long desperately to help each and every person to live their life as best as they possibly can, ordered to Jesus in heaven.
Bishop Hying said that when God looks at a human person, he looks into a mirror and sees Himself. Through Jesus, the sinful human person has been redeemed, their dignity has been restored to what God intended which is a greater dignity than that with which they were originally created. In the kenosis, the self-emptying of Jesus, we see the dignity of the human person.
He recited his favorite scripture passage, the kenotic hymn from Philippians 2: 5-11:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped at, but rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He explained how the foot washing on Holy Thursday, the Institution of the Eucharist and the crucifixion are all really the same event. Through them we learn that we receive greatness when we give ourselves away as a sacrificial gift.
He said that power, disconnected from love, is demonic. Had Jesus accepted the temptations of the devil in the desert, he would have been using his divine power for himself. But he didn't do that; instead, he used his powers for the good of humanity. His power is completely wrapped in love, and through Christ's love we become adopted children of God.
The Christ event becomes a door in which we are invited to stand in the middle of divinity. The point of going to church is the divinization of the human person. We were made to be like God. That doesn't mean that we are God but that we are drawn to a deeper awareness of Him and His desire for unity with us. If I don't believe in God then I have to be my own god. How exhausting is that! If I am god then I always have to be right, to have all the answers, to know everything, to do everything and to be everything to everyone.
God is more humble than we are. We discover the humility of God in the mystery of Christ. The Lord of the universe humbles Himself to become sacramental bread and wine, to put himself into our hands and at that point we can do whatever we want with Him. Humility is a balance between our greatness and our weakness. We are made in the image of God but we are nothing without Him. Humility is knowing who we are and accepting that dignity with which we have been created.