A wonderful homily given in January by my prior boss..Deacon Ed Pietler, Phd
In many protestant churches, the preacher will post the title and subject of his sermon on one of those roadside boards on the church’s property. We don’t do this in the Catholic Church, probably because, while the homily is important to the Mass, it is not essential to how we worship. But if I had to give a title to my homily this morning it would be this: “Every Day is Newtown in America”. You do realize that I am referring to Newtown CT where last month 19 children, innocent in all respects, and who were simply doing what we expect all children of that age to do – get an education -had their precious lives ended one sad morning in the weeks before Christmas.
I have entitled this homily “Every day is Newtown in America.” Ours is a very interesting country. In fact, it’s not only our country that’s very interesting but human nature itself. You see, we are very adaptable beings. We can become accustomed to almost any condition that life throws at us. We learn to live with it and go on about our business. What am I referring to? Every day in the US 3300 pre-born babies have their lives taken from them through abortion. And the act of abortion is no less violent than what happened to those children in Newtown. And yet most people hardly blink an eye when they hear the statistics about abortion.
For weeks, the media was consumed with the tragedy of Newtown – and rightfully so. But are there any differences between those children killed in Newtown and those still living in their mothers’ wombs? One difference is that some of the children in Newtown were able to run, hide or escape the one who sought to harm them. But children whose development is still taking place inside their mother’s womb have no means of escape, no place to hide. One would think that inside a mother’s womb would be a safe enough environment – as we presume a classroom in a school would be. But sadly, mother’s wombs stopped being a safe place a long time ago.
Other differences? The children in Newtown were older in years but only a few short years removed from having been babies in their mothers’ wombs themselves. Six or seven years earlier those children at Newtown were not unlike the 3300 babies still in their mother’s wombs whose lives are taken away from them daily. In fact, those 1st and 2nd graders attending school in Newtown are closer in age to any preborn baby than they are to most of us here.
The pre-born child is a human person who is simply at an earlier stage of their development. Not yet ready for reading, writing and arithmetic but getting ready for the day when they will take their place in the schoolrooms of America. But for so many of these developing human persons, “Every Day Is Newtown in America.”
Every day, the Newtown experience happens 3300 times in this great land of ours. Not caused by madmen wielding a gun but lives ended by doctors wielding equally as lethal weapons. And it happens so often now, that we barely blink an eye. How frightening to think that we can get used to a Newtown experience happening every single day. In fact, there are even some Catholics who believe that there is nothing morally objectionable about abortion.
Some Catholic politicians openly support taking the lives of children when they are at their most vulnerable time of development. These Catholic politicians believe that they can publicly support abortion and remain a faithful Catholic. They cannot. They try to defend a right to do what – take the life of a defenseless innocent human person? The only right we as Catholics enjoy when it comes to abortion is the right to be outraged. Could you imagine anyone getting up anywhere in America today and defending what happened at Newtown?
For weeks, the media detailed for us the horrible carnage of Newtown. We saw pictures of the traumatized children who survived and were given graphic descriptions of what transpired on that fateful morning in rural Connecticut. And yet, my brothers and sisters, we will never hear descriptions of what actually takes place in abortion clinics all across this country 3300 times every single day of the week. And you also will not hear about the hundreds of thousands of people who will take to the streets of our nation’s capital this week to protest the horror of abortion. No, our country ignores the reality of “Every Day Is Newtown in America.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v Wade decision. The justices of the Supreme Court could not find in our Constitution a right to life. Imagine that! Over these ensuing 40 years, 55 million pre-born have had their lives taken from them. Not by a lone gunman but by a team of professionals who call it healthcare. Given the 19 children whose lives were taken at Newtown, that number of 55 million amounts to almost 3 million Newtowns occurring over these past 40 years.
Think about that: could you imagine the US going through that Newtown experience 3 million times over the past 40 years? And yet, we barely blink an eye when it comes to the issue of abortion. How human beings can adapt. It’s simply amazing.
All of which leads me to today’s scripture reading. God knows exactly the depths of the sin to which all of us can descend. And how easy it is to get used to the sin in our lives and pretend it doesn’t matter. How easy it is to adapt to a life of sinfulness. The scriptures refer to it as a ‘hardness of heart.’
My brothers and sisters, there is an alternative to this specter of “Everyday Is Newtown in America.” God has a different plan for our lives and for our world. God offers us a plan to have a change of heart and turn away from sin. His name is Jesus Christ. He is the one sent by the Father who can save us from our sin and restore us to life. God’s life. He is the one whose name we are called to carry to this Newtown world of ours.
In today’s scripture readings, we learn that Jesus comes to us as the promised lover, as one who will espouse God’s people. In short, he’s the one who intends to marry us by giving his body as an everlasting sacrifice – just as a husband presents his body to his wife as a sign of his love. Isaiah, in our first reading, speaks about the people Israel taken into captivity in Babylon and cut off from their home – Israel. He tells of God’s plan to return them to their rightful home where God will make of them his spouse.
And to fulfill the promise, the Father sends His Son so that God can espouse not just Israel but all mankind. God intends that every person on the face of this earth hear the name of Jesus Christ and take leave of the sin in their lives which divorces them from God. God fully intends that all enter into this spousal union with Him. And the first act of Jesus’ public ministry drives home this point.
Jesus is at a wedding feast with His mother. A feast that celebrates the union of a man and a woman – an occasion for much joy. But something has happened which threatens to ruin it all. The very thing that is used to make the occasion a joyous one, to lift people’s spirits and transcend their everyday existence – the wine – has run dry. Without the wine the wedding is a dud.
Something very central to the celebration of the marriage has gone missing. The wedding feast is now ruined. Mary says to Jesus, “They have no more wine.” Doesn’t that say it all? Isn’t that an adequate description of so many people’s lives today? Isn’t it true that in so many ways our society has ‘run out of wine?’ Don’t those living without God in their lives sense that something at the very core of their lives is missing?
Mary knows the one who came to bring life. Mary turns to the One whose mission it is to make it possible for man to once again live in the spousal relationship that God intends. And Jesus, baptized in the Spirit, moves forward in His mission on earth. Jesus gives a sign that He is the instrument of God who will bring about this spousal union once and for all. Jesus is the one whose sacrifice on the cross will bring about this spousal union. He is the one who does what all husbands are called to do – sacrifice themselves for their spouse – even to the point of giving up their lives if necessary. Jesus fulfills His Father’s will and offers His life in sacrifice – in order to complete the marriage act. And in the resurrection, we see that Jesus’ act of spousal sacrifice brings life –eternal life.
You and I – having been baptized into Christ’s divine life – have found our spouse – He is Jesus. He is the bread and wine become Body and Blood. We have found the One who has loved us into life. And whether you realize it or not, this morning you have come to your wedding feast. For in this Mass, you have come once more to meet your spouse who will offer you his body and blood in a communion of love – the marriage covenant God has made with you through His son Jesus Christ. This is your wedding day when you come to once more meet your spouse. He wants to be everyone’s spouse and it is up to you and me to go out of this place and tell everyone about the One who offers to be their spouse too…who offers them life and not death.
This is what the Lord wants for the entire world – not the world of ‘Everyday is Newtown in America.’ It is Mary, in her last recorded words in Scripture, who tells us the way for us to get the marriage feast back on track – to get the wine flowing once more so that joy and the celebration of the intended marriage can happen – Mary’s words are these: Do whatever He tells you. Christ invites everyone to leave the Babylon of their separation from God – the life of sin – and heed the words of the prophet Isaiah: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.”