Over the last three years, as I have grown to become more and more involved in the pro-life movement because of my ministry with Project Rachel, I have felt God opening the Scriptures up to me in a new way. I would like to continue what I had started in the first part by sharing with you some more pro-life insights into Scripture.
In my first night as a priest in the parish, I was called to the hospital in the middle of the night to be with a family whose one-year-old child was dying of leukemia. Jenna would go on to live another six months, and in that time I would often speak with her parents. They always told me that they would do everything all over again because the joy their daughter brought to their life was more precious than the pain they felt in losing her. Jenna made the lives of her parents and siblings, as well as my own, and that of many others in the parish better despite being a special-needs child.
“Quality Control” Mentality
It is no secret that there is a strong current in our society today that has adopted a “quality control” mentality when it comes to children and believes that any child in the womb that is diagnosed with a developmental condition like Down syndrome or one of the other trisomies should simply be aborted. We in the Church need to be defenders of these innocent special-needs children, for each of them is as important to God’s plan and as loved by Him.
|We need to be defenders of innocent special-needs children, for each of them is as important to God’s plan. Shutterstock
I would like to share one more passage with you which I think demonstrates what I have heard called the “consistent life ethic,” the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life. The idea is that the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life only makes sense if all life is sacred.
We read in Matthew’s Gospel: “While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, ‘My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.’ Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for 12 years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.’ Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, ‘Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.’ And from that hour the woman was cured.
When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, ‘Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land” (Mt 9:18-26).
As I prayed over this passage, I was struck that the old woman and the young girl had something in common: both of them were considered people of low or almost no status. In my prayer, I assumed that the woman with the hemorrhages was a widow and that that was the reason she was alone when she approached Jesus. In that culture, a widow without anyone would have been considered a nobody, but Jesus let her know she was important to Him. He took time out of his busy ministry to spend time with her and talk to her. How many “nobodies” in our world today just wish that someone would spend a little time with them?
Time with Nobodies
I recently celebrated Mass for the first time with the Missionaries of Charity in St. Louis. After Mass they asked me to greet and bless some of the homeless women whom they were helping. The smiles that came to the faces of these women as I asked them if there was a special intention that we could pray for together was priceless.
How many people in nursing homes or homebound desire just a little bit of our time? By spending time with them we show them that, no matter how old or poor they may be, they are priceless in God’s eyes and in our own.
From the hundreds of reflections I have heard on the stories of Jesus reprimanding the disciples for not allowing the children come to Him (Mark 10 and Luke 18) and showing the disciple that, to be the greatest, one must be like a child (Matthew 18), that children at the time of Jesus were considered nobodies.
In addition, the child in the story of the official’s daughter was a girl in a very masculine culture. What if Jesus had listened to the crowd telling Him that this child was not worth His time? While, I have yet been able to raise a child from the dead, I know that by listening and caring for them, I can lift children out of sinfulness and depression by showing them that someone cares and that I care because God cares about them.
Protecting Life at All Stages
Another thought that struck me as I was praying over this passage about Jesus healing the young girl was how similar this girl might have been to someone in a persistent vegetative state, like Terri Shiavo, and how the Church, the Body of Christ, rose to her defense when the crowd pronounced her dead and not worthy of our time or resources.
As much as being pro-life means being anti-abortion it also means protecting life in all its stages, no matter where we find people. God demonstrates this by the story of the birth of John the Baptist and through the many healing stories of Christ.
We see in Scripture that age (he welcomed children and praised widows), location (healing people in Jericho, Capernaum and the area of Decapolis), nationality/ethnicity (healing the woman at the well and the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter), gender (both men and women), usefullness (blind and the paralytic carried by friends) or morality (woman caught in adultery and the good thief) did not matter to Jesus. All were special to Him because He saw them all as brothers and sisters and gifts from His Heavenly Father. May our world come one day to this same insight which will result in a respect for all human life!
FATHER PASTORIUS is pastor of Epiphany Parish in South St. Louis, Mo.