It reminded me of this Sunday’s scripture readings, and the wonderful homily our deacon gave, about the challenges and trials of the prophetic mission we all receive at baptism–and what happens when we neglect that mission. Why, asked the deacon, is it practically taboo to speak of God in public? Or why is there public outcry when Pres. Obama swats a fly, but silence when children are killed in the womb? It’s because the prophets have disappeared. Their voices have fallen silent. And those prophets are you and me. Every single baptized Christian.
On the other hand, when we do speak out, we often find ourselves in a situation similar to that in which Lord Jesus found Himself in this Sunday’s gospel. He was visiting His hometown, surrounded by family, friends, and neighbors, all the people He had grown up with. And they reject Him. They don’t believe in Him. They scoff.
It’s not so different when some of our fellow Catholics tell us to quiet down about abortion, to stop being “single-issue” Catholics, or even to give up the pro-life movement altogether because it’s already lost. Those who should stand with us instead stand against us. Those with whom we already have so much common ground to share distance themselves from us. Those who should encourage us scoff at us.
Never mind all the opponents we have in the secular world. There’s more than enough opposition among us! And it’s not because some of us need to tone it down. It’s because too many of us care too much about feeling safe and comfy and all respectable in the eyes of the world to exercise our prophetic voices. They may sincerely think that they are preserving some kind of peace and harmony, seeking common ground and dialogue with society. I understand these things. In fact, I’d be a bold-faced liar if I said I didn’t struggle with them myself. But I do struggle, because I know that the easy, smooth, popular way is never the right way.
I think I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Catholics have no safe, comfortable place in this world. We will never be popular. The sooner each of us realizes and accepts this, the more at one we will be as Catholics. The more we will share genuine common ground.
Speaking of which, lots of those people out there who talk so much about common ground and dialogue and tolerance would actually prefer that we Catholics vanish from society, disappear from the public square, never to be heard from again. They want to do whatever they want, without any response from us. Oh, I’m not suggesting they want us dead (though that has been the case before at various times and in various places), but they do want us silent.
That’s the way of the world. No Catholic can choose that way. It’s not an option. It goes against everything we stand for. It goes against the way our Lord and King took. It goes against the way the prophets of old took. It goes against the way all the Apostles took. It goes against the way every single Martyr and Saint has taken.
No. We have to take our role as prophets seriously. Especially when it comes to the defining issue of our time, which is undisputably abortion. The Church has consistently taught the evil of abortion. But she has never been faced with it on this scale. It out-scales every other social justice issue combined. Every future generation of Catholics is going to look back at the Church of today and remember us for how we did or did not deal with the abortion issue. They are going to judge whether we succeeded or failed… or even tried. How do we want them to remember us? Think about that for a moment. If we truly represent the Culture of Life, we have to think about the future; not taking the future into consideration is a trademark of the Culture of Death. It may sound silly or even arrogant, but I want to be thought of well by future Catholics. Honestly, if I may say so, I wouldn’t mind being canonized!
That’s what I mean by the “defining issue of our time.” It will define us. It’s the great trial for us now. The great battle right now. The great crucible. It’s not going away. And it’s not going to make the secular world fond of us. We have to take it very seriously. We have to speak and act seriously on it. We have to be willing to put ourselves on the line for it. And we have to not allow ourselves be swept under carpets or hammered underground. Not by the secular world, and not by other Catholics.