Monday, March 14, 2016

True freedom is to be pro-life

Homily given by Fr. Hezuk Shroff at Good Shepherd Parish in Ottawa on Saturday March 12, 2016

Today, we come together from all parts of the Archdiocese of Ottawa to celebrate this pro-life Mass and to pray for a restoration of the culture of life in this country and throughout the world. Sometimes, a Mass with a pro-life theme is seen as being simply a Mass against abortion. But we are united today not primarily to pray against something; rather to pray for something much greater. We are all here this morning because we believe that all human life is sacred, from natural conception to natural death. We do not buy into the lie that we are somehow against women’s rights, or against freedom: we believe very strongly in free will, because we know that we were created free by God. However, we also know that there is a difference between freedom and licence. Freedom, we know, is always ordered to the good, and one can never use the argument of freedom to do something that is intrinsically evil or contrary to the good. No one would stand up and defend a rapist’s “freedom to rape” or a thief’s “freedom to steal.” No one would say that we should be “free to hate” or “free to lie” or “free to hurt” another human being intentionally. Then why is it that so many in today’s society can’t understand the fact there there is no such thing as the “freedom to kill”? When a person takes an innocent human life at will, he is implying that his so-called “freedom to kill” trumps the other person’s freedom to live. But there is no such thing as the freedom to kill, since freedom can never be used to justify doing evil. Freedom is ordered to truth, to charity, and therefore also to the good.

We are blessed to be gathered together this morning in this Church of the Good Shepherd (and not just because of the pastor who is assigned here!). We are here because we believe in life, and it is Christ who told His disciples, “The good shepherd is the one who lays down his life for his sheep.” In other words, the good shepherd stands up for what is true and just and noble (the dignity of life, that each one of his sheep possesses), and willfully even undergoes death if necessary in order to protect their life. The good shepherd, in that sense, is unequivocally pro-life. And of course, we are not just talking about sheep here. We are using a metaphor to describe human souls. The good shepherd will willfully give up his own life so that those souls entrusted to his spiritual care might be saved.

The first reading from today’s Mass is rather providential. It is a prophetic passage from the book of Jeremiah. The one who is speaking is Christ himself (through the mouth of the prophet). “I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” This prophecy is a prediction of the Passion of Christ, in which Our Lord would be led “like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.” But those who devised such a scheme against the Lord did not do so because they loved evil or death per se. They crucified Our Lord all the while believing that somehow they were doing good. No one chooses evil for the sake of evil itself; they choose evil because they mistakenly see it as a form of good. That is what the great theologian St. Thomas Aquinas says. It is the human will that chooses. And the object of the human will is some good. Therefore, the human will cannot deliberately choose an evil; what it does do is choose something because it has an aspect of goodness. In other words, the human will can only choose what it believes to be good. Saint Thomas summarizes this by saying that whatever we will, we will sub ratione boni (which in Latin means literally “under the reason of good”).

What does this mean for us who seek to restore a culture of life in this country? It means that we must understand why those who oppose life do so. They are not opposing life because they prefer death. They are not saying that death is better than life — at least not in an absolute sense. But very often, they are placing some other good above the most fundamental good that is life itself. What is that other good that they place above life? For some, it is freedom. For others, it is convenience or comfort or pleasure. For others still, it is compassion. But the problem is that theirs is a misunderstood notion of freedom, and a false view of human compassion. Those who seek to end life at its conception are very often motivated by an excessive love for comfort and convenience (a newborn child, after all, requires much sacrifice and hard work). Or else they see “the right to abort” as a freedom to do whatever they want, regardless of any moral standards or norms, or any sense of basic human decency. Those who promote euthanasia, on the other hand, play the trump card of human compassion. It is wrong for others to suffer without us trying to do something to alleviate their suffering. And what is the easiest thing to do? In their eyes, the easiest thing to do is to terminate that person’s life. Killing in an easy solution. Suicide sometimes appears as the easiest way to end human suffering. But is it the right way?

The Church has a very important role to play in this regard. The Church is not against human liberty, nor does she shun the importance of human compassion. Think of all those religious orders (especially orders of consecrated women) who give their lives to serving the suffering, the sick, the poor. Such forms of social charity were born in the heart of the Church. But the Church knows the difference between true and false freedom, between true and false compassion. The Church knows what true freedom is, and what authentic compassion involves. True freedom requires the ability to choose what is good and right and just; an authentic compassion is one that aids and accompanies one who is suffering or ill or dying, rather than hastening that person’s death.

The modern-day, scientific world seeks quick fixes and instant solutions to everything: even to the challenges of human free will and suffering. But the Church, following the Gospel of Jesus Christ, gives us the only real solution. The only real solution to the problems of human liberty and of suffering is love. The world says that we should kill someone whom we love (out of compassion); but the Church says that we should love someone to death (in other words, love someone who is suffering, up until the moment of natural death).

The Catholic Church is the last institution standing in the world today that is unequivocally and unconditionally in favour of life. And the reason that she is so totally and completely pro-life is because she is at the same time uncompromisingly pro-love! The Church alone teaches that man must love until it hurts; that he must love until he can love no more. Self sacrificial, self-denying love! Mother Teresa of Calcutta (whose decree of canonisation will be signed by Pope Francis in just a few days — on March 15)…Mother Teresa often said to her Missionaries of Charity: “Sisters, you must love the poorest of the poor until it hurts. If you do not love until it hurts, then you haven’t loved with the Heart of Jesus!” This love, of which the Saint from Calcutta was so thoroughly imbued, is so essential to the Christian message that it has become the very symbol of Christianity itself. What is the most recognisable symbol of the Christian Faith? It is the Cross!

Jesus Christ shows us that true love and authentic compassion are to be found nowhere else than on the Cross. The world cannot understand suffering and pain, because it cannot understand the deepest meaning of the Christian message which is this: Love, in its greatest expression, involves self-sacrifice and self-denial. It involves dying to oneself, as Jesus died on the Cross! That is why the world rejects Christ and why it rejects this radical love; that is why the world chooses death over life! Because it simply cannot see that suffering and love are not mutually exclusive, but rather that they go hand-in-hand. The world cannot see this because it has become blind to God. That is why it has no problem with abortion, with contraception, with euthanasia.

Our role, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is two-fold: firstly, to pray that the world may see; and secondly, to help the world to see. In other words, it is through prayer and through education that we will be able to restore a culture of life. The only way of doing this (and I am not, by any means, exaggerating — it is truly the only way)….the only way of doing this is by bringing the world back to God, by bringing the world to Jesus Christ, for He alone can open the eyes of the blind and grant that they may see. And when He does that, then the world will finally be able to see that all human life is sacred and precious, from natural conception to natural death.

May God bless you all, and may Our Lady, the one who bore the Author of Life itself, give you strength and courage as you fight to preserve the dignity of all human life. In the Name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  

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