The following guest post was written by Father Timothy S. Reid, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church in the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina. Originally given as a homily, Fr. Reid reflects upon our nation 44 years after the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court legalized abortion in our country. It is presented here with his permission.
This past Friday our country observed the inauguration of our 45th president. As is almost always the case with these quadrennial events, there are those who celebrated, and those who wailed and gnashed their teeth.
For better or worse, the presidential election in our country has become the most important battle ground in the culture wars that afflict America, as our president has a good deal of power in determining the morality – or immorality – America embraces with her laws and policies.
Of course fiscal policy, foreign policy, healthcare and so many other pieces of political platforms play a role in how voters vote, but nothing generates as much heated discussion as those issues that have a clear moral quality to them.
While we may be willing to disagree peacefully with others on something like finances, we aren’t so willing to disagree peacefully on topics that speak to the moral values we hold near and dear to our hearts.
This is because our stances on the great moral issues of our day reveal something very personal about ourselves. They reflect not simply what we think, but who we are at our core – so most of us are much more sensitive about these things.
Of course today our country observes the sad anniversary that has occasioned our modern culture wars: the legalization of abortion on this day in 1973.
It’s difficult to find an issue that has so divided the opinions of Americans and that has occasioned so much debate and protesting, not to mention legal maneuvering.
Even after 44 years, our country has never found a compromise or a viable status quo on this issue – and as long as abortion is legal in our land, we’re not likely to find a peaceful compromise.
This is because true unity can only occur when people are united in truth.
Those who have embraced a pro-abortion viewpoint have failed to see the truth that abortion ends the life of an innocent baby and radically wounds those who participate in it.
The pro-abortion crowd who rely on the mantra,“it’s my body, it’s my choice” fail to see the truth that it’s not just their body they’re dealing with. There’s also the body of the unborn child in the mix.
Until the full, ugly truth of abortion is recognized for what it is, and until the rights of unborn children are fully respected, we will not have unity on this very important issue.
Our epistle today calls us to unity. In writing to the Romans, St. Paul urges them to have peace with all men, not giving place to wrath, and not rendering evil for evil.
But as I just mentioned, real unity can only be achieved when people are united in truth.
Lies and falsehoods are uncomfortable and vexatious – and for all their sweet perfume, lies and falsehoods always have an underlying stench, even if only subtly.
Thus lies and falsehoods do not have the staying power to create unity, for there’s a tipping point at which the discomfort of the lie will outweigh the benefits gained from it.
The problem is that, throughout the course of history, man nevertheless has often positioned himself as an enemy of truth. In order to fulfill his own political agenda, man often tries to distort, bend, or even destroy truth.
And when this happens, whenever the truth is suppressed, hidden, or distorted, evil is the necessary result. The 20th century has given us numerous examples to prove this.
Because of the inability of lies to bring about true unity, those who suppress or distort the truth in order to promote a certain political agenda must always resort to totalitarian tactics in order to achieve their goals.
Yet in the long run, truth can never be fully destroyed. While man may be able to hide it, distort it, or suppress it – even for many decades, as did the Soviets in Russia – truth always has a way of eventually making itself known.
There is a tenacious and irrepressible quality to truth that makes it attractive and hard to resist to anyone of good will.
As Christians we know that this is because truth is not a thing or simply an idea or concept. Truth is a Person: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And we can see the attraction to our Lord, Who Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life in our Gospel today with the story of two miraculous healings.
Jesus has finished His Sermon on the Mount, and as great numbers of people are following Him, two men stop him: a leper and a centurion
These two men who came to Jesus looking for miracles did so because they had faith in Christ’s power to heal, but what’s so beautiful about these men is that they both submit themselves to Him so humbly.
St. Matthew tells us that as the leper approached Jesus, he adored Him as he made his request for healing. And the centurion likewise humbled himself with words that have been indelibly etched into our Mass: “Domine, non sum dignus. . . .”
Both of these men were drawn to Jesus because ofthe truth of Who Jesus Is, and thus they were willing to submit to that Truth.
As I just mentioned, Truth is supremely attractive to the hearts and minds of those whose hearts are set on God. It’s like a magnet that pulls us, a light that draws us, a siren’s song that induces us to leave all else behind.
When our hearts are set on God, as we can assume was the case for these two faithful men, it’s hard to resist Him when He makes Himself known to us.
Yet if our hearts are not pure, if our hearts are not intent on the things of God, then Truth can be repugnant. When we desire to do our own will rather than God’s will, Truth can become decidedly inconvenient.
Never will this be truer than on Judgment Day, when those who have rejected the Truth of our Lord will have to contend with the inconvenience of eternal damnation, while those who have submitted to His truth will be united with Him forever in Heaven.
Brothers and sisters, for better or worse, we are living in a time of great division – both in our country and in our Church.
While both politicians and bishops alike often speak wistfully of unity, true unity can only be had when we submit ourselves to Truth – which is found in the Person of Jesus Christ and in the teachings of His one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.
As we enter into a new political era in our country, let us do so with hearts committed to seeking Truth and submitting to it when we find it.
May we each be truly pure of heart and willing to submit to our Lord and the teachings of His Church so that the unity we are all desire may become a reality.
Read more homilies by Fr. Reid at St. Ann’s website.