Over the last couple of decades, the month of October has been designated as “Respect Life Month.” Ironically, as this year’s Respect Life Month began, all of us were bombarded with the scenes surrounding the shootings in Las Vegas, on October 1, which started around 10:08 p.m. The gunshots, which lasted between 10 to 15 minutes, killed 59 people and injured over 530 more. In these days that have followed, the media have tried to ascertain the motive for the shooting, the background of gunman Stephen Paddock, the backgrounds of those who have died, the interviews with survivors, and also the question surrounding gun control. The reality is, real people were involved in the incident and their lives have been brutally ended. The victims and their families will be left to deal with this trauma for many years to come. Disturbingly, members of organizations such as the National Rifle Association, and other like-minded organizations, took this as an opportunity to defend the second amendment right to bear arms to defend themselves. Such insensitivity placed a philosophical and legal position above the attention that needed to be paid to the great trauma and loss of the victims of this shooting. At the heart of this controversy, one really need to ask, should the right to bear arms and defend one’s life, enable people to purchase semi-automatic rifles which can lead to mass destruction of innocent lives? It appears to me that the second amendment right should not give someone the power that Paddock had last Sunday night. His right to obtain several semi-automatic rifles took away the right to everyone’s life attending that concert. This is morally evil and wrong. God’s Creations were destroyed in the crowds who gathered for a fun-filled event. Made in the image and likeness of God, men and women’s right to life was taken away or severely compromised. The issue of gun control is most certainly a life issue! We continue to pray for those who lost their lives, the injured, and their families.
During this month of ‘Respect Life’, I challenge all of us to move away from political or personal philosophies that contradict the will of God toward his Creation. Since the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, more than 54 million abortions have taken place. Again, those who advocate the philosophy of the ‘right to choose’ neglect the fact that each of these 54 million human beings are God’s Creation, made in His image and likeness. The ministry of the advocacy for life continues to give great witness in their prayerful presence at Planned Parenthood, and in their attendance in hundreds of thousands who walk in the March for Life in DC. Each individual in this lay apostolate are positioning themselves in God’s position – that all may have life and have it more abundantly. The rights of the unborn should always be protected because they still are the most vulnerable. However, the ‘Right to Life’ extends far beyond the womb. The sad fact remains that there are vulnerable people living in our midst who have very few marching for their protections.
The Church needs to go through a pastoral conversion that requires a revolution of mercy and love. The history of the Church in the United State has been shrouded in silence. When slavery was widely accepted in our land during the Pre-Civil War periods, the Church remained silent. The reality of the institutionalized racism and discrimination which led to the segregation of ‘whites and blacks’ found no real traction in the Church. Again, the Church majority remained silent. Women have had to fight earlier on for the right to vote and now for equal rights in the work place. The Church failed to use her prophetic voice for such justice to take place. Members of our community who have gone through the tragedy of divorce are hungering for sacramental belonging. Some voices within the Church are resisting the opportunity to bring all into a communion of mercy and inclusion. The LGTB community are looking for the Church to recognize them as valuable members of various Catholic communities. Many resist such inclusion and the voice of mercy remains silent. The vulnerable young and the vulnerable old need our voice. The mentally ill, those suffering from addiction, and the incarcerated need the accompaniment from us on their journey toward transformation into the heart of God. During this past decade, many have voiced their disapproval of the presence of migrants and refugees. Fortunately, the Church is beginning to break her silence. The Holy Father, clergy and members of the lay faithful, are bringing a voice to those who have no voice. We are reminded that all their lives matter and are deserving of equal respect and love.
The reality is that every life does really matter. As intentional disciples of Jesus, who are called to mirror his example, we are being asked to respect the lives of those who live on the peripheries – those who feel discriminated against and those who feel forgotten. The Church must give equal traction and witness to those who struggle to be part of society. Wouldn’t it be great to see thousands descending upon the National Mall fighting for the plight of the poor, immigration reform, the plight of displaced refugees, minority discrimination, etc. All of these endeavors are life issues and all deserve an equal voice. Let us continue to seek the will of God our Creator as we strive to live philosophies consistent with our discipleship.