“And it came to pass, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe in her womb leapt. And she cried out with a loud voice saying, Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
My dear parishioners, several beautiful lessons are contained in today’s Gospel. Let us first consider the timing of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Just before this passage, the Gospel of St. Luke relates that the angel appeared to Mary and gave her the astounding news that she was to be the Mother of the Savior of the world, the Mother of God. God was to become man, and she was to be His Mother. The angel also told her that her cousin Elizabeth was with child. Almost immediately, Mary arose and went with haste to visit Elizabeth. She had just become the Mother of God, the most privileged person there could possibly be on earth — other than, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Does she sit back, so to speak, on her laurels, savoring the moment? No. Her humility and charity prompt her to go immediately to serve her aged cousin. The lesson here for us is that no matter how high our rank or status, we must not forget to think of serving others. We may never approach the humility and charity of the Mother of God herself, but we can in our own smaller ways serve the needs of others in humility and charity. Let us focus not on ourselves but on what we can do for others.
We see here also a very clear expression of the Divine Maternity of Mary. Elizabeth says “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Who is her Lord? Elizabeth learned by a special inspiration that Jesus was within the womb of Mary, and she praises the Divine Motherhood of Mary. There is no other way to interpret this scriptural passage. And St. John the Baptist who was within her own womb by a special grace also sensed the presence of Our Lord and leapt for joy. Catholic tradition tells us that at that moment St. John the Baptist was cleansed of original sin. That is why we celebrate the nativity of St. John the Baptist. We do not celebrate any of the other saints’ birthdays because they came into this world, as St. Paul says, “children of wrath.” Yes, that is our condition before we are baptized. Fortunately through baptism we are changed from children of wrath into children of God. Mary herself had been conceived without original sin. When the angel appeared to her, she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord worked independently of baptism to sanctify John the Baptist. We celebrate the birthday of Our Lord at Christmas, the birthday of Mary on September 8, and the birthday of John the Baptist on June 24. All the other saints we honor on the day they died, which was their birthday into eternal life.
As soon as Elizabeth started to praise her, Mary responded “My soul doth magnify the Lord...” In other words, she gave Elizabeth’s praise immediately to God. Here again, we see her humility. We find here a lesson that if we are ever praised, we should immediately pass the praise on to Almighty God, because really, all good things come from Him, not from ourselves.
As you can see, this short extract from Luke provides us with some very powerful spiritual lessons. But there is still another dimension to today’s Gospel, and it is about the issue of Pro-Life. Here we see two expectant mothers honoring one another, and certainly honoring the child that each carries: one the Savior of the world, the other, the precursor, he who would go before Our Lord and prepare people through the baptism of penance. As we reflect upon this beautiful truth of life in the womb, we are horrified and saddened that we live in a society in which children are killed within their mothers’ wombs by means that could not be more cruel or vicious. Sometimes the child is burned to death with saline solutions, other times it is cut to pieces. And this now is regarded as an American right?!
One of the most infamous dates in American history is January 22, 1973, the day on which the Supreme Court — mocking and defying God as far as I am concerned — declared that a mother could kill her child at any point of the pregnancy. The Court decided that the unborn child is not a person, despite what we all know so clearly. Since then, there have been over 30 million legal abortions in our country alone — and our country makes up only 5 percent or so of the world’s population. Can you imagine how often this crime is committed throughout the world on a daily basis?
God’s law is so clear when it says “Thou shalt not kill.” The Church also teaches us how serious a sin abortion is by excommunicating Catholics for participating in an abortion in any way. Truly, abortion is the human creature shaking his fist in God’s face and saying “I’m going to take the law into my own hands. I decide that this person will NOT live.” It is so horrible, my dear brethren.
By 1973, our country had fallen so terribly in its own selfish pursuits, especially through the invention of contraception and the Pill. “A woman has a right over her own body!” it was proclaimed. Now people could have their pleasure without responsibility. They could make use of the procreative act as they chose, whether in marriage or not. By 1973 the next logical step was to decide what to do with the children that were not successfully prevented. It was decided that they would be killed. Where does that take us next, my dear brethren? Many of you know that the legalization of abortion leads to the trafficking of baby parts. It’s going on right now. The University of Washington traffics in baby parts! There is a price list of what is to be paid for the eyes, the spinal cord, certain organs to be used in research.
Can you believe what is happening to our society? One of the explanations that helps me to understand why this is happening comes from St. Augustine. He says that when man loses grace, he is capable of committing the worst sins. That is what has happened with the Pro-Choice movement. Those that have participated have lost grace so much that they can call a murder “a therapeutic act.” In 1992 the Supreme Court had an opportunity to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but did not. The gist of the Court’s opinion was “We don’t know if the fetus is a person or not, so we had just better stick to what we’ve been doing. After all, abortion is now part of our culture and society.”
Just last week the Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska law that prohibited partial birth abortion, which is probably the most singularly heinous act. In partial birth abortion, the child is almost completely born, and then its skull is pierced and its brains are evacuated. This is one Supreme Court decision that will have to be reversed. The Supreme Court has no infallibility whatsoever,and is capable of the most egregious and evil decisions. The Supreme Court has reversed itself over 200 times, proving that just because it made a decision does not mean that it is right.
The Roe vs. Wade decision and those subsequent to it were evil; they were not decisions guided by God’s law. I tip my hat to the Pro-Life activists who have suffered so much, some of whom have had bones broken, or have been roughly hauled away by police to prison, all because they decided that things could not go on, that they had to do something. What they did was not violent; it was simply civil disobedience — the same kind of civil disobedience that we saw in the 1960’s for civil rights. We look back at it now and nobody has a problem with it. So why should anyone have a problem with civil disobedience now when it is a matter of life and death? When it is in protest to something that is absolutely wrong? I was once holding a picket sign outside an abortion clinic, dressed as a priest, of course. A woman who apparently was about to go into the clinic, for whatever reason, began to berate me, shouting, “Women have rights over their bodies!”, “Who do you think you are?!” I tried to say to her, between her shouts, “Ma’am, it doesn’t matter what you or I want — it’s what God wants, and He says ‘No’ to what you’re doing.”
Let us be grateful for the clear teaching of Holy Scripture and of the Church that life begins at the moment of conception. It is our duty to protect the most defenseless and innocent members of society. As a matter of fact, even the Fifth Amendment says “No person shall be deprived of life without due process.” Where is the due process for these babies? There is none. We have much reason to reflect upon this July 4th because we see our country has in so many ways departed from God’s ways. What is the solution? It is this, my dear brethren: it is for you to be a fervent Catholic. That is the solution. The solution is for you to pray the Rosary on a daily basis. The solution is for you to teach the Rosary to others.
Remember: St. Dominic had very little success at first in converting the Albigensian heretics. They simply would not listen. But when he got them to pray the Rosary, they became converted by the droves, because they were able to see spiritual truths more clearly. You see, abortion is fundamentally a spiritual problem, not merely a political or social problem. It therefore must be solved with spiritual means, although without neglecting the political and social means. But think of this: if people would meditate on, for example, the first and second Joyful mysteries of the Rosary, and reflect upon Mary conceiving Jesus within her, and both Mary and Elizabeth pregnant with their sons, how could they ever commit the sin of abortion? They couldn’t. It’s because people don’t pray, because they are not spiritually focused, that the excuses and justifications that are used in the world become their rationale for decision-making. And the more bad decisions they make, the further they stray from the right path.
So let us think of this as we celebrate July 4 as good patriots, for patriotism is a moral virtue. As we thank God for our country, let us repent for our nation’s sins and do our part by fervently living our Catholic Faith that its values and teachings may be spread to others. That is the best thing you could do; that is being the best American you can be — being a good and holy Catholic. The early Christians did the same. By being devout followers of Christ, they knew that they would be the best citizens of the Roman empire, even though they were being persecuted for their Faith. Let us honor our Blessed Mother and continually ask her for assistance in spreading our Holy Catholic Faith.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.