My friends, this 4th Sunday of Easter and as those before and those to come, each, call us, as I have previously said, “back to life.” This Sunday’s readings have a “shepherd” theme, and the action is that of “shepherding the People of God. And even though none of us are shepherds, and perhaps never have been, nor will be, we can understand the concept of “shepherding” others in the broader context of simply, “caring for them. It is what Jesus did, and it is what we are called to do.
Those of you who have been with us for a while, know that I will always take the Scriptures of any given Sunday and direct us back to our everyday lives, because as Jesus’ followers, “Christians” by name, that is what he always modeled for us—what we say we believe coupled with how we live our lives.
And further, we must recognize and be aware that connecting what we read in the Scriptures to our daily lives will often get us into trouble, as it did Jesus, with those who choose to look at life in a very, “black and white” way.
A case in point of course is the discussion across our country about possibly overturning Roe v. Wade—the right of a woman over her own body—more specifically, the right—should she choose to seek an abortion. Friends, as you may know already and accept, but I need to say it anyway for clarity here; this is not a “black and white” issue. For those who want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, it is of course, “black and white”—thus the problem.
Those who have been part of this nearly 50-year-old fight to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision to make abortions legal across our land call themselves, “pro-life.” Unfortunately, as we know, this desire to “protect life” only seems to extend to the life within the womb— “a life” that most times would be unviable outside of the womb.
Whenever women and men who advocate for an end to Roe v. Wade, are asked about the life outside the womb, should a woman carry the pregnancy to term, these same advocates for life early-on, have no plan for their care once here, and will often be against the social programs needed to care for these individuals, which for their lack, many times caused the women to seek abortion in the first place. Perhaps those who so stridently claim to be “pro-life,” were to support care for those already here, they would be doing more to end the need for abortions in the first place.
I believe the part of this discussion that is most disconcerting to women is the complete lack of consideration for the women carrying the potential new lives. Why, many ask, are their lives not considered as well, when we discuss the right-to-life?
The stories abound of women who sought the care to terminate their pregnancies in order to save their own lives, yet their lives are seldom, if ever considered by those who advocate to overturn this right for women, which, by the way, is also a right for men. And if you don’t believe that, then consider how this discussion would go if it were the men asking for the right to choose about the care of their own bodies. When we are making “life” decisions for our world, we must consider all who will be affected; that is what makes life good for all. So, suffice to say, this current discussion is messy. There is not a “one size fits all.”
Looking back to the Scriptures for today, the first reading from Acts gives us a few ideas to consider: We are told to, “hold fast to the grace of God” [because], “I have made you a light to the nations.” For me, this says, in the “messiness” of life, to always believe that our God is with us, giving the “grace” needed to do the most, “loving thing” for all considered.
Such “life” decisions call each of us to be responsible persons in the “life” we say, “yes” to. Not just bringing life into existence but doing all that we can to assure that such life becomes “meaningful” and “viable” throughout its entire existence.
The month of May also calls us to reflect on a very special woman in our religious history. Of course, I am speaking of our mother, sister, and friend, Mary of Nazareth—not at all, a “wallflower” or a “yes-woman,” which generally means, unfortunately, “a door mat” for the hierarchy. To be clear, saying “yes” was definitely part of Mary’s life—but her “yeses” had to do with supporting justice, mercy and most of all, love—as did her son, Jesus.
This Sunday is also Mothers’ Day, a day we remember all mothers; those blessed with giving physical birth, but also those who have gifted many with emotional and spiritual mothering. All are so important because just as we need those who can give physical birth, we likewise need women who can have others’ backs supporting them through the ups and downs of life. Sometimes “physical” moms can give emotional and spiritual mothering too, sometimes not and thus the need for mothers of all kinds. I personally am grateful for all the mothers I have had in my life and so grateful too for those who helped me to mother my own kids.
Again, this “mothering” issue is not, “a one size fits all.” We get a sense of this too in the second reading from Revelations where John speaks about, “the shepherd… [and how this one] will lead [the sheep] to springs of water.” This [mother] we might say, “knows [their young] “and will never let them perish”—words spoken also by John in the gospel today.
So friends, much on our spiritual plates again! I think sometimes we can get frustrated when all is not, “neat and clean”—at peace, perhaps—but life calls us to all of this. We have been promised “the grace” we will need, and we must anchor our hope in that belief and trust it. I know personally that if I thought I had to do what I do all alone, I know I could not do it! I depend on God, in Jesus, on all of you, on family and friends, to all help me and to help those in all our wider worlds to do what is most loving in every situation.
And for that reason, as we are all called “to be light” in our world and I will end with this; I find it so discouraging that those in positions of leadership within our Church are so reluctant to lead. Where are they in promoting “life” for all people, not just in the womb, but for children and adults—all along the life continuum? Where are their voices when it comes to eliminating the real threat to life by the proliferation of guns in our society—where are they when it comes to valuing the lives of all our non-binary, LGBTQI+ folks—where, when it comes to taking lives by execution –many times innocent lives—where, when this country incarcerates black people at 5 times the rate of white people? I often wonder why these so-called Catholic leaders don’t drop “Christianity” from the names used to describe themselves.
My friends, as you can see, the right to a decent, good, and peace-filled life is so much broader than those who claim to be “pro-life” are willing to look at. When they can see beyond the beginning of life, they will acquire so much more credibility in the view of those who consider right-to-life from birth to death as the Good Shepherd did. Amen? Amen! Alleluia!