By BISHOP BERNARD E. SHLESINGER III, Commentary | Published January 12, 2024 | En Español
During the Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of our Savior—a child not planned by Mary and Joseph—but welcomed and embraced by them in faith and love.
Sadly, Jesus did not receive a welcome by others during his life. At his birth there was no protection from King Herod, who sought to destroy children because he was fearful of anyone who threatened his kingdom. He was more concerned about power than protecting the lives of defenseless children. The pursuit of happiness or power can lead to seeing others as inconveniences or threats to the advancement of one’s agenda.
On June 24, 2022, Feast Day of St. John the Baptist, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling on Roe v. Wade and left it to the states to decide on the question of how to regulate abortion. In the aftermath of the Court’s decision, the issue of abortion has come to the forefront of political campaigns.
Whether or not the legal issues can be resolved, it is evident that there is more at stake than simply changing laws or making judicial decisions. The fact of the matter is that a culture with a poor life ethic continues to erode our society. Failing to speak for defenseless children in the womb or support mothers in need contributes to a culture of death rather than a society that values life. What is needed today more than ever is a consistent life ethic which values every person no matter how small or how guilty. We are a church of salvation not condemnation.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we cannot remain on the sidelines simply by cheering our cause and booing those who seem to be on the opposite side. We cannot be silent and do nothing when lives are at stake and the culture which devalues life erodes. How we value life will determine the culture in which our children are being formed.
We champion the cause for life when we preach a consistent life ethic that values each person created in the image and likeness of God no matter how small or how guilty. Unfortunately, when a lifestyle becomes more important than defending the vulnerable, people justify death as a means for resolving problems.
One does not have to have money to preach the Gospel of Life, although this helps in supporting programs like “Walking with Moms in Need,” pregnancy aid clinics and other charitable works such as prison ministry. Building a culture which values life should begin at home with prayer for those who feel that they are part of a “throwaway” society. In addition, our children must be taught at home the deepest meaning of freedom, not as a license to do as one wills or to impose one’s will over another, but as a commitment to sacrifice for the good of others.
Am I not my brother’s keeper? Should I not be a voice crying out in the wilderness like John the Baptist: “Make room for the coming of the Lord” or for the life of a brother or sister? Can we not even find forgiveness in our hearts for those who commit crimes, or do we feel better if we just eliminate them or cast stones? As we begin this new year of grace, let us go deeper: Where does my charity begin, and should it ever end in the matter of another person’s life?