Recognizing the Dignity of Human Life
Monday May 31, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier The Visitation
Reading I (Romans 12:9-16) Gospel (St. Luke 1:39-56)
Today as the country takes time out to remember all those who have died in service to the country, it is a very common thing that people will go to the cemeteries and visit their beloved dead. So it is an interesting correlation today that it is also the Feast of the Visitation; in this case, not to those who are dead, but of those who are bringing life to the world.
Here we have Our Blessed Lady, who is with child, and she is going on a very difficult journey some eighty or so miles down from Galilee through the deepest valley in the world near the Dead Sea and up into the mountain region to Jerusalem. That is a 7,000 foot climb from down by the Dead Sea up to Jerusalem, and then just outside of Jerusalem to where Zechariah and Elizabeth live. And there she finds Elizabeth also with child, bearing the harbinger of the Gospel, the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament prophets: Saint John the Baptist. As the two women converse, the two children within them are also conversing. Saint John the Baptist, when he hears Our Lady’s voice, leaps with joy in his mother’s womb. At that moment, Original Sin was removed from the soul of Saint John the Baptist and he was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.
At that same moment, we hear that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and inspired by the Holy Spirit she cried out, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Note that this is inspired not only through Saint Luke by the Holy Spirit, but Elizabeth is also inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is an important point because our non-Catholic brothers and sisters ignore this passage. They do not like to talk about Our Lady. And here we have what we could call a double inspiration by the Holy Spirit with both Elizabeth and Saint Luke telling us the exact same thing: that Our Blessed Mother is the most blessed among women, and also blessed is the fruit of her womb.
Then, of course, Elizabeth, also inspired by the Holy Spirit, proclaims the truth that people had difficulty with for the first several hundred years of Christianity when she says, How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me? So we have here the first public proclamation from a human person (Saint Gabriel had already told Our Blessed Lady the truth of what was going to happen) that Mary is indeed the Mother of God. That is a hard thing for some people to understand. How can God have a mother? Under normal circumstances, to be a mother implies that a new human person begins in the womb of his mother. Christ, Who is God, has no beginning – He is an eternal person – so how is it possible that He can have a new beginning in the womb of this most extraordinary of all women? It is not that He has a beginning as a person in the womb of His mother, but He has a beginning as a human being. Jesus, remember, is not a human person – He is a divine person from all eternity – but, in His human nature, He has a beginning in His mother’s womb.
For those who are in favor of abortion, this reading is also very important. Here you have a child who is at six months’ gestation leaping in his mother’s womb when he hears Our Lady’s voice. Our Lady, at this point, is probably three or four days pregnant. She heard from the angel Gabriel that the Holy Spirit was going to descend upon her and that she was going to receive the Son of God, and she set out immediately. That would be about a three days’ journey under normal circumstances from Nazareth to Jerusalem. Here she is already proclaimed to be the mother of the Lord, and Jesus, at this time in Our Lady, would still be microscopic as far as His humanness goes. Yet today we have people who want to claim that a baby is not a baby, that the humanness of a child is not there. And we have Christian people (people who want to call themselves Christian, anyway) who want to make the same claim. We need to show them this reading.
It is a rather ironic point, once again, that this is the reading we would have upholding the truth of the dignity of our humanity, the truth of who Our Blessed Lady is, the truth of who these two children are in the wombs of their mothers, on this very same day that our country takes time to remember the dead. Let us not forget the forty or so million innocent dead who died not so much in the service of their country, but have died because of the malice of our country. But we also have to understand that in God’s providence the blood of these little babies is not going to go without its retribution. What these little children are going to do for their country is going to be even greater than what those who have given their lives in service to their country have done in the past. So, for us, we need to recognize not only the importance and the dignity of what those soldiers have done in the past, and even those recently who have been killed in the service of their country, but we need to remember all of those who have died, all of our relatives who have built up the family and in that way built up our country, and also all of the babies who have been killed because their dignity has been taken from them, because their humanity has been stripped from them. We must never forget.
Our Lady went in haste when she heard that there was another woman who was in need because she was with child. Our country now needs to recognize the same thing. The greatest need in our country today is to recognize the dignity, not only of the woman with child, but of the child within the woman. If we truly want to be of service to this nation and to our world, that is the battlefield upon which we must fight to uphold the rights and the dignity of the human person from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death; anything less strips the humanity from these people. And since we are all equal, if they are not human then neither are we. If it is okay to destroy them, it is okay to destroy us. It is interesting how even the pro-abortionists would argue against that position. They think that their life is somehow important, but the lives of other people are not.
It is time that we recognize the truth of the dignity of the human person and the truth of the dignity of the two most important persons who have ever lived: Our Lord and His mother. We need to pray in a very profound way that as Our Lady in her great charity went in haste to visit her relative who was in need, that now she will come in haste once again because her children are in need – great need. We need to beg her to come in haste to visit us so that we will be able to recognize the truths that are proclaimed by the Church, the truths which are contained right in Scripture, and that we will recognize the reality of God’s creation and the dignity of this most extraordinary of all women (indeed, the most extraordinary of all human persons who have ever lived and who will ever live). We must recognize our own dignity and the dignity of every person – especially of those in the womb – as well as all those who are handicapped, those who are sick, those who are elderly, and so on. This is the truth that must be upheld. The only way, I am afraid, that we are going to learn that lesson in this country completely given over to sin is if we have our own visitation. As Jesus and Mary went up to Jerusalem to visit Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist and the truth was there proclaimed, pray and beg Our Lord for the grace to send His mother so that these same truths can be upheld and proclaimed in our country in our day.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.