Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Speaking the Truth in Love

In this week’s Scripture readings at Mass, a few verses jump out: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:4); “When the people…heard this, they were all filled with fury” (Luke 4:28); “Love is patient, love is kind….it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4,6).

These three passages, one each from the three readings, summarize the Pro-Life movement.

First, the Lord God tells the prophet Jeremiah that he was divinely selected even before his conception to be a great prophet in Israel. Contained within this declaration is the clear message that God forms people in the womb, therefore, they are not merely “a clump of cells” that can be discarded like a loose piece of knee cartilage, but unique precious human beings.

The pro-life verses in Scripture are, of course, not the only evidence that pre-born life is sacred. In the 46 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, modern science has made remarkable discoveries: children in the womb have heartbeats and brainwaves; they feel pain; they smile, frown, sleep, and get the hiccups; they suck their thumbs.

Here are two sincere questions for pro-choice people: If it’s not alive, why is it growing? And if it’s not a human being, what kind of being is it?

When you ask these questions, you’ll most likely get the same reaction Jesus got in this week’s gospel reading: “When the people…heard this, they were all filled with fury.”

Nothing infuriates pro-choicers more than directing the conversation away from their important, yes, but secondary issues—the right to privacy, personal autonomy, decisions between a woman and her doctor—and putting the focus instead on the primary issue: is a human life being destroyed or not?

The fury that arises when people take a stand for the sanctity of life is probably why, after attending Mass regularly for over three decades, I rarely hear anything about abortion during homilies.

I have, however, read many articles where priests explain if they ever gave a strong pro-life homily, half the congregation would walk out in a huff and the other half would write nasty letters to the archbishop criticizing the priest for being “divisive.”

Well, I guess it’s a real risk to speak the truth. Jesus demonstrated this when His truthful criticism of the people’s unwillingness to accept the words of a prophet caused them to be “filled with fury” and attempt to kill Him. Later on, fury over Jesus’ truthful words DID result in His death.

Our third notable Scripture passage this week, from St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, offers a guideline for dealing with difficult issues: “Love is patient, love is kind….it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”

The key to presenting an uncomfortable and often divisive message is love. If our motivation is to win the argument or condemn those with a different viewpoint, it is unlikely any minds or hearts will be changed. But if our motivation is love—a love for God, a love for the truth, and a sincere love for those who disagree with us—then the truth of God just might sink in and transform someone’s heart.

Success is not guaranteed, obviously. Jesus spoke the truth with love and kindness and they still wanted to kill Him. But in the grand scheme of things, as Mother Teresa pointed out, we’re not called to be successful, we’re called to be faithful.

Whether it’s proclaiming pro-life homilies at Mass, or discussing uncomfortable issues with family members and co-workers, we must rejoice with the truth. Yes, we might cause a little tension or ruffle a few feathers. But that’s what we have to do, because that’s what the Lord commands us to do.

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