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The Holy Eucharist: The Center of the Prolife Movement
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Tonight we are beginning the Eucharistic Vigil for the sanctity of human life. This vigil is occasioned by the United Nations Conference in Beijing, China, which begins on September 4th and will end on September 15th. The immediate purpose of this vigil, therefore, is to pray that all nations of the world gathered in Beijing may recognize the sanctity of human life from conception to a natural death. But the larger and more universal purpose of the vigil is to open the eyes of believing Catholics to their indispensable role in reconverting the world to faith in the Holy Eucharist as the irreplaceable means of converting whole nations from the darkness of a culture of death to the light of a culture of life.
My own contribution to this vigil is to present six conferences beginning this evening on the following subjects:
As we open our Eucharistic Vigil, it is useful to get our bearings. What exactly do we want to learn during these days of Eucharistic prayer? We want to see what is the providential reason for the global genocide in the modern world. And we hope to learn how we are to respond to this mysterious providence of God.
We who have the true faith believe that nothing ever happens by chance. The massive culture of death that has invaded the minds of whole nations must somehow have a divinely ordained purpose. As Saint Paul tells us, where sin has abounded, there grace will even more abound. Who would doubt that sin is abounding on a level and with a depth of evil never before experienced in human history? Our faith tells us that consequently God has stores of His grace for the future. But there is one proviso. We must be able to see why the present evil of world genocide is permitted by God. We must be able to see, as we have never seen before, the true meaning of human life in this world as a prelude to the eternal life for which we were made.
The key to seeing this is a deeper understanding of the Holy Eucharist, which is Jesus Christ, and of His Mother Mary, without whom there would be no Eucharist, because there would be no Jesus Christ.
There are some basic presuppositions that we must first assume. Thus we take it for granted that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church the fullness of Divine Revelation:
We further assume that the future success of the Prolife Movement finally depends on believing Catholics, who understand their faith, put it into practice, and take the leadership in this movement.
We further take it for granted that the forces behind the pro-death movement are not merely human but demonic. It is imperative to understand, as Christ reminds us, that the devil was a murderer from the beginning. The evil spirit has remained a murderer all through human history, and he is the real leader behind the philosophy of homicide which now pervades whole nations of what we still call a civilized world.
In the light of the foregoing, we must therefore draw on superhuman resources in the Prolife Movement. Another name for superhuman resources is the resources of Divine Grace. Not to know this is not even to begin to understand why God is allowing so many millions to be mesmerized by the culture of death.
These superhuman resources are what we call actual graces. They are graces of illumination for the mind and graces of inspiration for the will. Either these graces are received and cooperated with or, as so many are pessimistically saying, the prevailing culture of death is the last stage of world history and the dawn of the end of the world.
Only one question remains: how are these indispensable graces to be obtained from God? They are to be obtained by prayer, from the sacraments, and by living a holy, and I mean holy life. But then we further ask: in the last analysis what is the foundation for all these resources of grace? The question we have just asked should better read: who is the real source of these graces? It is Jesus Christ.
Here we touch on what I believe is the main lesson that God wants to teach us from the cosmic evil of world homicide. He wants to teach us that He, the God-man, is on earth, in our midst, and wants us to come to Him and obtain from Him what only He can give, the light and strength to not only survive in this culture of death but actually thrive as we go through our life here on earth en route to our heavenly homeland.
We believe that God became man to die on the cross for our salvation. But we also believe that God became man in order to live among us. Another term for the God-man living among us is the Holy Eucharist. What are saying? We are saying that the Infinite God took on human flesh and blood in order that He might shed His blood and die on the cross for our redemption. But that was only the beginning. The night before He died Christ changed the bread and wine into His own living humanity. However, He did more. Immediately after, He ordained His apostles to the priesthood and thereby instituted the Sacrament of the Priesthood in order to give them the power to keep the Holy Eucharist on earth until the end of time.
Once we say that the Holy Eucharist is Jesus Christ, we immediately see that it is He who is the final source of the graces which the world needs to not only cope with the culture of death but to promote the culture of life.
There is some value in making more clear what we mean when we say that the Holy Eucharist is the principal source of the graces we need. The impact of the pro-death philosophy is devastating in its consequences. Once you accept and approve the right to kill innocent human beings, whether unborn or born, you open the door to every other crime of which selfish human nature is capable. The very meaning of law is obliterated. Once the state legalizes abortion, euthanasia, and suicide, what is left of any other legislation by the same authority?
What we, therefore, first need from Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is to make sense of this demonic way of thinking which has so deeply penetrated into the highest circles of our society. Before we can even think of resisting this inhuman ideology, we must be convinced that it is inhuman and, indeed, diabolical. Only Christ, the Divine Exorcist, can teach us that possession by the evil spirit is prevalent in our day as never before in human history. In conversation, some time ago, with the chief exorcist of Rome, I asked him, How is it that the devil is so extraordinarily active and successful in our day? He told me, It is because so many people have become bewitched by the pleasures and satisfaction which the world offers them. They have therefore become victims of the prince of this world, which is the devil.
We are still reflecting on the first reason why faith in Jesus Christ, living on earth, in the Holy Eucharist is so necessary. However, what we need is not only light from Him to understand the meaning and gravity of this culture of murder. We also need the strength of will to remain even psychologically alive in this atmosphere of death that we are constantly breathing. We further need the strength to cope with this atmosphere and to do all we can to remove this deadly ozone which is destroying not only millions of innocent human lives but, as we may believe, millions of human souls.
Hopes for the Future
All that we have been saying about the graces that Jesus Christ is ready to give us through the Holy Eucharist applies to the future and not only to the present and past. What are the principal blessings that the Eucharistic Christ is offering us, if we may say it, as a result of the pro-death uncivilization in which we are living today? They are mainly two: a deep understanding and extraordinary living of the virtues of charity and chastity. Needless to say this calls for some explanation.
Whatever else the pro-death mentality reveals it is the very opposite of the Christian understanding of charity. Christ told his followers they are to love one another even as He has loved them. He is now telling us that we are to love others after the example that He gave on Calvary. Out of love for others we are to be willing to lay down our lives. We are to be ready to suffer death so that others may live. Saint Maximilian Kolbe is only a recent, well-known example of what this means. He allowed himself to be killed by his Nazi executioner so that another man, the father of a family, might be spared the death to which he was condemned.
At the root of the philosophy of homicide is the direct opposite to Christs teaching. Here self-love becomes so strong that it is ready, shall I say happy, to murder another person who would place a burden on my desire for pleasure and/or might be the cause of pain or displeasure to me. On these premises, unborn children are killed because the murdering parents wish to escape the burden of pregnancy, all the labor pains of childbirth, or the effort of raising and training a family. Those in old age are being eradicated because, so the population experts tell us, they are useless to society. Those who are suffering some painful sickness or are victims of some agonizing disease are to be mercifully put to death, either by their own hands or those of their loving relatives and friends, to spare them the prospect of further pain. In every single case, the atheism of death has this one underlying principle: thou shalt love thyself even unto the death of thy neighbor.
We who believe that God so loved the world that He did not spare even His only Son from the death of the Cross, understand the meaning of charity. Who alone can teach us what this charity means? Only the Eucharistic Christ who is Incarnate Love living for us in the Holy Eucharist. Who can give us the strength we need to love others when others are ready to kill us? Again only Jesus Christ, in the Holy Eucharist, who made the Eucharist possible by dying for us on the Cross.
Now we turn to chastity. The root cause of the crime of abortion is the practice of contraception. Over the centuries every contraceptive society has become an abortive society. When Pope Paul VI, in 1968, published Humanae Vitae, he said that contraception leads to abortion. In that same year, more than one assembly of bishops declared themselves unwilling to accept the mandate of the Vicar of Christ and told their people to just follow their own, self-enlightened conscience. Is it any wonder that so many professed Catholics are also pro-choice on the destruction of unborn human life?
The virtue of chastity is more than sexual self-control. It is also, and mainly, the practice of charity. We love God so deeply that, out of love for Him, we sacrifice the deep humanly satisfying pleasure which this same God has reserved only for those who are married and do not exclude the prospect of conception from their marital intercourse. As believers in Christ, we love others so selflessly that we do not use them to satisfy ourselves sexually. As the virtue of chastity weakens, the practice of charity is weakened accordingly. As chastity is discarded, charity disappears. In its place self-love even to the injustice of murder becomes the human policy.
Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is our principal Hope for the practice of what, I sincerely believe, is the heroic charity and chastity that we must practice if we are to remain faithful to Him in our homicidal age. This is the Age of Martyrs. Christ, the First Martyr, is with us. He is ready and willing to give us all we need to love others as He has loved us and to live lives of loving chastity out of love for Him. All that we need is faith in Him, Our God who became man, and who dwells among us in the Holy Eucharist.
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