(Fourth Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on January 31, 2010 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13.)
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fourth Sunday of the Year 2010]
A man was giving a talk one day to a group of 500 people. He began by taking out a crisp, new $100 dollar bill and holding it up to the audience. He said, “Who would like this $100 bill?”
500 hands immediately went up.
He then crumpled it up into a little ball and said, “Who wants it now?”
500 hands went up again.
He then threw it on the ground and stomped on it several times. He picked up the crumpled up, dirty bill and said, “Who still wants it?”
500 hands went up for a third time.
Finally he opened it up, poured coffee all over it and tore a small piece off each corner.
“Who wants it now?” he said.
Everybody’s hand went up again.
Do you see the point?
Those 500 people did! They understood that the intrinsic value of the $100 bill did not change—it did not lessen by a single penny—even after it was crumpled, and stomped on, and soiled, and given a coffee-shower, and its corners were torn off.
Ben Franklin’s face was still on the bill, and so it retained its value, in spite of the condition it was in.
I thought of this story relative to two very important events that took place in the world during the last few weeks. The first was the terrible earthquake on January 12, which devastated the nation of Haiti; the second was the sad and tragic anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on January 22—a decision which legalized abortion in this country.
It’s been wonderful to see the outpouring of support—especially financial support—that’s come to the Haitian people in their hour of urgent need. Men and women from every walk of life, from every segment of society, from every religious group—and from every political persuasion—have been moved to reach out in some way to the poorest of the poor in that tiny Caribbean country.
And why is that? What’s the reason why so many of us have responded with such overwhelming goodness and charity to the Haitian situation?
It’s because we understand that the suffering in Haiti has a human face! That’s why! We’ve seen the pictures and videos of the devastation; and even more importantly, we’ve seen the pictures and videos of suffering men, women and children.
We know that these are not just statistics on a piece of paper. They’re human beings—brothers and sisters in the human family who are suffering and dying and who desperately need our assistance.
Remember the lesson of the story I told a few moments ago: Ben Franklin’s face was on that bill, and so it retained its value, in spite of the condition it was in.
Each of the citizens of Haiti has a human face, and so each of the citizens of Haiti has an intrinsic worth and dignity and value—in spite of the terrible physical and economic condition they might be in at the present time.
The contrast with abortion is striking, isn’t it? As many of us know, some of the very same people who have been extremely generous in helping the earthquake victims in Haiti in recent days are also some of the most vocal supporters of so-called ‘abortion rights’ in this country right now!
Now you might ask, “How can that be? How can certain people be so generous and so cold-hearted at the very same time?”
That’s easy. it’s because they refuse to recognize the scientific and biological truth that abortion has a human face! What they recognize in the Haitians, they fail to recognize in pre-born children. They’ve been so conditioned to believe that abortion is essentially about rights and laws and freedom and ‘choice,’ that they ignore the basic reality that every abortion hurts real, living people: the child who dies, and the mother—and father—who eventually have to face what they’ve done.
Every child from the moment of its conception has a human face! In other words, every child is a human being with an immortal soul. Notice what God says to young Jeremiah in today’s first reading. He says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” That is to say, “You, Jeremiah, had a human face from the moment you were conceived in your mother’s womb! You were not a mistake; you were not a thing or an object. You were a person—a human person—who was loved by me from all eternity.”
Whenever I’m discussing the issue of abortion with someone who is pro-choice, one of the things I always try to do is to get them to see this simple fact: that abortion has a human face. And so, when they bring up the so-called “hard cases” like rape or incest or Down Syndrome, I will get as concrete and specific as I can. Imagine, for example, that the person who’s pro-choice is friendly with a couple, Tom and Mary, who have a Down Syndrome child named Jane. I will say to that pro-choice person, “Are you telling me that your friends, Tom and Mary, should have aborted little Jane—that beautiful child who loves you so much? Is that what you’re saying to me?”
They’ll usually respond, “Oh no, Father, that’s not what I mean!”
To which I will respond, “Oh yes, it is! You’re saying it would have been okay to kill Jane!”
All of a sudden the stark realization comes that abortion is essentially about a person—a real, living person with a human face—and not an abstract concept like rights and freedom and choice.
This is the reason why the pro-life commercial that will air during the Super Bowl next week has the people at Planned Parenthood in such a tizzy! The commercial features Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother—who was urged by doctors to abort Tim for health reasons during her pregnancy. Obviously she didn’t do it—praise God!
Not surprisingly, the so-called pro-choice crowd is desperately trying to stop CBS from airing this commercial. Because they’re not stupid! They know that when people see this during the Super Bowl many of them will come to the realization—maybe for the first time—that a real person with a human face and incredible potential dies in every abortion.
And that’s a message the pro-choice crowd doesn’t want Americans to hear—for obvious reasons.
In today’s second reading from 1 Corinthians 13, St. Paul speaks of love—real love. (This is a passage of Scripture that you hear quite often at weddings.) He says that real love is patient and kind and a lot of other wonderful things.
Well, today the Lord adds one further insight to the ones Paul mentions in this text—although it’s actually an insight which is implicit in everything Paul says there about love: To love someone—to REALLY love someone—is to treat them, from the moment of their conception until the moment of their natural death, like they have a human face.
To love someone is to treat them like they have a human face.
Because they do!