Here is my latest Sunday homily as a deacon. Centered around John 10:27-30, I gave it four times at the Blue Hills Collaborative around Hyde Park in Boston. This recording is from the 7:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, May 8, 2022, at St. Anne in Readville. I respond to the news about the leak from the Supreme Court on the abortion issue.
Below is the transcription with some edits for clarity and grammar.
A woman told me this story many years ago.
It was a tough time in her life. She was having a very difficult marriage, raising two kids, and being pushed to the limit to take care of her family. One day, she found out she was pregnant. The doctor told her, “At your age, more likely the baby will have birth defects. I think it’s best to terminate the pregnancy. Come by the office next week and we’ll take care of this.”
The woman was distraught and didn’t know what to do. She went to the parish priest, and the parish priest was honest with her that there would be consequences if she went through with this. She would no longer receive Communion and she desperately needed Communion because that was the only thing that kept her going. And then the parish priest said, “Please, please save the child. If you don’t want the child, give the child to the Church. But please save the child.”
The woman did. She had the child and she said that the child has given her much joy.
That woman I call “Mom” and the child stands before you.
The irony is that in a way, my mom did give me to church because I stand before you as a deacon. My mom was amazed about my vocation to the point that she said, “I don’t know where it came from.” But I know where it came from. She heeded and heard the voice of the merciful Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27). She trusted Jesus’ voice in that parish priest, and because of that, my mom saved my life. She saved me from becoming a statistic of being among the 60 million babies that were lost to abortion since 1973.
But this gospel challenges us. Do we really trust the promises of Jesus? Jesus promises that he will take care of us and that we will have eternal life if we trust him and believe his words. But if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we have never really trusted Jesus. We’ve gone our own way. We feel that we must do things on our own and that means that sometimes we reach for solutions with tragic consequences.
I’ll be honest with you. When my mom told me that story when I was 20, I was still full of rage, rage against my father because of all the hurt he had done to my family, anger about where my life was. The first thought that came in my head when my mom told me that story was “Yeah, I should have been aborted. I should be relieved of this pain.” But Jesus, O our loving and merciful Jesus, he told me and he taught me, “The anger you feel now is nothing, nothing compared to my Divine Mercy. Your pain, your hardship, your struggle has never defined you. I define you. I am the end. I give you purpose.”
Quite honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen with this case before the Supreme Court. But I feel from the Gospel that the voice of the Good Shepherd calls us, calls us into action. This Church at its weakest, most broken, most incompetent can do great things because it is not by our own human power but by the power of God. We can still do something.
First, we can pray. Pray that no matter what the justices decide that they protect life. We can pray for everyone who is protesting today outside our churches, sometimes even violently, that they be converted and join us to end this scourge of abortion from our country.
But more than praying, we need to bring mercy to people. First, to every woman in a crisis pregnancy. To choose abortion means that that woman felt that she had no place to go, no one to turn to for help. We must rise to the occasion and tell them, “Come to us. We will help you.” We can also help all those women who have been hurt by abortion. The guilt, the shame, the pain. We must let them know that that is not the end of the story. Jesus’ mercy is the healing balm for their pain and suffering. We must also urge, encourage and call upon all men responsible for all those pregnancies to step up and be the father that God the Father is to us. “No one can take them out of the Father’s hand” (Jn 10:29). Lastly, we must help all families, all families who struggle, because honestly, if you want more vocations in the Church, you need healthy Catholic families. We need to support each other. We are not alone in this battle. We must be in it together.
I pray, pray that one day, every pregnancy no longer becomes a life or death situation, that every child will be welcomed, loved and be a joy to their parents.
Despite the noises outside, heed the voice of the Good Shepherd.