The times are fraught with danger. As we await a ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, there have already been attacks on pregnancy centers, while pro-abortion domestic terrorists threaten an “open season” on the centers and call for a “summer of rage”.
In this atmosphere, it is right for us to be prudent and not to deliberately provoke violence. But more than anything, this is a time to boldly proclaim the truths of the Gospel of Life.
St. Pope John Paul II
In his magnificent encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Pope John Paul laid out the comprehensive case for the inherent dignity of every human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. He also gave us a clear call to action:
Enlightened by this Gospel of life, we feel a need to proclaim it and to bear witness to it in all its marvellous newness…. This involves above all proclaiming the core of this Gospel. It is the proclamation of a living God who is close to us, who calls us to profound communion with himself and awakens in us the certain hope of eternal life… It is the proclamation that Jesus has a unique relationship with every person, which enables us to see in every human face the face of Christ. It is the call for a “sincere gift of self” as the fullest way to realize our personal freedom.
It also involves making clear all the consequences of this Gospel. These can be summed up as follows: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. For this reason procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable.Evangelium Vitae 80-81
That was not a message of caution, and the Holy Father certainly knew that in making it, he was facing serious opposition.
Governments around the world, including ours, promote abortion as a condition of international financial aid. International organizations pressure pro-life countries to change their laws. Well-funded advocacy groups and foundations add the pressure of the power of the purse.
There are those in our secular world who have made abortion rights such a part of their identity that they will resort to violence to retain it. Ugly rhetoric and forceful interference at peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics. Pregnancy centers bombed. A Supreme Court Justice barely escaping an assassination attempt.
But as the Holy Father said about the Gospel of Life, “we feel a need to proclaim it and to bear witness to it in all its marvellous newness”. This is not a lamp that can be hidden under a bushel. Our deeply wounded world, and so many hurting souls, are in desperate need of hearing this Good News.
And if we don’t proclaim it boldly, they will never hear of its liberating truth and beauty.
One of the major themes of Pope Francis’ reign is the need for Christians to get out of our comfort zones and bring the Gospel to the world, especially to the margins.
One of his favorite words in describing what our attitude should be is “boldness”. Here’s what he said in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), which was a kind of manifesto for his pontificate:
One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses”. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil.Evangelii Gaudium 85
That last phrase, “aggressive tenderness”, is a bit startling, but it’s a perfect characterization of the “boldness” we need right now. We have to lift the cross high, and be ready to face the “assaults of evil”. We have to trust in God that he has triumphed already and that any opposition or suffering we have to endure is just a taste of His victory.
We can’t proclaim the Gospel from a defensive crouch. No matter what we do, no matter how humble we are, no matter how much we stress our love and service of mothers in need, no matter how much we help women who have experienced abortion, no matter how many times we reach across the divide to work with them, pro-abortion fanatics will never be satisfied. There is no point in trying to placate them. They hate us. Period.
“Aggressive tenderness”. “Convinced of victory”. “Boldness and zeal”. Our culture will never have a conversion of heart unless we live up to those words.
The Holy Spirit
Here in the season of Pentecost, we remember how the Apostles, hiding in their room for fear, were suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit. They immediately went out to proclaim the Gospel, even against the opposition of the same authorities who had just murdered Jesus.
That must be our attitude in these difficult days. If the Supreme Court does indeed overrule Roe v. Wade, there will be violence. Our pregnancy centers and churches — and we ourselves — will be at risk. Nobody should have any illusions about that. God forbid that anyone on our side retaliates, because that will only cause escalation and we will be blamed. But we can’t let these concerns stop us from doing our jobs.
This is where the Holy Spirit and the fruits of Pentecost come into play. Let’s hear from Pope Francis again:
The Holy Spirit also grants the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition. Let us call upon him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence.Evangelii Gaudium 259
The Holy Spirit is with us. This is a time for boldness.
One thought on “A Time for Boldness”
I shared it with all of the Diocesan Respect Life Office Directors nationally via a new digital connectivity network that I created.
I got the idea from Sr Virginia Joy to build this network when she advised me that said that this type of network did not presently exist even with the USCCB
They had the Names but not the E Mail addresses