Today’s homily is for the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, January 22, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be watched by clicking here.
Thank you all for being here today to show your support for children, and mothers, and fathers, and families. Tragically, on January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision in favor of Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) that held that women in the U.S. have a fundamental right to choose whether or not to have abortions without excessive government restriction.
In one of its final acts before the swearing in of our newest president, the Trump White House issued a proclamation Monday declaring Friday as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. And though the date has varied from Jan. 22 to the Sunday closest to the Roe v. Wade anniversary, the declaration of a National Sanctity of Human Life Day has been a tradition of Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan.
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus ascending the mountain and calling those whom he had chosen, by name. Every one of the Gospels lists “The Twelve” by name. The early church community knew these men and the Sacred authors etched their name in the Stone of God’s word so that they might never be forgotten, and we heard their names read aloud today. They are remembered on earth and rejoice in heaven.
Tragically, there are times in this life when people go to their death unnamed, unremembered. In situations of slavery, human trafficking, in war, and in the murder of unborn children. When I taught 8th grade at St. Stanislaus Catholic school, in Modesto, we took a trip to Washington D.C., as many 8th grade classes do. While I was impressed with many of the monuments and historical places, I was most impressed with the tomb of the unknown soldier. Twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year, in rain or shine, a soldier stands guard and walks his post in Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb holds the remains of unidentified soldiers since the war of 1812, and every war since. During the Civil War nearly half of the 620 thousand dead, union and confederate, were never identified. Never known. Never named. They just never came home, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honors them all those since them who remain nameless and never came home.
But I want to tell you that the soldier is only unknown to us. God knows each by name. God calls each soul by name, in just the way Jesus called his disciples to follow him, Jesus also called each of these soldiers to follow him that they might have life eternal. And so it is with the unborn. We do not know their name, but God does. As we know, from the very moment of conception, a unique soul is created by God, a soul that knows, loves, and serves Him. That soul is known to God by name. We mourn the loss of these souls for our sake on earth, and the tragic loss of their contribution to our country and our world, and the tragic violence with which they met their earthly end…and so we are here today stand vigil in remembrance of them, like soldiers at the Unknown Tomb.
While we mourn, however, me are mindful of 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that reminds us “about those who have fallen asleep,” so that we “may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” We know that “if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep,” soldiers, Christian soldiers, and even souls who never even had a chance to join the ranks of the Church militant. Our Lord bids them come home. Today we pray for souls, we pray for our country, and we pray that God’s light shines through this present darkness. We pray for an end to war, to violence, and to an end to the murder of innocents.