“May you remain committed to the human person at every stage of his or her life” (1)

January 25, 2012

Photos by Catholic News Service
People pack the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life in Washington Jan. 22. The annual vigil precedes the March for Life, the anti-abortion demonstration that marks the 19 73 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the nation.

Cardinal DiNardo, chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was in Washington, D.C. this weekend for the National Prayer Vigil for Life and March for Life.

He was the celebrant and homilist at the opening Mass of for the Vigil on Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Over 20,000 pilgrims from across the nation will join him to pray through the night for a greater respect for all human life.

Below is a copy of his homily from the Mass for Life:

It is the Lord’s Day and Christ gathers us for His paschal sacrifice. It is the Lord’s Day, but also a somber day of remembrance, January 22, the Roe vs. Wade Decision of our Supreme Court 39 years ago. It is the Lord’s Day at Mary’s House here in Washington and we gather from every place in this land and beyond to hear and thirst for the Word of God and the Bread of Life. With Cardinal Wuerl, our local Shepherd, the Apostolic Nuncio, with my brother Cardinals and Brother bishops from this land, I welcome all of you to this celebration preparing and enlivening us for our activity in the public square tomorrow for the Annual March for Life. It is particularly wonderful to welcome anew Archbishop Vigano, our Nuncio, who is here for the first time. Thank you and please give the Holy Father our heartfelt greetings and our pledge of prayers. I thank Cardinal George and Cardinal O’Malley for being with us.

There are so many priests, deacons, both permanent and transitional, seminarians, religious sisters and brothers, postulants, novices and newly professed sisters, how magnificent your presence is for all of us. May you remain committed to the human person at every stage of his or her life.

This pro-life assembly has many veterans in the pro-life movement, many adult leaders and many families. What stands out tonight, as always at this Mass, is the vast number of children, youth and young adults who are present. You are grand and eloquent witnesses to human life, enthusiasm unmoved by sour pundits who prefer to ignore you. You remain and abide in joy, a good infection that we all want to catch from you. A thousand thank yous! The staff of the National Shrine, beginning with Msgr. Rossi, are such generous hosts and so hospitable to us each year. Thank you! EWTN Network always televises this Liturgy and we are grateful that through them this Mass can be seen throughout the world. As always, we are grateful for this service!

A few years back I came across a sign in front of a Church announcing the following Sunday’s Sermon. It read: “Don’t be so hard on Jonah!” I presume it has to do with the fact that Jonah, on one level, is not one of the most stellar prophets. He receives a call from the Lord, runs away, tries to take a transatlantic cruise, is found out for his negligence by pagan sailors during a storm who toss him overboard to calm the waves, is then swallowed by a great fish, manages a most beautiful formal liturgical prayer while in the stomach of this whale-like-creature, is spit up on the beach, and finally realizes the Lord is serious about the call to Nineveh. The narrative of the First Reading today is the preaching of Jonah and the immediate repentance of Nineveh, yes Nineveh, that most hostile pagan city, ruthless in its destruction of Israel and seemingly implacable enemy of the Lord. Yet not even Jerusalem and Israel repent like this city in the narrative parable that is the Book of Jonah. Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezechiel seemingly could not do for Israel what the Lord manages through Jonah for Nineveh. This great little book written most probably after the exile of Israel to Babylon and Israel now back home, is a gentle and perhaps slightly humorous reminder to all God’s people, now reinforcing their wondrous Jewish identity of Pentateuch and Covenant after their exile, that the Lord is full of universal mercy and wondrous surprises. Receptivity to the Covenant is also an opening out of the glory and compassion of the one true God even to those hostile and seemingly incapable of turning around to the Lord. Jonah had at first run from his call and his mission and is not bubbling with joy when it meets success as the Lord’s ways are sometimes, maybe many times, not his and not ours. Perhaps that is why we are more like Jonah than we would care to admit, especially to those hostile to us. If we are to be critical of Jonah, we must see him as our mirror. (By the way, I wonder how many days it would take to go through Washington, D.C.?)

The Reading from Jonah prepares us for the Gospel Reading from St. Mark, that short but incandescent Gospel that accompanies us most Sundays this year in the Lectionary. We hear of the opening days of Jesus’ public life, the very beginning of his ministry after His baptism in the Jordan and His Spirit-driven 40-day fast in the desert with the wild beasts and temptations from Satan, a real beast in himself. Chapter one is a day in the life of Jesus in those early, joy-filled and heady frenetic times of the initial announcement of the Kingdom of God. But St. Mark sets us straight that this happens against the background of John the Baptist’s arrest and imprisonment and sets the shadow of the Cross already in our hearts. Jesus’ message is a call for a turn around and a swift movement to the Lord, to God who is advancing towards us. It is Good News! God Reigns! The full meaning of the message, the Kingdom of God, will only become evident gradually when the “what is it” is replaced by “who is it.” Jesus Christ is the Kingdom, God’s merciful face turned towards the world and us that we can turn to Him.

Equally stunning is the swift way Jesus begins to call associates, those who will be apostles. In abrupt fashion He calls and the first disciples respond. What urgency and authority are in Jesus’ call. Not even the claims of work, family, business or culture can intervene in order for disciples to be “in Jesus’ company.” Good Grief! There is no HR person involved, not even a mention of a pension plan or benefits as yet! Perhaps with St. Paul who speaks to the Corinthians today, the message is that the time is short. In fact, there is a word in today’s Gospel that is repeated 32 more times in the Gospel of St. Mark. The word is “immediately.” There is no time for a Jonah run around. The response to Christ is always “immediately,” the same word used to describe Jesus’ miracles. They happen immediately. The invitation of Jesus is to pass from obscurity to light — and immediately. The history of salvation has reached its fullness with Jesus. That is fact. The imperative is to come follow him. Conversion is personal but immediately involves you in a fellowship, in a community, in the Church. To be engaged in this is to be introduced to Jesus’ new way of fishing, that is, catching them alive! Immediately!

Jonah gave Nineveh 40 days and they repented. We are nearing the 40th year anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Fifty three million children have lost