Below is the text of the homily Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg delivered at the Mass for Life January 22 at Sacred Heart Church in Lacey:
I want to thank Archbishop Sartain for inviting me to celebrate the liturgy at this annual Right to Life Mass for Washington state. I also want to thank Father Tim Ilgen and the parish of Sacred Heart for hosting us for this event. And a special thanks to all of you who have traveled from far and near to make your presence known, your voices heard, and your faith visible, and to take a stand as the Body of Christ protecting and promoting human life this day. The readings from Scripture speak to us about God’s desire to heal us from all our self-inflicted wounds both as individuals and as a society. The prophet Isaiah relates the Lord’s blessing of peace to the people of Israel despite their sinful greed and willful ways. God’s desire must be our desire. As Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew, we must learn from the actions of our Heavenly Father to love all people and to seek their good as God intends. In doing so, we act as the Body of Christ joined to Jesus our Head.
I became aware of the very real destructive power of sinful greed and willful ways present in the culture of death when I was a recently ordained priest serving as a high school chaplain. One October morning of that first year, a young and very scared 17-year-old senior girl came to my office in tears because she had nowhere to turn. She had informed her parents the day before that she was pregnant. That afternoon when she came home from school the rest of the family was gone and a note was on the dining room informing her that they had gone to Florida for the weekend without her and that when they came home she would either be un-pregnant or she would be out of the house. And with the note were several hundred dollars to pay for her abortion. Her parents were very clear — they didn’t want to deal with a child and they didn’t want her to do it either. Their pre-born grandchild was named “inconvenience,” “burden,” “problem” and “threat to freedom of life.” And for that, they wanted their pre-born grandchild to die quietly and quickly. Alone, abandoned, afraid, wounded and ashamed — she had nowhere to turn. So many voices and influences were pressuring her to choose death … but the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to her conscience a word of life. I did not know her name before that day but I assured her all would be fine and that she should go to class and come back in an hour when everything would be taken care of. She left … and then I panicked. And I prayed. How in this world was everything going to be taken care of in an hour? But by God’s grace it was. After just two phone calls a saintly couple agreed to care for her for the remainder of the year since she was, in fact, kicked out of her house. A doctor helped to oversee her medical needs without charge, and several of her classmates agreed to watch out for her so she would not be alone. When she returned to the office an hour later, she had a new life — for herself and for her baby who is now a 26-year-old software engineer named Hadyn. The mercy of God triumphed that day through the Body of Christ to protect and promote the gift of human life.
The many people who stepped forward and took a stand to promote and protect life that day did so for a very clear reason. They weren’t motivated by friendship with the young student — most of them had never met her before. They weren’t motivated by a political agenda. They weren’t motivated by a desire to correct the errors of the parents. As odd as it may sound, they weren’t even primarily motivated by a pro-life cause. They stepped forward that day because of one primary reason — they wanted to be the instrument of God’s presence in whatever way they could. Everything else, especially their desire to protect and promote all human life from the moment of conception until natural death, flowed from that deeply rooted connection to the Lord Jesus. I can say that with confidence because I knew them.
That needs to be our reason for being here today as well. We are here because we desire to be children who bear witness to our Heavenly Father’s love. That love is greater than partisan politics and embraces people on both sides of the legislative aisle. That love is greater than an agenda and always seeks to protect and promote every human life from conception until natural death — whether it be rich or poor, strong or weak, pre-born or post-born, without regard for race or citizenship. That love corrects errors by witnessing the beautiful truth which is Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is a love that does not seek to do what we want, or even what others want, but what God wants.
We are very accustomed to the Golden Rule by which we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. I am telling you today that the Golden Rule is not enough for Christians. You don’t even have to believe in God to follow the Golden Rule, much less be a friend of Jesus. The problem with the Golden Rule is that we don’t always want what’s best. Sometimes others don’t always want what’s best either. This passage from the Gospel of Matthew calls us to a much higher standard than the Golden Rule — Jesus calls us to live by the Divine Rule. That means more than just doing unto others as we would have them do unto us; the Divine Rule means treating others as God would treat them. And that means loving both sinner and saint. Loving those who promote the culture of life and those who seek a culture of death. It means speaking the truth Jesus has taught us to those who will listen and to those who walk away.
If we live today and every day by the Divine Rule, then it will be Jesus who visits the Washington state Capitol through us. Jesus alone has the power to change hearts and minds. Jesus alone can heal us of our sinful greed and wayward decisions. Jesus alone can heal our anger and fill us with love. Jesus showed us the transforming power of proactive love to accomplish this conversion as he himself loved his enemies and prayed for those who persecuted him. As his disciples, he wants to continue that love through us today. He wants to show the world of Western Washington the priceless and eternal beauty of every human being created in the image and likeness of God.
As we receive our Lord in word and sacrament at this Mass, let us pray that we will become living tabernacles of his presence so that others will see Christ in us and God may touch their hearts through our words and actions. That is so much more than a cause. That is an abiding communion in Christ that gives us peace even as we continue to live in the midst of a broken and fallen world. That is a communion that encourages us even as the voices of death seek to discredit and ridicule our efforts. That is a communion that will perfect us and others through us until God’s healing work is accomplished in us by Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life of every human person.
Daniel Mueggenborg is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.