Reading I (Jonah 3:1-5, 10) Reading II (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
Gospel (St. Mark 1:14-20)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry. The very first thing He preached to the people was the message: Repent, and believe in the Gospel because the kingdom of God is at hand. When we look at that point of repentance, we can see what follows from it. In the first reading today, for instance, we hear about Jonah going into the city of Nineveh and preaching to the people. When the people heard the message of Jonah, they believed. They turned their lives around, they called a fast, they put on sackcloth, and they repented of their sins. Because of their repentance, God did not carry out the destruction of the city which He had threatened.
Saint Paul tells us in the second reading today that the world as we know it is passing away; and thanks be to God, I might add. But regardless of that, we need to be able to look at the necessity of repentance, because repentance can mitigate the chastisement that is to come. And why do we need to repent? All we need to do is think about the tragic anniversary that we observe today, the most horrific decision the United States Supreme Court ever made, in 1973, to allow babies in the womb to be killed. Since then, 47 million American citizens have been surgically aborted. Since 1980 (that is, in the last 25 years), throughout the world 1 billion children have been aborted. One billion in the last 25 years. If we think the tsunami that hit over in the Indian Ocean last Christmas was pretty bad, think of what the blood of a billion babies is going to be. Think of the tidal wave of blood that has been shed upon this earth, and think all the way back into the Book of Genesis when Cain killed his brother Abel. God spoke to Cain and said, Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the earth. The unjust taking of innocent life is one of the four sins that cries out to heaven for vengeance, and the blood of these babies must be atoned.
Even though the vast majority of Americans are opposed to abortion, that seems to mean nothing. Objective truth seems to mean nothing. One of the hopeful things, at least, that we can look at is that the vast majority of college-age students are pro-life. In a recent CBS poll, 55% of Americans said they opposed abortion. Then beyond that, another 17% said they thought abortion should only be allowed in very specific cases, which means that 70% or so of American people are opposed to more than 98% of all the abortions that go on in the United States right now.
But things are even worse. In America, even though we are still surgically aborting 1.3 million babies a year (that, of course, does not include the contraceptive abortions), we are not the worst. The average woman in Russia right now has had 8 abortions – average. In the Low Countries, they are aborting approximately 50% of all their babies. Throughout the world right now, 1 out of every 3 pregnancies ends in abortion – 1 out of every 3 worldwide. In some countries, for instance, China and India, they have decided that boys are far more important than girls. After all, the way they would look at it, the boy maintains the family name; in those countries, when a girl gets married, she is owned by her husband’s family or becomes part of his family; the boy receives the inheritance; and, in China, they have determined that the boys would be able to do more physical labor than the girls. Therefore, they do not want girls and they kill them purposefully so that they can have boys, because in China they have a one-child policy. You can only have one baby, and if a woman is pregnant with her second baby, they will forcibly abort the baby; they will force the mother to kill the child. Oftentimes in China, if the first child born is a girl, they will kill her because they want a boy. So right now in China there are 25 million males of marriageable age with no girls to marry. And because of that situation, what is happening is the girls have become an object. For the few girls there are, there are many young men who want to marry them, and the jealousy factor that gets involved has turned out in many cases to be a situation where “If I can’t marry this woman, nobody will” and they kill the woman; they murder her so that nobody can marry her. So even the few girls who have made it to marriageable age, a lot of them are being exterminated because some jealous male was not able to marry her. In India right now, we are having the exact same problem. They are aborting the girls for the same reasons I mentioned earlier. Right now, for every 1,000 boys there are approximately 800 girls being born. This has been going on now for the last several years. Consequently, in India we are going to have the same problem coming up in a few years as we are having in China: many boys, few girls.
Just two weeks ago, the European Union decided that the right of a woman to kill her baby in the womb is more important than the right of a doctor to say that he will not do it. And so the the forty nations that comprise the European Union have decreed that it is an international right – imagine that! – for a woman to have an abortion, and a doctor has no right to make a conscientious objection, even if the doctor is Catholic. The only exception to that rule is if the doctor will take the woman to another doctor and guarantee that the other doctor will abort the baby. Otherwise, the right to have an abortion in the European Union overrides the doctor’s right to say that he has a conscientious objection to killing babies. This is what is going on in our world today.
All we have to do is look at the present Supreme Court hearings that have been going on over the last few weeks. It does not have anything at all to do with whether a judge knows much about the law; it does not matter what he knows about the Constitution; it is a question of: “Where do you stand on certain political agenda issues, primarily abortion?” And isn’t it interesting that even though these politicians, who over the last number of years have constantly beat the same drum saying, “My constituents are pro-abortion, therefore I have to vote pro-abortion,” now we have 70% of the American population saying they are pro-life, and the politicians continue to beat the pro-abortion drum. They can no longer blame it upon their constituents because their younger constituents realize that one-fifth of their classmates have been killed.
So we do indeed have much to repent of. But at the same time, we have to understand the mercy of God. We are not going to escape entirely what is coming. Look back, again, into the ancient world and you will find that God tells the Israelite people that the very reason He sent them into the Promised Land to exterminate the peoples who were there was because they killed their babies and because they worshipped idols. What do we have going on in the world today? The people of Nineveh at least believed because they had some belief in God. We live in a pagan society now. The worship of idols has become rampant and the offering of babies is happening on a daily basis. These are sins God cannot tolerate.
If we look into our own hearts, we realize that all of us, from one degree to another, are also responsible for the mess in the world. We have all sinned. But God’s mercy is far greater than our sinfulness; and if we are willing to repent, God, Who is faithful and Who is merciful, will forgive our sins. It does not matter what the sin happens to be. Perhaps there has been an abortion. Perhaps you have been involved in contraception or sterilization or any other mortal sin you can think of. God’s mercy is infinitely greater than our sin. No matter how horrible the sin might be, if we are willing to get down on our knees before the priest of Jesus Christ and humbly confess our sins, they will be forgiven. God will remove those sins from our souls. And if we are willing, then, to learn the lesson from the people of Nineveh, to truly repent and be willing to do penance, we can mitigate whatever is going to befall this world.
God will take the blood of all of those babies and He will make something great, as only God can, because the old saying is The blood of martyrs is the seedbed of faith. There is no blood more innocent than that of a child in the womb; therefore, there is no blood that is going to be more powerful than that of a child from the womb. And we have now spilled upon this earth the blood of over 1 billion babies. That is a powerful force crying out to heaven, and God will hear the cries of those babies. But God will also hear the cries of the mothers. We recall when we think about the Holy Innocents, the Gospel writer Matthew tells us that that was to fulfill what was said: Rachel wailing for her children because they are no more. There is not a heart of a woman who has aborted a baby that does not cry out in pain. As much as they might want to try to hide it, they cannot. The reality is there. And if any woman will turn to God and allow those cries to be cries of repentance directed to Almighty God, those will be powerful prayers. So instead of turning upon ourselves, which is what this world tells us to do, we need to turn to God and we need to hear the words of Jesus Christ: Repent, and believe in the Gospel because the kingdom of God is at hand.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.