Is 6:1-2a, 3-8
1 Cor 15:1-11 or 15:3-8, 11
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The first reading and the gospel for this weekend both show the reaction of sinful humanity in the presence of the manifestation of holiness: “Woe is me; depart from me Lord, I am a sinner.” We suddenly see, with new clarity, the depths of our own sins, just as we can see stains on an apparently clear window when the bright rays of the sun hit it. If we read the letters of St. Paul in the order in which they were written (which is not the order in which they appear in Scripture), we see that Paul displays an increasing awareness of his sinfulness as life goes on. “Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus,” he begins. Later he says, “Apostle and servant.” Yet later he declares himself “not worthy to be called an apostle” (today’s reading), and finally, he calls himself “the chief of sinners.”
Yet faced with the holiness of God (in Isaiah’s case, God’s glory in the temple, and in Peter’s case, God’s glory in Christ), humanity is not crushed, but rather receives the invitation to be purged, renewed, and sent. Isaiah is cleansed of sin and then responds to the call to be a prophet. Peter is told to put his fears aside and responds to the call to be an apostle.
This provides a perfect spiritual context for the call to be pro-life and to build the culture of life. Contrary to what some of our critics say, we in the Church are not self-righteous people who think we are better than everyone else and want to tell others how to live. Rather, we begin with repentance, realizing that we recognize the sins in the world only after we’ve recognized our own. When we call others to a standard of morality, we are acknowledging that we ourselves are under that same standard. When we call others to repent of sins that destroy life, we are not stating that we are better than they are, but simply that they and we have to answer to a God who made us all, and that his choices have priority over ours.
Throughout the country, pro-life people counsel women not to have abortions. Those who do so do not approach these women as strangers. Rather, these pro-life counselors too know what it is like to struggle with evil and to be drawn by temptation. They minister as repentant sinners, quite familiar with the struggle against evil.
Likewise, many Catholics pray the rosary in front of abortion clinics. They do not do this to harass or intimidate women. Rather, they do it as an act of repentance. As they stand on the public sidewalk, they do not say “pray for those sinners,” but rather, over and over, “pray for us sinners.” From that stance of repentance, they can reach out to those who are on their way to making a terrible mistake. By speaking up and reaching out in love to prevent abortion, these faithful people try to make up in some way for the silence and fear that keep so many others from doing anything to save lives.
When we help our people realize that pro-life activity flows from humble repentance, we lay the foundation for calling more of them to be prophets of life, like Isaiah, and apostles of life, like Peter, by joining actively in the pro-life mission of the Church.