Have mercy on me, O God; have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
In the shadow of your wings I take refuge,
till harm pass by.
On this day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children, and during this year of mercy, I find inspiration in the readings assigned to this Friday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time. The Bible is saturated with Mercy and it reminds us daily of our need for mercy.
Our first reading concerns the conflict between King Saul and his lieutenant David. For no apparent reason except the demons in his own mind, Saul took a dislike to David and tried to kill him. David wisely left Saul's camp and led his own band of warriors against their mutual enemy, the Philistines. He would wait for the Lord to fulfill the promise he had made through the anointing of Samuel, that he would succeed King Saul.
Guided by his reverence for God and for the authority of the king, David would not kill Saul even when he had the opportunity handed to him.
The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master,the LORD’s anointed, as to lay a hand on him,for he is the LORD’s anointed.”
Warfare is the last place anyone expects to find mercy, and yet the Scriptures and Jesus insist that we must show reverence, mercy and love even -- perhaps especially -- toward our enemies.
Are unborn babies our enemies? It seems that way to many. Certainly, as the oldest of ten children, I can tell you how a baby changes everything. Where the household was raucous and chaotic, suddenly it became quiet. The word was, "Hush, the baby is asleep."
Where resources were thin, they were more scarce. Time, money, energy, patience -- everything is strained to accommodate the neediest and most demanding among us -- the infant.
When I am unwilling to make sacrifices those who demand them of me seem like enemies. Living alone in the poorer end of town for seven years I met a lot of needy strangers. They came at odd times and always unexpectedly. If I carelessly gave anyone a few bucks, they'd be back the next day -- with their friends. They would take everything I had and then some -- with no more than a nod of thanks. I learned to regard them as "the enemy whom I should love" -- carefully. By definition, an enemy wants more than I can give.
I learned to ration my resources. I was willing to give in a controlled way. If someone needed gas, I'd call my friend Rick at the gas station, describe the car with its license plate, and send the needy over there. If they needed groceries, I'd call Bill at the grocery store and specify how much they could purchase, with the understanding I would not pay for tobacco, alcohol or junk food.
I was willing to help but on my own terms. Those who would not accept those terms -- who wanted cold cash and nothing else -- were turned away. Like our Merciful God, I could give and I could refuse to give, and I preferred courtesy to rudeness, reverence to abuse.
Are babies the enemy? Certainly they are helpless, needy and demanding. Babies also have the advantage of their parents in that they didn't ask to be here. Their parents invited them when they conceived them.
But Americans have strange ways of talking. They say "we fell in love" when they mean we chose to love one another. The say "we got pregnant" when they mean they chose sex with all its consequences. "I found out I was pregnant" a woman says with great surprise. "My girlfriend got pregnant." a fellow says with equal astonishment.Well, yes; that's what you intended, wasn't it? If you habitually overeat you intend to get fat; if you go to bed you intend to fall asleep; if you have sex you intend to have a baby.
Decisions have consequences and rational, responsible human beings delight in that. It reflects our God-like nature.
Babies are the enemies we learn to love. My mother used to say, "That's why we have nine months to prepare for them." If we were reluctant at first we prayed and asked God to give us eager and generous hearts. If resources were scarce -- and they always were -- we prayed to God our Provider. And we never went hungry.
Faith teaches us that the Lord who directs all things will provide for our needs. Jesus urges us to "Look at the birds of the air." Those who cannot or will not trust in God must despise and destroy their enemies; that is, anyone who demands more than they can provide including their own children.
Since 1972 we have suffered the consequences of abortion -- child abuse, mass shootings, suicide and widespread drug abuse. How many distraught women have screamed at their children, "I should have aborted you; everybody told me that?" How many children have been shocked to hear that; and, despite everything their mothers said afterward, never forgot it?
Confidence in the Mercy of our Providential God welcomes the unborn and the elderly, the orphan, the widow and the stranger.
Collect of the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
God our Creator,
we give thanks to you,
who alone have the power
to impart the breath of life
as you form each of us
in our mother's womb;
grant, we pray, that we,
whom you have made
stewards of creation,
may remain faithful
to this sacred trust
and constant in safeguarding
the dignity of every human life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives
and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.