Sunday, January 29, 2012

The demon of abortion

While Abby Johnson was attending Texas A&M, she volunteered at the local Planned Parenthood clinic.  During this time, Abby had two abortions.  She had the first one when she was twenty years’ old.  She agreed with Mark, the father of the baby, that they weren’t ready for the responsibility of raising a child.  So, he took her to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston to get rid of their problem.  After the abortion, Abby was relieved that she could get on with her life. 

Her second abortion occurred a few years’ later.  This time, she was eight weeks’ pregnant and opted for a medical abortion using RU-486, the abortion pill.  Abby thought that for early abortions, this medication abortion was the more private and comfortable way to go.  The days that followed were sheer agony for her.  She couldn’t bear the thought of going to an emergency clinic and just suffered alone.    Abby was surprised that the pill caused her some genuine physical suffering and that it wasn’t a comfortable way to have an abortion after all.  After about eight weeks of feeling ill, Abby was able to return to her volunteer work at the clinic. 

Upon graduation, Abby accepted a job from Planned Parenthood.  She worked her way up through the ranks over several years and found herself in the important but morally-challenging job of director of the clinic in Bryan, Texas.

One day, due to a staff shortage, Abby was called into the exam room to help the medical team during an abortion.  As she took the ultrasound probe, Abby argued with herself thinking: “I don’t want to be here.  I don’t want to take part in an abortion.”  Abby could not have imagined how the next ten minutes would shake the foundation of her values and change the course of her life. 

The man with the unclean spirit cried out asking Jesus what he had to do with them and if he had come to destroy them.  The man shocked the crowd when he said that Jesus was the Holy One of God.  This man knew that Jesus was the Messiah.  The other people in the synagogue didn’t know this.  So, we know that this person was possessed by the devil.  The devil is trying to counteract the teaching of Jesus.  He always opposes truth and the work of grace.   

How would Jesus respond to this possessed person?  Would Jesus or his disciples physically throw him out of the synagogue?   Or, would Jesus just ignore him and talk over him?  Clearly this man, the devil in disguise, represents a threat to Jesus’ authority.

After witnessing the abortion, Abby’s life wasn’t the same.  She decided to quit working at the clinic before the next Saturday when they performed abortions again. She saw an old note on her desk from Elizabeth, a Coalition for Life volunteer who often was outside the clinic fence on the sidewalk.  The note said:  “The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with JOY.  I am praying for you, Elizabeth.” A light broke through the darkness and Abby saw with simple clarity that she was on the wrong side of the fence.

Abby knew what she had to do.  She drove over to the Coalition for Life office several blocks away.  When she got inside, Abby told the confused volunteers:  “I want out.  I just can’t do this anymore.”   And, so Abby’s new life, her life of grace, her life as a pro-life advocate began.  To spread her pro-life message, she wrote a book, titled Unplanned, which describes her journey from pro-choice to pro-life. 

When Jesus was confronted with the man who challenged him in the synagogue, his response to the evil in his midst was quick and effective.  Jesus said, “Quiet, come out of him!”  Immediately, the unclean spirit came out and the man made a loud cry.  With this victory, Jesus shows us that He is the Messiah, the Savior, and is more powerful than the devil.  

The people were amazed by Jesus’ teaching and by his victory over the devil.  They didn’t know what to make of Jesus.  His fame spread throughout the whole region.  Jesus victory over the devil is a sign to all of us of God’s salvation which comes to us through Jesus. Jesus’ power over evil assures us that, with his help and grace, we can throw off any demons that we may have.

The unclean man was freed from the devil after a miracle, a direct intervention of God in his life.  Abby was freed from the demon and evil of abortion through the grace of God and the prayers of many, especially the Coalition for Life volunteers who picketed outside the gate. 

In these troubled and confusing times, our world is crying out in pain, like the possessed man in the Gospel and like Abby who could no longer take part in an abortion.  People around us are hungry to hear the message of Jesus who brings us healing, life, and peace.  The world is suffering because it is under the grip of the devil who offers pain, death, and turmoil. We need a change, a transformation, a healing.     

When we look at our own lives, where do we find ourselves in these two stories?  Are we like Abby and the man with the unclean spirit?  Are we struggling with demons in our lives?   Are we like Elizabeth, the Coalition for Life volunteer?  Are we helping others, through our prayers, our actions, and our example, in our daily struggles against the forces of evil?   Or do we sometimes see ourselves in both places, struggling with demons while we pray for ourselves and for others?  Today, may all of us resolve to support and defend the culture of life and to condemn the culture of death in our community and in our world.  And may we with God’s grace throw off any demons which we may have invaded our life and  embrace the healing and peace of Jesus Christ. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

David's sin against Uriah is similar to our sins of abortion

Our first reading today is the famous story of David and Bathsheba.  In this story, one sin leads to another.  And the third sin is even worse than the first one.  After getting Bathsheba pregnant, David makes every effort to assure that his good name is not harmed as he twice tries to get Uriah to go to his house.  When he sees that he cannot make Uriah responsible for Bathsheba’s pregnancy, he decides to arrange for him to die in battle.  This is the worst sort of thing that he, the king, could do.  Uriah is one of the best and most loyal soldiers in the army.  He is killed to protect the good name of King David.  It is no wonder that the Lord is displeased with David, who he chose to be king.

One example today of sins that occur often as a result of earlier sins is abortion.  Like in the story, often this sin is a cover up for an earlier sin such as a young couple who aren’t ready to accept the child which they conceived out of wedlock.  And, like the case of David killing Uriah, this subsequent sin is even worse than the first one.  Instead of reconciling the earlier sin, this act compounds the earlier sin.

In the next chapter of the book of Samuel, David pays for his sin.  The prophet Nathan, speaking for the Lord, tells him: “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?    Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.”  

How will our nation pay for its sin of over 54 million abortions?   Will it pay for its sins by the destruction of the family?  Will it pay for its sins by a general acceptance of immorality?  Will it pay for its sins by introducing its children to immorality at a very early age?  Will it pay for its sins by discrediting its ethical anchor, the Catholic Church?

Last Monday, a busload of us from St Francis De Sales attended the Right to Life march in Washington DC with about 300,000 others.  It was inspiring to see so many young people at this march.  Clearly, many of our young people have embraced this issue.  But, it was also discouraging to think that on this, the 39th anniversary of the Roe versus Wade decision, about one in four babies are aborted in the womb.  How long will our Lord let our nation pretend to be great while it permits this atrocity?  How do each of us respond to this atrocity?    

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mother Angelica can teach us to obey even when it seems unreasonable

In the first reading today, we heard the story about how Saul disobeyed the Lord by not destroying all of the sheep and oxen as the Lord had commanded.  The Lord said:  “Obedience is better than sacrifice and submission than the fat of rams.” 

Mother Angelica is a modern-day saint who, unlike Saul, did God’s will no matter how difficult or unreasonable it might have seemed.  Mother Angelica had a dream to build a monastery.  After raising some money by selling fishing lures, Mother Angelica and a few others went to Birmingham, Alabama and purchased the land.  They began construction almost immediately but had many problems.  One time, they had a large hole in the middle of the area where they intended to build.  The foreman complained that the area wasn’t suitable for building.  Mother responded:  “We just need someone with a hill they don’t need to fill in this hole.”  The next day a man came to Mother and said:  “You know, I’ve got this hill in my backyard.  Every time it rains it dumps a ton of water in my basement.  You want it.”  So, the construction of the monastery continued. 

One businessman donated all the blocks and concrete required.  Another gave his services to blast rock and move earth.  Two women provided the bricks for the exterior.   Shortly after completion of the work, a series of unexpected donations came in which were just enough to pay off the workers.  Once the monastery opened, Mother realized that she didn’t have any money for food.  Then, a local grocer came to her and agreed to donate all the food they needed for their first year of operation.

Then, Mother Angelica made a critical but difficult decision.  She decided that the sisters would no longer engage in commercial projects to meet their material needs.  She said that their work was to communicate the gospel.  They would trust God for all of their needs.   Mother Angelica told her sisters:  “Faith is having one foot on the ground and the other up in the air for the Lord to put the ground under it.” 

Mother Angelica began communicating the Gospel message on TV.  Soon, she realized that she needed to have her own broadcasting facility so that she could reach a broad audience with her orthodox Catholic message. She said:  “This is the really exciting part of any new ministry, just plunging in out of obedience without the full knowledge of where to begin – it’s wonderful!”  So they began working on the TV studio.  Sister Raphael, her right-hand person, said:  “Jesus never gives us more than we need – He demands faith week by week.  When God gives us an opportunity to do something for Him, and we have agreed that it is His apparent will, we must act in faith or the opportunity is lost.  It is better to appear foolish before men than to answer God for being afraid to step out and trust Him.  And God has always provided – just in time.”  Then, they ordered a satellite dish and applied for an FCC license to broadcast. 

Mother Angelica succeeded with her television network, EWTN, just as she succeeded in her publishing business.  She overcame continual obstacles to become the largest Catholic broadcasting network in the world.  Mother Angelica observes:  “I don’t know why God chose me.  I’m a nobody.  God just uses me to move ahead in stubborn, obstinate obedience.  It’s like David and Goliath – we’re taking on a major media world with a slingshot and a few stones, but we’re making it happen.” 

Occasionally, all of us find ourselves in a position where God calls us to build his kingdom.  I doubt that any of us will be asked to build a monastery or a TV station.  But, as children of God, we are asked to spread the faith to an unbelieving world.  I pray that we will follow the example of Mother Angelica and will faithfully do God’s will no matter how difficult it may be.