Mass of the Vigil for Life
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
January 18, 2018
The following is the text of the homily to be delivered by Cardinal Dolan at the Mass of the Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18.
“Let us give thanks to the Father,
who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.”
So does St. Paul praise God in our first reading from God’s Holy Word in the Bible this evening;
So do we, your bishops, your pastors, thank God for you, here in the home of our mother, jam-packed like the seventh game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, with teeming numbers united with us on EWTN and in various churches throughout the nation; a solidarity in prayer and witness that will persevere through this vigil, flow through dozens of Masses tomorrow, and culminate in our March for Life.
Observers, friendly or not, remark that this annual event we begin this evening in prayer and close in about twenty-four hours, which has now gone on forty-four years, reminds them of the peaceful yet effective protests for civil rights organized by the prophetic pastor whose birthday we commemorated Monday.
No surprise, for, like the Reverend Martin Luther King, our prayers and witness are about civil rights, the right to life and to equal protection of the law guaranteed by our constitution, for the most fragile, marginalized, and threatened—the tiny, innocent baby in the womb.
Like Pastor King, our belief in the dignity of the human person and sacredness of human life propels us to concern for human life wherever, whenever, and however it is threatened, from racism to immigrants, from the war torn to the hungry. As Rev. King’s niece often reminds us, her uncle would be marching with us in the defense of unborn life were not the dignity of his own person and the sanctity of his own life tragically violated fifty years ago this spring.
Pastor King would often begin his stirring speeches, which still move us, by asking his listeners, “Why are we here?”
So do I pose that question to you: Just why are we here? Can I anticipate your responses?
We are here to advocate and give witness, to advocate for those who cannot yet speak or walk with us, the preborn baby, whose future is in jeopardy and can be ended by a so-called choice by another; to give witness that millions, mostly young people, share their passion that the baby has civil rights.
We are here to fight the heavy temptation to discouragement. See, as noble as our cause is, we are ridiculed, dismissed, harassed, and even persecuted, snickered at by the majority of the media, considered unwashed by most of the academia and Hollywood, and ignored and criticized by most in one of the two political parties. In my state, abortion is legal up to the moment of birth, can be paid for by our tax money, those whose conscience will not allow them to do this can lose their job, those who wish to present a creative alternative are threatened with closure. What a paradox and heavenly sign that the Sisters of Life were founded in such a pro-abortion state! That’s why we come from New York brothers and sisters, cause we’re lonely and need encouragement.
And, yes, a third reason we come every year is to lobby for life. Our elected representatives, executive and legislative, and the judiciary they appoint, need to see, hear, and feel the grassroots power and sincere voices of millions who lack the cash of the abortion industry, who can’t find many in Hollywood to support them, who can’t get a hearing on campus, and who are told not to run for office in some states, that we will not give up, that reason and the grand American tradition enshrined in our foundational documents are on our side, and that our love for babies, their struggling moms and dads, and our passion for a society to assist and protect all vulnerable life will keep us at it, because, to borrow my brother pastor’s refrain, “We shall overcome!”
Yet there is one more reason why we are here: to pray! To turn to Jesus, once alive in His own mother’s womb, who, as St. Paul teaches us this very evening, “Delivered us from the power of darkness...”
“The power of darkness...”
Oh–oh! The forces we face are not just those we can see; I’m afraid we battle as well an axis we cannot see, whose powers are stronger than any in creation save one, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who called Himself “the way, the truth, and the life.”
So we come to a safe place to commence our project, a home the powers of darkness are scared of, a house where Mary is our Mother and where Jesus dwells, and where we are with family. We come to admit realistically that there are powers of darkness in a culture Pope Francis calls “throwaway” and St. John Paul terms “of death.”
As Pope Francis often reminds us, we are fools if we dismiss the power of Satan. So, you bet we are here to advocate, to be encouraged, to lobby...but we are here, not as warriors but as apostles of life, apostles armed not with money, hate, or destructive words, but, as the Holy Father exhorts, with love and joy. Apostles of life who, like those first twelve, believe in the power of Jesus, and who saw, as recorded in this evening’s gospel, “Unclean spirits fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.”
“Let us give thanks to the Father,
...who delivered us from the power of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”