3rd Sunday O.T. (C)

Today’s Gospel opens in what was an ordinary setting for its time: faithful Jews assembled in their town synagogue for the usual Sabbath observance.  A bar-mitzvah-ed male would be invited to read the Scripture selected for the day.

In this scene Jesus, who had come back to his hometown for a visit, comes forward and chooses His own passage from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah. While that alone may have raised a few eyebrows, what He said afterward really must’ve gotten their attention!

Nazareth was not a very large town in those days, so Jesus would’ve been known to many if not all present that day.  Some probably knew Him all His life.

Luke tells us that many were impressed with His commentary, but others were very likely startled, thinking: “The expectation of the prophets & all Israel are fulfilled in this man, who grew up here, in this 1-horse town?  How can it be?”

This assumes, of course, that they had no idea of Jesus’ true origins.  To us who have the benefit of living 2 millennia later, what Jesus said that day isn’t at all shocking.

We already believe that Jesus is God-in-the-flesh who unites God and humanity in His very self; that God became human in Christ so that humanity can become more like God.

This is the mystery we just finished celebrating earlier this month: the mystery called the Incarnation, which transforms how we look at everything human from that moment onward.

For if indeed God has become human, then human nature itself has been touched by the divine.  No longer simply created by God, human nature and divine nature are made one.

When we look at human life in this light, humanity takes on a whole new meaning and dignity; and with it a commitment to respect, uphold, defend, and preserve it.

This faith demands that we persevere in our struggle against the tide of public opinion that often sees human life as a mere commodity to be exploited or discarded at will; to renew our struggle to win protection for those who cannot speak for or defend themselves.

When we understand this struggle in the light of a faith in the Son of God who was once an unborn infant in His mother’s womb; who was once tormented by ignorant, unforgiving, intolerant people, then we can begin to grasp what is at stake in the pro-life struggle, and why it is the duty of each and every one of us who claim to be Christian to take up its cause.

2 decades have passed since we left behind a century that witnessed horrific attacks on human life on a scale the world had never before seen.

2 World Wars and several attempted genocides account for the deaths of millions, perhaps billions, of our fellow human beings. Sadly, this century, this new millennium, has simply picked up where the last one left off.

Abortion is worse because it is an attack on human life itself.  The unborn child is killed not because she is a free-thinking intellectual or a member of some despised racial, ethnic, or social class, horrifying as that is.  The unborn child is killed simply because she exists.  That is what’s so terrifying!

In their desire to protect what has become hugely profitable, abortion lobbyists attempt to confuse the issue with heartbreaking cases of desperate women.  But consider this:

A woman who suffers from syphilis and already has 8 children, 3 of whom were born deaf, 3 others born blind, and another with Down’s syndrome becomes pregnant by her unemployed, alcoholic, and abusive husband.  The unborn child will also be born deaf.  Would you recommend an abortion?

Many would.  If you’re one of them, congratulations: you just aborted Ludwig von Beethoven!

The fact is that less than 2% of all abortions performed in this country are medically necessary, and that’s the only time the majority of people in this country favor the right to choose it.  The abortion lobby and media won’t tell us that, though. They just say “most people favor the right to choose.”

St. Paul however reminds us of our membership in the Body of Christ.  By our baptism we are initiated into His mission.  Anyone who would be a member of this Body, the people who proclaim the Incarnation, must then be wholeheartedly committed to the struggle to protect human life from conception to natural death.

Because it is touched by the divine, all human life is sacred.

This is why we need unity among Christians, that we might work together to provide for families in trouble, to help overwhelmed parents care for their children, or find a loving home for the children of those who can’t.

St. Paul reminds us that just as a body has many different parts, each with its own function and abilities, so it is with us, the Body of Christ.  Each of us is called to participate in the Church’s mission, Christ’s mission, according to our own particular set of gifts, talents, and abilities.

One thing we can all do is pray:  pray for the success of our efforts to defend human life; pray for greater unity among Christians.

Remember the words of Ezra the high priest in our first reading: “Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.”

He was speaking to a nation that had just completed the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem after its destruction by the Babylonians; a nation that had endured 70 long years of enslavement; a nation rediscovering its bond with their God and His Word of life lived in love.

May our nation, and all nations, rediscover our own bond with this same God: a God revealed to us in Jesus as a God of surprises, a Creator who always does the unexpected; a God of life and love who is forever doing something new.

By the power of that bond, celebrated and shared in this and every Eucharist, and armed with truth and love, let us throw off once and for all the shackles of the culture of death, the pride of Satan, and recreate this nation and the whole world into the garden of life it was always intended to be.

God bless you!