Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The Baptism of the Lord

Father John J. Lombardi

"It is better to be the child of God than king of
                the whole world." St. Aloysius Gonzaga

The Lord said and says: "I set before you, life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life then…" (Dt.30: 19)…

What do lowered birth rates in Italy and Europe, "partial birth abortion," and human beings cloned from Petri dishes have in common?...They should alarm us to the need of promoting and protecting innocent human life, and making spiritual and practical responses. They also illustrate the monstrous results when we separate the design of God, regarding human life, in imposing our own for His…

I - January is the month of The March for Life, in Washington D.C., where thousands will gather on Jan. 22 near the White House and Capital, to listen to speeches, to pray, fast, sacrifice, and then walk toward the Supreme Court, to defend innocent pre-born life.

(Segue-Q. Why is the abortion/pro-life issue more important than the death penalty or any other political or social issue? A: Because our Church's testimony over two-thousand years has promoted and defended, and believed in, the sanctity of the most innocent and defenseless persons---human babies. It is vitally important today, because, since 1973, some 40 million children have been killed-and this cannot not affect us.)

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the death-engendering Roe V. Wade decision. The plaintiff in that case--pseudo-anonymously named "Jane Doe"--later retracted her abortionist decision, became pro-life and, also, a Catholic. Remember: Conversion is always possible…Perhaps some conversion may occur in our U.S. government (we can be guardedly realistic). According to the New York Times headline and front page story, on Jan 2, 2003, so-called "foes of abortion" are poised to overturn "abortion rights" laws and, in particular, "so-called partial birth abortion".

This obviously-biased article is hopeful because of the pro-life prospects, but perturbing because of the slanted-sly language. Notice the prejudiced wording: "abortion opponents" and "anti-abortion advocates" (wouldn't these easier translate into "pro-lifers"-and save money and print!?); "anti-abortion movement" (yes, we, too, can be a countercultural movement!); and the sterilely-described killing by "so-called partial birth abortion" (which entails pulling an almost-live child out of the mother's womb, and killing it by using forceps upon the head, etc.), is also described as "the procedure" and "partial birth procedure." (Remember: Nazis called their manipulation of human beings, genes and usage of torture as a "eugenics program").

Q. What is almost as infuriating as killing innocent, pre-born children?
A. The control by the media of the language of abortion, and that we have never even seen on TV-perhaps because the image would outrage-hopefully-the nation and overturn abortion. (However, images of cancer victims and the effects of oil spills upon nature are allowable)…

Everyone-especially Catholics and Christians-- should be alarmed that America is not only allowing the destruction of the most poor and defenseless, but our country is actually promoting it thru taxes, military and social welfare programs. Each minute of the day there are three or four abortions.

Q. Gandhi, the Indian peace-leader and admirer of Christ, was once asked, what do you think of Western civilization?
A. His reply: "It's a good idea."

II -  In another life-area, many are hopeful that the new congress will make a total ban on human cloning, including so-called medical research cloning. Dr Leon Kass -who was appointed by President Bush as head of the federal policy board advising on human cloning, was profiled in a New York Times Book Review article (Nov. 17, 2002), and was praised and critiqued for his clear and challenging, anti-cloning stance. His recommendation: under no circumstances. This view should rightly challenge all euthanasia and so-called "right to die" and "death with dignity" movements, and also effect, indirectly, other unethical, scientific experimenters and manipulators. By questioning the desirability and need of" human engineering," Dr. Kass and others are saying 'Yes' to re-creating a respect for natural and God-centered planning.

However diverse the biomedical or moral issue, Catholic theology says, in effect, You can't innocently co-opt and re-design the divine plan, without severe consequences. Abortion cancels God's plan for human life and propagation of the species; post-traumatic syndrome of mothers procuring abortion is immense, and our culture is still divided over the practice. Contraception un-links the divine-human partnership in lovemaking, thus becoming an "atheistic sexuality" wherein divine providence is negated (as the "third Person" by giving a soul). In vitro fertilization separates the personalism and humanism of marital lovemaking, and tries to mimic it in a laboratory, and this becomes a kind of "scientific sterilism."

Dr. Bernard Nathanson shows us, though, no matter how far we are from God, no matter how steeped in sin, and regardless for how long, there is still time for conversion. This is the man who killed around 60,000 children thru abortions, and produced the movie, "The Silent Scream" (which documented just that), and recently renounced his abortionist practices and money-making (exposing Planned Parenthood and other groups), and then became a Catholic. He realized that the "fetuses," "organisms" and "pre-borns" he and so many were killing, were actually children.

Q. Can a person who has procured an abortion be forgiven?
A. Absolutely! Jesus awaits them in His Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and it is healthy and healing to make a confession. Please consider--Project Rachel House, in Balt., where counseling is available thru the pastoral ministry of Fr Blair Raum-- 1-800-286-4224.)…

III - Another de-construction of God's plan for human life and man's cooperation is contraception and materialism. Many couples--however sincerely, but wrongly-think and feel it is morally o.k. to block God's design of fertility in the woman (and the man's contribution) by using toxic drugs, implants or other means. This is harmful because it denies God's plan, and Catholic pastoral teaching for two-thousand years; and it counterfeits a beautiful, sensual and sexual relationship designed to unify the couple (how can it with contraceptive- blocks ?), and denies the pro-creation of children (contra= against; ceptio=life). Although you'd never know it, contraception is one of the most harmful phenomena in the world-spiritually, martially and morally. But all can still change to God's way.

Perhaps you've heard about some of the "population problems" in Europe. For instance, the birth rate of couples in Italy last year was 1.2 children for each couple, and in Europe, barely 2.1--"the marker that , demographers say, means an exact replenishment of the population" (NYT: 26 Dec: 2002). Perhaps some of the reasons for this demise indicate, according to the article: "Decades of prosperity have altered people's assumptions and expectations. Older people once poised to look after grandchildren now pursue other activities and travel more. As for would-be parents, their attachments to leisure time, conveniences and indulgences do not easily accommodate multiple children-or sometimes for that matter, any children at all."

Catholics are radically-or should be!-pro-life, pro-child and pro-family, and protectors of the poor and disenfranchised. Let us pray for all to embrace the CULTURE OF LIFE-which promotes authentic dignity and life. Let us realize that heroes like Pope John Paul, Dorothy Day of New York (founder of the Catholic Worker) and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, all defend, heroically, the unborn and the living poor, sick and dying: so can-and should-we!

Q. What would a saint say about progressivists supporting peace and abortion at the same time?
A.: Mother Teresa of Calcutta said in front of our most ardent abortionist presidents, You cannot kill children and pray for peace at the same time.

If you can't go on the March For Life, please try to fast (skip a meal or eat less that day, or give up some drink); make a holy hour in a Church by sitting near Jesus in the Holy Bread-Eucharist of the Tabernacle, or pray a Rosary for marchers.

Briefly Noted

The Baptism of the Lord…Consider this meditation from St Gregory Naziansus, and reflections. Today is the last Day of Christmas!... "The baptism of Christ: Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized; let us also go down with him, and rise with him. John is baptizing when Jesus draws near. Perhaps he comes to sanctify his baptizer; certainly he comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; he who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water…Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead."

Bible Readings: Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mk 1:7-11

Q. Why does the Church place the Baptizing of the "adult Christ" so soon after the Christmas Birth of the Child?
A. Because, since ancient times, the Church reminds all that Jesus Christ is the long awaited Messiah; she stresses thru this Celebration that He is divine (the readings today emphasize He is the anointed (=Christos) of God); and the Church this Event inaugurates His Mission; and the Church at Christmas, and following, telescopes time-compresses actual historical time--to illustrate, teach and proclaim a series of sacred mysteries and thereby draw, inspire and bring us to conversion, thru what we call liturgical time.

How, then, do you recognize Jesus as both LORD and LIBERATOR ? As the great English apologist C.S. Lewis has discerned, many people think Jesus is either a liar, lunatic or Lord. In today's dumbing-divinity-down-world, we may further add: some think he is only a legend-a dreamy and good guy but not God. We must take our pick or, rather, choose decisively for His Lordship and divinity. He also came to redeem and liberate us: from sins and anxieties, from death and Hell, and to bring us to Heaven-He ransomed us ( II Pt. 2:1-"There will be false teachers among you who deny the Master who ransomed them…")…So, firstly, adore Him -try to attend Communion at Mass and I prayer more intensely and frequently. Second, implore Him to liberate you from sins, inordinate attachments-and your lukewamness-a slothful and ordinary spiritual life which deadens grace within anyone. Meditate upon: Divine and Merciful Infinity…Wipes away …all human inanity.

Saints Elizabeth Ann Seton and Bernadette- Pray for us!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi