Editor’s Note: In lieu of a conversation with Bishop Patrick J. Zurek for this issue of The West Texas Catholic, we present the homily he gave Jan. 22 during the annual diocesan Respect Life Mass at St. Mary’s Church, Amarillo.
During the Christmas Season we always read Isaiah, which like St. John’s Gospel, is filled with the comparison of “Light and Darkness”. These two sacred authors are masters in this regard. The reference is obviously analogues to “Sin and Sanctity”.
The solemn liturgy of Christmas Eve quotes Isaiah.
“The people who have walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shown.” (Is. 9:1)
Then on the Feast of Epiphany we again read from Isaiah:
“Rise up in splendor,
Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds
cover the peoples;
but upon you the Lord shines.” (Is 60:1-6)
The prophets, and archeology affirms that the valley that runs from Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast, eastward just north of Galilee, through the Sea of Galilee and south in the Jordan River Valley to the Dead Sea was known as the land of selfishness, sensuality, lust, gluttony, greed, and the litany goes on. It was called the “land of darkness
” by the prophets. History tells us that Jesus was born, lived, ministered, suffered and died, ascended into heaven in or on the border of this “Valley of Darkness”.
St. John the Evangelist would play on this contrast in the story of the “man born blind
”. The Pharisees, who could physically see, could not recognize the evil around them, nor that Jesus was God’s Son; but the man born blind, who could not physically see, recognized that Jesus was God, and hence, the “light of the world
Christian archeology would later reveal that Jesus, the “light of the world” spent his last night on earth in the total “darkness” of a human prison cell!
My friends in Christ, we still have much darkness around us. Evil is still powerful! It is not just found in wars or terrorism, in family fights and disputes, among friends, but even at times in our own hearts.
Unfortunately, it also manifests itself in laws and institutions of varying countries, and in particular here in the USA.
Jesus was not afraid to have been born, lived and died in the “Valley of Darkness!
” Neither should we be afraid to walk into the darknesses of our world to witness to Jesus, the “light of the world!”
During Christmas Day and for several days following we heard much of this light vs. darkness theme.
But I saw something quite startling on television on Christmas and for several days following. It was a commercial. In it there was either a man or woman pictured with a dog or a cat and the words went something like this.
“Wouldn’t you like to save this puppy, kitty, dog or cat? Wouldn’t you like to prevent it from starving to death? Wouldn’t you like to provide it with a home? Just $ X.00 could do this! Send your donation to…..”(Editor: The commercial was for the ASPCA)
The worst part is that Silent Night was being played in the background! The song speaks of the “Word made flesh” and the story is about an animal, not the crowning jewel of Creation, humans.
It spoke of the thousands of animals that would die that day from hunger or exposure to the elements. Well, I love pets myself; however, what of the millions of humans, especially children who go to bed hungry in OUR country every night, not to mention the world!
What of the millions of abortions performed each year here in the “good ole USA!
” Scripture is quite clear that the creation of man and woman (humans) is the crowning jewel of His creation! No other life form equals the dignity of the human person! No other life form on earth is created in the “image and likeness
” of God!
We all know this. But we need to realize the darkness we live in! We especially need to realize that it you and I, the weekly Christian church-goers who need to take seriously the call we have from Christ himself…to be the “Light of the world!”
Our dignity comes not only from creation, but also from the Incarnation, the coming of God in human flesh! The Incarnation is the permanent union of humanity with God. In the birth of the Christ child, we see the fulfillment of the Paschal Mystery in which God-Man offers himself to the Father on the Cross and effects redemption.
St. John speaks of this in his first Letter.
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon
and touched with our hands,
concerns the Word of Life—(this) we proclaim now to you.” (1 John 1-4)
We still hear Him. We still see Him. We still can touch Him. We do this through the sacraments of the Church. We do this when we serve the poor and needy, the disenfranchised, the sick and suffering.
We still do this when we work for, pray for, and give witness to the dignity of all human life, especially the unborn! We encounter the Risen Christ who strengthens our Faith.
We may be the taunt of many in society who want to believe that the child forming in the womb is nothing more than “a pre-natal, post conception life form…or tissue!
” (Medical definition of baby in the womb, circa 1985)
When we do all that we can to protect the “unborn,” to speak to a pregnant woman or teen to counsel them in regard to the dignity and beauty of human life, when we dare to enter the “twisted and deprived generations
” (St. Paul) among whom we live and defend the unborn, we bear witness to the “Light” that Christ is to the darkness of our times!
It is no wonder that the Magi followed a star! It was light leading them to THE “Light of the world
.” When they inquired about where the “promised child” was to be born, they went to Herod. The chief priests told Herod, “In Bethlehem…
(and they added) From you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.
” (Matt. 2:1-12)
Herod became jealous and entered a deeper “darkness”. He feared an opposing leader. He told the Magi: “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.
” (Matt. 1:1-12)
Herod, pretending to do good, only had deceit in mind. He only wished to destroy the child. But notice also the instruction. Herod tells the Magi, bring me word as to where the child is! This distorts the reality of what took place in Bethlehem. The Magi are going to adore THE “Word of God made flesh.
” But Herod does not want to encounter the WORD OF GOD. He does not want the truth. He is not looking to meet the only ONE who can “make his joy complete.
What a parallel with the pro abortionists! They are not looking for the Word either! They seem to act like Herod. They use deceitful tactics to convince the people that abortion is OK. It seems that many try to convince the women that a child is not a GIFT of God, but a problem, that could interfere with their life style or the work or future advancement! They even resort to gifts, fulfillment of dreams…college, a trade school. Women, especially are preyed upon…offered gifts they probably would never have…all in the name of promoting a “Culture of Death”, perhaps even deceit! Those in darkness try to lead others into that same darkness.
Yet Psalm 8 clearly speaks the mind of God as to the dignity of the human being:
“What is man that you should keep him in mind,
mortal man that you
care for him?
Yet you have made him little less than a god;
with glory and honor YOU crowned him, gave him power over the works of your hand.”
Wouldn’t you want to help this poor puppy, kitty, cat or dog? The question should be, wouldn’t you want to protect human life…the poor innocent child in the womb that should have the wonderful opportunity to experience life!
When you and I were baptized, we were “illuminated” by the light of the Holy Spirit. We became temples of glory of the Spirit of God. This must become our goal in life. How do we grow in this “Light”? How do we open ourselves to the Wisdom that the Spirit gives to convince others of the beauty and dignity of human life through the appropriate words and convincing testimony of a good Christian life style?
The Gospel ends with this quote:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentations;
Rachel weeping for
her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”
Today, the rate of abortion is the lowest since Roe vs. Wade became a Law. Fifty percent of Americans state they are Pro-Life. But abortions still occur; so the Church cries out in lamentation and even anger at what man perpetrates. Holy Church justifiably cries out her fury like the mama bear that sees her cubs threatened. But we do no harm! We “Christians are the conscience of our society.
” (Diognetis, 3rd C.) Therefore we “proclaim the sacredness of human life.
” We work and pray hard for a “Culture of Life.” We return a blessing, not a curse, to those twisted with a Pro Choice mentality and philosophy. We commit to pray for them. We tell them we WILL PRAY for them!
Let us make this our prayer.
That through our prayers, our efforts and our witness of Christian living, the crying and lamentation would end…because the children in the womb will see light! WE pray that there would be a serene stillness, a silence of joy and gratitude. There would be less darkness because of the light that we bring to the world through our Faith; that the babes in womb would see light, both of the sun, and the Son of God. That as much as the darkness would like to prevail, the words of John’s Gospel would be finally fulfilled.
“What came to be through
+Most Reverend Patrick J. Zurek, Bishop of Amarillo, Respect Life Mass and March in the Defense of Human Life, St. Mary’s Church,
Amarillo, Texas, January 22, 2011
the Word was life,
and this life was the light
of the human race;
the light shines in the
darkness, and the darkness
has not overcome it.”