By ARCHBISHOP GREGORY J. HARTMAYER, OFM Conv. | Published January 6, 2022 | En Español
“The night is far spent, and the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Rom 13:12)
How often Jesus tells his followers to walk in the light and yet, how often have people chosen the darkness instead. On Jan. 22, 1973, a great cloud of darkness came over the United States. On that day, the Supreme Court of the United States reached a decision in the Roe v. Wade case. It allowed the darkness of abortion to come into our country.
And since then, 62 million babies have been aborted, with 31,428 abortions in Georgia in 2020. And why did the Supreme Court rule as such? To cover up the sexual promiscuousness of the 1960s “sexual revolution.”
We have just celebrated the great feast of Christmas—the great season of light. Isn’t it ironic that a month later, we are commemorating the darkness of the slaughter of the innocents? As we think about Christmas, we think about Mary as a mother.
How must Mary have felt when the Angel Gabriel announced to her that she was chosen to be the Mother of God? Mary could not see into the future. She did not know what the consequences would be of being the Mother of God. In the culture of her time, because she was not married, she would have been an outcast and forced to leave. There must have been fear. There must have been uncertainty. But her response was the response of a woman of faith: “Let it be done unto me according to thy word.” She said “yes” to life. She said “yes” to the light. She knew that God had a plan and that he was in control.
Mary’s life was not easy: when it came time for her to give birth to Jesus, there was no room for her at the inns, so she gave birth to him in the poverty of a stable. Soon after his birth, she and Joseph had to flee to Egypt with the baby Jesus, for fear that he would be slaughtered by Herod.
Imagine her anguish when Jesus couldn’t be found in the temple. Imagine her broken heart as she saw her son rejected. Imagine her grief as she stood by as her son gave up his spirit and as she held him in her arms one last time. What was important for Mary was that she was called by God to be the mother of his son. To the Author of Life, she said “yes” to life.
We are living in a moral crisis. We see it all around us—murder, war, genocide—and if all this were not enough, we see direct attacks on life at its most vulnerable stages—at the beginning and at the end. How many times have we heard it said: “Well, it’s only a fetus or an embryo in the womb; it’s not really a baby.” Or in the words of so-called experts: “It’s only a glob of cells.”
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, the Scriptures tell us, that the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy, so near was man’s salvation. Note how precise the Scriptures are: the child in Elizabeth’s womb—not a fetus, not an embryo, not a glob of cells, but a child. How grateful we should be that Mary chose life. Yes, Mary chose life. Each of us should get down on our knees and thank God that Mary chose life and that our mothers chose life.
We are living in a materialistic and atheistic world. That is why there is abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, assisted-suicide, and genocide, not to mention the countless crimes against humanity. All of this is so because we have abandoned the spiritual ethic. The light has been abandoned, and instead darkness has been chosen. When Roe v. Wade was enacted into law in 1973, a great cloud of darkness came over our nation. Ironically, also, in 1973, the Federal Endangered Species Act and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act were approved for the conservation of freshwater turtles. One can expect monetary fines and imprisonment for the violation of these turtle protection laws. It is sad to say that the child in the womb is afforded no such protection.
What is wrong with our country? The child in the womb is exactly that—a child. There is no such thing as an “unwanted” baby. Every baby is wanted. There is a long waiting list for adoptions. St. Teresa of Kolkata addressed a prayer breakfast a number of years ago. She said: “I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption—by care of the mother and adoption of her baby. By accepting them, we are accepting Jesus.” This is something truly beautiful!
What are we to do? For those who have had an abortion, please know that God forgives you. The church is here to help you—to let you know his love and his healing. All of us must get involved in programs serving life. We must promote Natural Family Planning, whereby a husband and wife are attuned to God’s gift of fertility. We must pray for life, privately and publicly. We must make daily sacrifices for life. We must show our government officials, our medical and legal professions, that we are for life.
As the U.S. Bishops have told us in a statement: “We must explain, persuade, correct and admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the Gospel of life through their actions and policies.”
Let us not have innocent blood on our hands. Pro-choice is contrary to Christianity. Without life, there is no choice. The culture of death must be replaced by a civilization of life and love. Life is good because it comes forth from God who is all good. Again in the words of St. Teresa: “If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as he loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world.”
The Golden Rule
In his Address to the Joint Session of the United States Congress on Sept. 24, 2015, Pope Francis urged us to remember The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Mt 7:12)
This rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
In response to the Holy Father’s challenge, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been active in pursuing initiatives in the promotion of a culture of life. One such endeavor is a nationwide program called Walking with Moms in Need. I strongly endorse this program and I encourage you to learn more about it at archatl.com/ministries-services/respect-life-ministry/ways-to-help/walking-with-moms-in-need/.
Inspired by Pope St. John Paul II’s call to maximize our charitable efforts in building a culture of life, the intention of the program is to increase the church’s outreach and assistance to pregnant and parenting women in need. Pregnant and parenting moms in need are in all of our parishes and our neighborhoods. Pope Francis reminds us that our parishes need to be “islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.” Everyone in the parish community should know where to refer a pregnant woman in need. I commend the many crisis pregnancy centers throughout the archdiocese and beyond that are beacons of light as they offer hope to so many pregnant women in difficult situations.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of blessing a new Pregnancy Aid Clinic in downtown Atlanta. My sincere thanks to the many people who volunteer their time and resources to building a culture of life and a civilization of love. May God bless all of our efforts.
When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he said love—love of God and love of neighbor. The child in the womb is our neighbor. The young frightened girl who has had an abortion is our neighbor. The young girl who is alone and pregnant is our neighbor. We must go to great lengths to love our neighbors—our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Look at Jesus Christ. The greatest love that a man can have is to lay down his life for his friends. He practiced what he preached. He laid down his life, so that we could have life—eternal life. That is love—the same love that inspired Mary to say yes to God; the same love that inspired our parents to say yes to God. By saying yes to life, America can indeed become a sign of peace for the world. Are we going to remain silent while the American massacre continues? Are we going to remind our public servants of their obligation to protect the sacred dignity of all human life and to safeguard the common good? Are we going to choose the darkness and reject the light? And are we going to say yes to life and defend it with everything we have got?
May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn intercede for us. May the Lord bless you with his peace!