In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the King Ahaz, beset by troubles and adversaries menacing all around, closed his heart to the hopeful words of the Prophet. “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
In the gospel, the Virgin Mary, full of grace and full of hope, welcomes the saving word of God.
Twenty-five years ago today Pope St. John Paul II issued the encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life compiling the tremendous wealth of Church teaching on the dignity of human life, condemning all violence against vulnerable, innocent human life, especially the unborn. He condemned society’s callous indifference to the violence of abortion because like the heart of King Ahaz, too many governments and citizens have closed their hearts to the revelation of God mercy and hope in the conception of each human life.
The teaching of Evangelium Vitae is rooted in the grace and hope found in the heart of Virgin Mary. This same grace and hope were brought into the Church through the heart of Mary, mother of the Church. She welcomed the saving Word of God, incarnate in her Son, Jesus, who was conceived in her womb vulnerable and innocent. This same Word incarnate would then offer His life on the cross, still vulnerable and innocent.
The Catholic Church in the United States marks this beauty solemnity and the anniversary of this historic encyclical by embracing once again the generosity and freedom of Mary of Nazareth. The bishops of the United States begin a year-long spiritual pilgrimage, Walking with Moms in Need. The purpose of this spiritual and pastoral campaign is to draw close to the human reality of women, children, and their families. This is the reality into which Jesus first brought His wisdom and mercy in order to begin the mission of salvation. The sacred solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is an encouragement for the Church to contemplate the beauty work of God’s creation and redemption in the conception and birth of each human life into a human family. It is a message of hope and joy that is at the heart of the Gospel of Life. All of our work to end abortion and promote the dignity of human life begins with lovingly contemplating the mystery of human conception and the human family, recognizing in them the hope and joy that dispels all fear and darkness.
We need this saving grace as we continue to walk through the dark valley of the coronavirus, a valley of tears and fears for many today. The confident hope of Mary reminds us that in the current darkness as with the dark practice of abortion, we can cooperate fully with God’s grace and be the light of a new humanity, replacing harden heart of indifference with the personal heartfelt desire to echo Mary’s generous, eager response, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”