Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Celebration of Life
December 12, 2007
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.” Tonight’s Gospel passage recalls the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, which took place just after Mary had conceived the Saviour in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth is herself with child, who “leaps for joy” at Mary’s greeting of her kinswoman. Even from his mother’s womb, John the Baptist, chosen to be the precursor of the Messiah, heralds the dawn of salvation. The joy of redemption in Christ, Son of God and son of Mary, is first proclaimed by an unborn child.
Tonight the people of God gather to pray for the protection of all human life. We do so on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Queen and Patroness of America, North and South. On the occasion of his visit to that holy place in 1999, Pope John Paul II established that all of America would celebrate December 12th as a liturgical feast in honour of the Virgin of Guadalupe. To her maternal and loving care, Pope John Paul II entrusted the cause of life. Accordingly, in union with our brothers and sisters in all the countries of America, we entreat the intercession of Our Lady for all whose lives are at risk.
In the first place, we pray for an end to abortion. There is no greater evil afflicting our society. The death of thousands of innocent children each year fills our hearts with a profound sadness and shame, that is only deepened by the indifference and even pride with which many of our fellow citizens respond to this tragic situation. The direct and willful destruction of innocent human life through abortion is the most blatant example of what the pope had long called the culture of death, which remains prevalent in our day.
There are other instances of the culture of death that call us to pray to Our Lady and to speak out for life. The restorative promise of stem cells is leading many to carry out this research on human embryos, a process that destroys human life at its very inception. As human life nears the end of its earthly journey, or is marked by suffering or handicap, voices are increasingly raised in support of euthanasia. We are also witnesses to attacks on the dignity of human life through poverty and homelessness, violence and abuse, hatred and racism, war and terror.
In the midst of this culture of death, we Christians must proclaim the Gospel of life. God loves each and every human life He has created. This love endows each man, woman and child with an inalienable dignity. The love of God has been perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection brings freedom from sin and the gift of new life. The saving power of God’s love in Christ was first foretold by the ancient prophets, whom we hear throughout this Advent season proclaiming God’s promise to dwell in the midst of his people. It was later heralded by John the Baptist, even from his mother’s womb. Now the responsibility to evangelize, to proclaim the good news of life, is entrusted to the Church. We must not tire of being a pro-life people. Discouraging results, lack of support, or widespread indifference must never dissuade us. Our hope-filled resolve stems not from our own strength, but from the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord and Head of the Church, always present with us. He has conquered the power of death by his own dying and rising, and has sent the Holy Spirit as the power to renew the hearts of all people.
We depend also on the power of Mary’s prayer. Throughout the continent, we honour Mary as our mother and as the evangelizer par excellence of America. Her wondrous apparition to San Juan Diego, recalled by this feast today, was an important moment in the evangelization of America. It gave the indigenous peoples, represented in Juan Diego, access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus awakened them to the life and hope Christ brings. Our entire continent today needs a new evangelization, a renewed proclamation of the Gospel of life. Our first reading from Revelation encourages us to look to Mary for help in this effort.
That passage speaks of two “portents” in heaven: the first is “of a woman clothed with the sun”, the second is of a great dragon standing before the woman, ready to devour the child she was about to deliver. The dragon represents the hostile forces of evil, standing in opposition to life. This dragon is unable to harm either the child or the woman. In the image of the woman and child, the Church sees herself represented, as well as Mary, each of whom, in their own unique way, gives birth to Christ. The Church, with Mary as its preeminent member, offers Christ to the world as the one who will save it from all that rages against life and against whom the forces of evil are powerless. As we struggle in the face of threats to life, Mary is with us, offering us hope by her example and giving us strength through her prayer. So let us not forget to implore Our Lady’s intercession so that the Gospel will put down new and deep roots in our country, roots that will bear fruit in a new and abiding respect for human dignity.
Before concluding, I take this opportunity to offer sincere thanks, in the name of the Church as well as my own, to all here present who have committed yourselves to the cause of life. At times it is a lonely struggle. Thank you for your perseverance and dedication. Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego gave clear witness both to God’s concern for the poor and vulnerable and to His proximity to them. This assures us that our work to protect the most vulnerable among us, especially the unborn, will ultimately, by the power of God’s victorious grace, meet with success.
It is appropriate tonight to conclude this homily with a prayer to Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe. I invite you to unite your hearts to mine as I pray in the name of all of us the prayer with which John Paul II concluded his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae:
bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living,
to you do we entrust the cause of life:
Look down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick
killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.
Grant that all who believe in your Son
may proclaim the Gospel of life
with honesty and love
to the people of our time.
Obtain for them the grace
to accept that Gospel
as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude
throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it
resolutely, in order to build,
together with all people of good will,
the civilization of truth and love,
to the praise and glory of God,
the Creator and lover of life.