Bottom line: By God's call Abraham became our father in faith. As "sons of Abraham" we continue his struggle against child sacrifice and for the dignity of each human life.
This Sunday's first reading deals with one of the most important events of the Bible - the call of Abraham. Abraham - as I am sure you know - is our "father in faith" not just for Jews and Christians, but also for our Moslem brothers and sisters. Perhaps you have heard the song, "Father Abraham had many sons." Don't worry, I won't sing it, but here are the words:
Father Abraham had many sons.
Many sons had Father Abraham.
I am one of them and so are you,
so let's all praise the Lord.
To understand what it means to be a "son of Abraham" we have to know something about his call. It is significant to know where he was called from. The book of Genesis tells us that God called Abraham out of Ur - a city in what today is southern Iraq. According to archeological investigations, Ur may have been the world's largest city at the time of Abraham. Archeology has revealed massive structures called ziggurats, which were marvels of the ancient world. The broad streets and large market places give us a picture of a bustling city.
For all its flourishing economy and advanced technology, Ur had a dark underside. Like many ancient civilizations they practiced human sacrifice - including the sacrifice of small children.
One reason God called Abraham was to fight against this horrendous practice. He did it in a paradoxical way. As a test of obedience, He ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac - but at the last moment sent an angel to stop him. From that point on the true Israelite would oppose child sacrifice. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, prophets such as Jeremiah denounced the practice of sacrificing children to Moloch. To be a son of Abraham meant to defend children against those who would sacrifice them.
No doubt you have already noted parallels between Abraham and ourselves. Like Abraham we live in a prosperous society that prides itself on its technology. And, unfortunately, we also have a dark side: Even though we have become more sophisticated, we still practice form of child sacrifice.
For sure, we do not tolerate the the killing of a baby. Recently, the Philadelphia District Attorney has charged an abortion doctor with murder for killing a baby born alive. Because we have a mixed congregation, I will not describe how he did it - but he may face the death penalty. This case has a terrible irony: If he would have killed that baby before birth, it would have been perfectly legal.
In our country twenty-two percent of pregnancies terminate in the intentional killing of the child.* The reasons behind this are complex - and even though we speak about "a woman's choice," we cannot put all the responsibility on these young moms. To some degree you and I share the responsibility. We can also share the solution. Seattle's Archbishop Sartain spoke about what we can - and must - do:
"If we are truly against abortion, we must extend a hand, and open our pocketbooks, to those who need material assistance in carrying a pregnancy to full term, who need love, and who need moral support in making moral choices. We must also offer a firm hand of compassion to women who by exercising a legal "choice" have become victims of abortion themselves. They are our sisters, our mothers, our own."**
As "sons of Abraham" we have great power. For a great place to start, take a look at Priests for Life. To combat the destruction of tiny lives and the harm done to young moms and dads, I invite you join with me in three specific ways:
I have written more about these in our bulletin. What I want to say today is this: By God's call Abraham became our father in faith. As "sons of Abraham" we continue his struggle against child sacrifice and for the dignity of each human life. Amen.
*See Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States by Guttmacher Institute
**Here is a fuller quote:
The end of abortion begins with a change in each of our hearts and a resolve to do no harm to anyone under any circumstances. It ends when we reach out as a matter of justice to those women and men who feel trapped into considering abortion as a solution to a problem. If we are truly against abortion, we must extend a hand, and open our pocketbooks, to those who need material assistance in carrying a pregnancy to full term, who need love, and who need moral support in making moral choices.***Regarding 40 Days for Life, I recently shared this experience:
We must also offer a firm hand of compassion to women who by exercising a legal "choice" have become victims of abortion themselves. They are our sisters, our mothers, our own. To them we offer assurance of God's forgiveness and our pledge to help the healing. But won't our words of mercy ring even more true if we also ask forgiveness of them for any action on our part that contributed to the culture of death in not noticing the pain in your eyes, for our selfishness, our unaccepting ways, our murmured gossip, the cold shoulder we turned to you in your time of need, for not going out of our way to offer you another choice. We need your mercy, too. (Of You My Heart Has Spoken, p. 373)
Prayer in front of Planned Parenthood can have amazing results. Abby Johnson, a woman who directed a Planned Parenthood clinic, has written a book telling how the 40-Days-for-Life prayer. I know that joining others in front of abortion clinics can be a profound experience of prayer.
Although I personally have not seen extraordinary results (like saving the life of a baby) I do know that others have. A few weeks ago I was having my car lubed. One of the attendants noticed my collar and asked if I knew Fr. Ed White. I said, "yes, are you one of his parishioners?" "No," he said to me, "my wife and I were going into a Planned Parenthood for an abortion and Fr. Ed was praying there. We stopped and talked with him - and decided to keep our baby!" The baby is now fifteen months and is, as the man told me, "our greatest treasure."
From Archives (Year A homilies for 2nd Sunday of Lent):
Homilies for Second Sunday of Lent ("Transfiguration Sunday")
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies
Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
my bulletin column
Parish Picture Album
40 Days for Life (Everett, WA)
Q&A about Planned Parenthood
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru