PORTLAND---Locally and nationally, late January has become a time of solemn community each year at events calling for the end of abortion and the protection of human life from conception to natural death. It was on January 22, 1973, that the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country.
Due to the pandemic as well as safety issues stemming from threats to state houses and our nation’s capital, these commemorations, like the March for Life in Washington, D.C., have been postponed, cancelled, or moved online in 2021. A sad reality that Bishop Robert Deeley addressed as he presided at a morning Mass on Sunday, January 24, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.
“The same circumstances have also affected our Maine opportunity to gather for prayer, teaching, and demonstrating regarding respect for life. Hands Around the Capital, a gathering organized by Maine Right to Life, tries to do in Maine what the larger demonstration does in Washington: affirm the dignity and value of all human life,” said the bishop. “This year, because of Covid-19 precautions and a concern for the safety of those who might participate in the events in Augusta, it was determined that the event would be cancelled for the first time in 48 years.”
Despite the cancellation of the events this year, the importance of the message they convey carries on in minds and hearts.
“It does not lessen the commitment of those who would have participated to continue to hold before us a testimony to the value of each human life, born and unborn,” said the bishop. “This anniversary puts before us again the conviction we have that each life is sacred because each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. I am reminded of a profound statement from Mother Teresa: ‘If now we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten how to see God in one another.’ And I would add, even in the unborn.”
Found in the urgency of defending the rights and lives of unborn children is a familiar invitation for Christians.
“What we learn in the Bible is that God is seeking us. God is in search of us and calls us to life with him. That is the story of the Hebrew Scripture where we listen to the prophets such as Jonah inviting the people of Israel to turn from evil and live as God has called them,” said Bishop Deeley during his homily. “The prophets always remind the people of how God has already come to their help. The message of the Gospel, then, tells us that God’s love for us was so great that He sent his Son, Jesus, to save us from our sins and to reveal to us the depth of his love for each of us. Paul and the other apostles, evangelists, and authors of the New Testament make known the message of Jesus as they invite those to whom they preach to hear about Jesus so that they too can believe and find the joy and hope contained in his message.”
The bishop said that last year, Pope Francis declared the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time as the celebration of Word of God Sunday to welcome the gift of the Word that God made and remind us of the centrality of the Sacred Scriptures to the life of the Church and Christians.
“The Scriptures convey a message to us of God’s love and care for us as they present to us a way of life,” said Bishop Deeley. “It seemed to me that it was particularly appropriate that we join Francis in this celebration. We have been in pandemic mode now for 10 months. For many of us that has meant we have been unable to participate in Mass. That is a hardship. Mass is the primary way in which we encounter the Lord Jesus and are strengthened by the power of his love and mercy.”
The bishop told the assembly that he has received many letters from people lamenting the loss of attending Mass in the spirit of caring for their health and the safety of those around them.
“Today’s celebration of the Word of God keeps before us our belief that spending time with Scripture, reading the Bible, and particularly the Gospels, is a way we can remind ourselves of what those Scriptures, that Word of God, wants us to know: God is near. This celebration of Word of God Sunday reminds us that meeting Jesus in his Word can be done in our homes.”
Bishop Deeley encouraged those who participate in live-streamed Masses to meet Jesus in the Word.
“I encourage you, both as individuals and families, to take the family Bible out of its box and realize that it is a living book. With Pope Francis, I encourage you to read a verse or two each day. It brings a powerful message to us. We will discover that God is close to us. When we welcome Jesus into our hearts by reflecting prayerfully on his message, we, like the disciples did in the Gospel today, will find our lives changed. We will find the same peace they found, and the same desire to live like Jesus. Knowing we are loved we will, out of love, bring Jesus’ message to others.”