We are honored to have The Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, as a guest columnist to the CatholicVote.org blog.
Bishop Conley’s words here ought to serve as a guiding light for all Catholic Americans, especially as we prepare to pray together on Respect Life Sunday. It is critical that all Catholics hear his message and witness his courage in defending the defenseless.
At Calvary, Jesus Christ hung upon the cross, suffering for the sin of the world. He hung in agony suffering for our sins, yours and mine. He suffered a death on the cross he had not merited; he innocently suffered torments he did not deserve.
Mary, his mother, and John his beloved disciple, and the holy women of Jerusalem stood on Calvary as Christ was put to death. They stood in darkness, and rain, amid callous crowds and rough soldiers. They stood together in a place of cruelty for their love of Jesus Christ.
It would be insufficient to call their presence on Calvary a protest. They were not there to picket, or rally, or demonstrate. The presence of the Christians on Calvary had a far deeper meaning.
Mary and the disciples stood on Calvary to mourn for Jesus Christ. They stood to witness the injustice of his execution. They stood on Calvary, above all else, to pray. They prayed that a violent place might become holy—and in the death of Jesus Christ, which redeemed death for all mankind, it did become holy. By the blood of Jesus Christ, a place for killing became a place where the world was redeemed.
For more than thirty years, I have spent time in prayer at the abortion clinics of our nation. Outside of clinics, I have prayed and sung hymns and interceded on behalf of mothers and their unborn children. I have knelt in snow and rain, with men and women far more dedicated than I.
Every day in this country, men and women gather to pray that evil places—places which kill more than 1 million unborn children each year—might be redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
I have seen the fruits of these prayers. I have met doctors and nurses who have been converted—leaving behind the practice of abortion in order to dedicate their careers to saving lives. I have seen abortion clinics shuttered—the prayers of the faithful men and women overcoming the evil of abortion. And I have met children and adults who were abortion bound, whose mothers changed their minds at the last moment—the grace of fervent prayer in the face of evil.
“Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ,” said Pope Francis last year in Rome. When we pray for end to abortion, we join Mary and John and the women of Jerusalem at Calvary. We are at a place, a modern day Calvary, where pure innocence meets pure evil. And there, in the unborn children condemned to be aborted, we see the face of Jesus Christ.
October 5th is the Church’s Respect Life Sunday. As the 2014 USCCB Respect Life Program begins this month, let us take a moment to reflect on this year’s theme: “Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation.” This truth should effect our understanding of ourselves and others and the way we live; we ought to spend time reflecting on what it means to be “God’s masterpiece.” Pastoral and educational resources for the program can be found at www.usccb.org/respectlife.
Next week, on Monday, October 6th, students from Pius X High School and from the Newman Center at the University of Nebraska will hold a candlelight vigil at an abortion clinic, praying for an end to abortion They will continue this practice throughout the year—I will join them as often as I’m able.
I pray that you will join these young students, praying for an end to abortion. I pray that families will come together to pray with them. I pray that priests, and seminarians, and religious sisters will be there. I pray that physicians will be there—even in their white doctors’ coats–praying for any physician who would perform an abortion.
The blood of Christ, poured out on Calvary, can make holy the violent and evil and depraved things of this world. Mary and John prayed for this on Calvary. I pray that we might join them, praying at places of killing for the redemption of all things, made possible in Jesus Christ.
Reprinted with permission from The Southern Nebraska Register.