Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Bishop Edward J. Burns’ homily delivered during the annual March for Life Mass on Jan. 19 at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
On behalf of my brother deacons who are here, my brother priests who have gathered for this Mass as well as our rector, Father Bierschenk, and my brother bishop, Bishop Kelly, again to all of you, welcome to the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe for this pro-life Mass — an opportunity for us to come into God’s presence asking for His grace, his holy spirit to assist us in going forth in proclaiming the Gospel of life. It’s not easy to do that these days and many people are finding it increasingly more difficult, especially in professional life, in the world, in the workplace, even living out our call to be disciples. Upholding the sanctity of life, it is difficult.
I’ve had the privilege and the opportunity of gathering in this wonderful City of Dallas with the Catholic Bar Association and all of their members. They’ve indicated that it is difficult to be an attorney, a lawyer, or a legislator who seeks to uphold the sanctity of life because there are so many who will try to silence and squelch the message. I’ve had also the privilege of gathering with members of the Catholic Medical Association here in the City of Dallas and in their profession as nurses, technicians, as doctors in the medical field, they too have expressed the difficulty it is to uphold the very essence of living out a life that upholds or a profession or a professional side of one’s expression that is in line with upholding the dignity of life.
It’s just recently that there were two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who questioned the suitability of a judicial nominee because of his membership in an extremist organization, the Knights of Columbus. What’s interesting is that the Knights of Columbus would be even identified that way, labeled as extremists, and the reason why is because of their embrace and how the Knights of Columbus support Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life and on marriage. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, in a Jan. 1 letter to his brother Knights, recounted the vast amount of charitable and humanitarian work that the order does in our own country and throughout the world. He said, “This love also motivates us to stand with the Church on the important issues of life and marriage, precisely because the Church’s teaching reflects and is based on that love. We stand with our Church because we believe that what our faith teaches is consistent with reason, is timeless, and transcends the changing sentiments of any particular time or place.”
My friends, it is a sacrificial love that we as disciples proclaim. It’s a type of love that moms have for their children, fathers have for their sons and daughters. A sacrificial love that God has for us, and God demonstrates that love to us time and time again and he calls us to that same sacrificial love.
Our God created us out of love and he created us in his image and he created us, the creator of all life, human and divine, and we have been given the task to uphold that gift of life, to be stewards of life and to be a voice for the voiceless. We are called in God’s image, God the father, the creator of all life. We pray that we can be in God’s image, upholding the very sanctity of life. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the example of that love and the example of the life that we’re called to share as disciples. As faithful disciples, we have observed his expressions of love, healing, and how he touched the weakest, the poorest and the most vulnerable. We’ve listened to his words and now he has called us to proclaim the gift of life and the fullness of life. We are here today because of unspeakable crimes against the unborn, the most innocent and defenseless. We have come to follow him because we recognize he is the way, the truth and the life and when questioned, if we were sure that we would want to follow him or if we would want to leave and we echo the words of St. Peter, “but Lord, to whom shall we go?” Because you have the words of everlasting life.
It was in 2015 that our universal shepherd, Pope Francis, came to the United States, came to the United States and addressed a joint session of Congress and the Chambers of the House of Representatives. Many of you know that in those chambers are marble reliefs of lawmakers. Throughout the course of history, the marble reliefs are up at the top of the wall, in the chambers of the House of Representatives. Among those marble reliefs are two popes and one saint in the U.S. Capitol building. And all these figures, point and face a central figure. The two popes are Gregory IX, Leo III, the Saint, St. Louis the King of France who cared for the poor, the needy and the vulnerable. The central figure that they all looked to is Moses. Moses is the central figure in the House of Representatives Chambers because Moses is the giver of law, through the Ten Commandments. And it was there that Pope Francis gestured to Moses before all the members of Congress recognizing him as the supreme law giver, referring to the fact that everything we have comes from the hand of God — our life, our liberty, and our pursuit for happiness. It was Moses who brought forth the Ten Commandments, so we might live and live in peace and in justice.
You know, there was a dark day in this country, a very dark day, when slavery was legal. It was the law, but it wasn’t right. There was a dark day in this country, too, when women couldn’t vote. It was the law, but it wasn’t right. There’s a law in this land that allows abortion and calls it legal. It’s the law, but it’s not right.
It’s important for us to know what is right and just. It’s important for us to come before the Lord, asking that he give us the courage to go forth and proclaim the way, the truth, and the life, and we are here to bring attention to the sins against human life and the dignity which cry out to God for justice. Sins against human life that St. John Paul II referred to as unspeakable crimes. We are called to be a voice for the voiceless and we must never grow complacent. We cannot become lukewarm and, as our universal shepherd did in 2015 when he visited that U.S. Capitol building and reminding our legislators of the sacredness of every human life, so too do we visit our nation’s capital, our state capital, the streets of this city, to remind our legislators that everything we have comes from the hand of God and that they are entrusted. They are, as legislators, entrusted with the responsibility to enact laws that uphold the dignity and sacredness of every human life, born and unborn. Laws that are not selfish, but speak of a sacrificial love that we have for the voiceless, the innocent, and the defenseless.
As we gather at this Mass, we pray to the author of all life that he will send his Holy Spirit upon us, so as to strengthen us, to give us the courage, to give us the voice and to guide our feet into the way of peace, to guide our feet in the way of truth, and to guide our world into the way of life.