Following is the text of the homily I gave at the annual Mass for Life held in Topeka on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade. The Mass was held at Assumption Catholic Church across from the state capitol and judicial center where a large March for Life and rally had just concluded.
Mass for Life – January 22, 2009
My name is Fr. Shawn Tunink and I am the Associate Pastor at Most Pure Heart of Mary parish here in Topeka and also the chaplain at Hayden High School here. I’d like to welcome both those here from Topeka and especially those who have joined us from all across our great state of Kansas. Know that there are many others who would like to be here. Due to the limited space here, most of the students from Hayden and our grade schools have returned to school.
Although the walls of our church limit the numbers physically present, we gather here mindful that we do so in solidarity with many others. In parish churches and cathedrals all across the country today we gather to pray. Our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters who at this very moment are marching for life in Washington, D.C. The March for Life West Coast will soon be taking place in San Francisco. We join with those gathered in state capitols and government offices across the country. In the face of evil, one of the most important things we can do is to gather together to pray. Today, we most certainly are aware that we are not alone.
Our gathering today is one of mixed emotions. In the yearly cycle of celebrations on our church calendar, surely this is a day that we wish we did not have to commemorate. Yet, the spirit of this day is one of hope, and not merely a worldly hope or wish that somehow things would be different. It is a hope informed by our faith and centered in the love of God.
I remember being in Washington eight years ago for a different presidential inauguration. On that day many people were saying that there was now a great hope for the pro-life movement. In the previous years we had gathered in front of the White House knowing that the man inside would veto any meager pro-life legislation we might try to pass. Then, on that day, we had hope that the newly inaugurated president was one of us. We felt a renewed sense of optimism that we had an ally in the White House. This largely proved to be true over the last 8 years.
Today, our new president is undoubtedly the most pro-abortion president in history, and people are tempted to lose hope. In the face of legislation that could wipe out all the modest advances in pro-life legislation we’ve passed over the last 36 years, we might be tempted to lose hope. The lesson here is that we must not judge our success by what legislation we are able to pass. We must not put our hope in whoever the latest president might be, and we can never hope for an earthly Supreme Court to render the justice only God can give. Despite all of the clouds that gather around us we most surely gather in great hope today, for our hope is centered not on the things of this earth, but in God, a God who is faithful and assures us the victory.
On this day especially the pro-abortion forces look at us and ask, “Why are you still here? Don’t you know that this issue has been decided? It’s been 36 years, when are you going to go away?” Yet as we look around our church today and at the rallies here and across the country, we are encouraged by so many young faces. There are many here that have been fighting this battle for 36 years now and I’m sure it brings them great joy to see all of you young people here today. No, we’re not going anywhere. For those who have carried the touch these many years and continue to do so, we are thankful. For those students here for the first time, this torch is being passed to you and you give us great hope.
Those who favor abortion are indeed eager to see us give up. They are puzzled by the fact that we continue to fight so strongly and think they can end the debate by telling us simply, “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” We don’t have to go back too far in our nation’s history to arrive at the time when many people claimed “If you are opposed to owning slaves, then don’t own one.” That answer was not acceptable then, and it is not acceptable now. It was not hard to reason that if some people were only acknowledged to be 3/5ths of a person then our country could not last. Our Kansas “free state” ancestors knew the stakes were high and they were willing to go to war rather than quietly allow the country to self-destruct.
Today, we are met with claims that some people are even less than 3/5ths of a person; some people are not people at all. Or worse, maybe they really are people, but we should have the right to kill them anyway because they are inconvenient or unwanted…sadly oftentimes just…not useful. In the 1860’s they realized that, as sad as it was to think about the prospect of spilling American blood on our soil, it was worth going to war to save the nation. It was not enough to be personally opposed to slavery. The 3/5ths compromise did not bring peace then nor will compromise with evil bring peace now.
And so we must fight. Sadly, today we need not contemplate the future possibility of the shedding of American blood on American soil, for the blood of 50 million innocent children already stains our land and continues to flow. Rather than a future possibility, this is the sad present reality, and it is for this reason that we fight. We are at war to save our souls, the souls of our children and the soul of our nation. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “We are now met on a great battlefield of that war, testing whether this nation or any other nation can long endure.” We are here because we love our country and it is worth fighting for.
Yet, it is impossible to love our country if we fail to love our brothers and sisters. For that reason we are here today to pray for the innocent children in danger of abortion. We are here today to stand up for women who have been victimized by the abortion industry. We are here today in solidarity with our elderly brothers and sisters who are suffering at the end of their lives and see no reason to live. We are here today to pray for inmates on death row. We are here today to appeal to scientists and doctors not to use their God-given talents to destroy the very lives they should be trying to save. We are here today to tell our elected officials that no legislation that removes the freedom of choice for people of conscience to object to abortion, or removes the freedom of choice for parents to be involved in the lives of their teenage daughters, or that forces tax payers to fund the murder of children…we are here today to say that no such legislation could ever be called a “freedom of choice act” and is not worthy to even be spoken of in the hallowed halls of our capitol.
Most importantly, we are here today because we love God and we know that this is a war that we cannot win on our own. This is a war whose first shots were fired when Satan chose to use his freedom to tell God, “I will not serve.” The battle over abortion is just the latest battle in the ongoing war of the kingdom of God verses the kingdom of Satan. St. Paul reminds us that our fight is not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers. Therefore our weapons must be those of prayer and fasting, humility, and most importantly…love. We fight with love. Only the God who is love can overcome the cycle of fear, hate, and death in which we are now trapped. If we fight through, with, and in his love, there is no doubt who wins this war in the end.
In scripture we read that our Israelite ancestors, in order to purge themselves of the collective sin of their community, would gather each year and symbolically lay the guilt of all onto a goat which they would then drive out into the desert, the so-called “scapegoat.” Today we gather in similar fashion to do penance for the sins of our nation and seek to drive the sin of abortion far away from our land. We may have no goat with us today on which to lay this guilt, but we have something better. We have the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of not just our nation, but the sins of the world.
The book of Revelation sings about this lamb and it is filled with hymns of victory. The lamb is victorious over sin and death. Today, although we are indeed met on a great battlefield of this ongoing war, we are also here to remind ourselves that we are the winners. We are here to claim victory! Although the final victory still awaits us, in the timelessness of the Eucharistic sacrifice which we are about to offer, we join the angels and saints as they sing their hymn of victory with the lamb. We join with St. Michael and all the holy angels as they celebrate their victory over the angels of darkness. And yes, we join with the souls of all the victims of abortion who stand around the throne and urge us on in the fight, that one day we might join them.
Often war seems to bring out the worst in people. But as we have said, this is a different kind of war. Whenever we in the pro-life movement gather you cannot help but notice that there you will find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…as our 8th graders could probably tell you…all the fruits of the Holy Spirit. To confront the evil spirit that we must battle, we need the Holy Spirit.
To wherever there is darkness, confusion and death, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To wherever there is fear and doubt, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To wherever women are alone and feel they have no choice, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To homes and families broken by abortion, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the bedside of the suffering and dying, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the laboratories of scientists who would experiment with life, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the halls of justice near death row, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To Wichita and all cities stained with the blood of the abortion mills, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To doctors who have forgotten what it means to be instruments of healing, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the halls of our legislatures, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To our Supreme Court buildings, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the office of our governor and the oval office, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the hearts of all men and women whose hearts are hardened against life, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the hearts of all who long to see the day when life will be victorious, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
Almighty God, this battle is one that we cannot and do not fight alone. We need your help and healing. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you will renew the face of the earth. May it be so. Amen