Each January in the United States the sins of abortion and racism collide in the space of a week.
We celebrate the Jan. 15 birth of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and take a good look at our progress — or lack of it.
We also acknowledge the Jan. 22 anniversary of the high court’s recently-overturned Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. The June ruling places abortion under state laws, which vary widely across the country.
During local observances of both occasions on Jan. 14, Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre highlighted the dignity of every life and called his listeners to action.
“All people are cherished; all people are chosen; all people are sent by God,” he said during the Mass for Life celebrated in the evening at St. Gabriel Church.
Each individual must ask what they are called to do in the present, he told those gathered at the Cathedral of the Assumption for the annual Community-Wide Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
He pointed out that individual Catholics often have an issue they’re most passionate about, such as ending abortion, curbing racism, protecting elders from abuse, guarding the sick against euthanasia, abolishing the death penalty.
That’s good, but it’s not enough.
“While we might give our energy and resources to one of these, do I stand in solidarity against all of them?” he asked the congregation at the Mass for Life.
If you oppose abortion, do you also hope for an end to the death penalty? If you offer aid to the hungry, are you also concerned about preventing assisted suicide?
If the answer is no, he urged his listeners to consider why and to ask themselves how well they understand what’s at stake.
In the midst of the so-called culture wars in the U.S., there’s no question the archbishop has issued a challenge to us. These issues are polarizing at every level — within families and at the highest levels of government. We must acknowledge that.
How many of us feel aligned with the church on the spectrum of life issues?
How do we reconcile our passionately-felt convictions with a sense of opposition on other issues?
If we are followers of Christ, we will try. Here’s somewhere to start:
Make an honest effort to learn about the issues and teachings you normally dismiss or oppose.
Enter into genuine prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit for help as you seek knowledge and understanding.
Seek a conversion of heart. Take down the walls erected by cynicism or know-it-all-ism and open yourself to be changed.
During the Martin Luther King observance, Archbishop Fabre said only a conversion of heart can bring about real change.
“While civil laws and policy-making are critical and important and necessary to bring about healing and reconciliation, the real thing that will end racism is a conversion of hearts,” he said.
That goes for the other issues that relate to the dignity of the human person, too.
We can help each other in this struggle. Lend your ear and your compassion to the people you encounter on your search. Help one another seek conversion.
You may find friends in unlikely places.
Help us to recognize when we are following you and when we are not.
Help us to find the will and perseverance to follow you.
Help us to open our hearts and minds to be changed with the aid of the Holy Spirit.
Help us to assist our friends on their journey to follow you, with the love and compassion reflected in your son, Jesus Christ.