One time, when I was 24, I went to see my family doctor. In the waiting room, I noticed some posters describing abortion as an option for pregnancies. When I saw my doctor, I asked if she recommended abortions. She said she personally didn’t want women to have one, but would allow them to make the choice. We discussed it for a while and that was that.
[Watch Fr. Justin’s homily delivery here.]
A few days later, I talked to my friend, Stephanie Gray, and she recommended that I write my doctor, to point out the inconsistencies of her position. Stephanie suggested that I was probably the only one in my doctor’s life who would have this kind of conversation with her. I hesitated because it was uncomfortable; I had never written anything like this and wondered if it would work. I was even a little angry at her suggestion, not because it was wrong, but because it was difficult.
I actually found this letter, dated July 2, 2004. I first apologized to my doctor if our conversation had made her uncomfortable, but then asked some questions: Why are you uncomfortable with abortion but believe some people can morally choose it? If you think it’s wrong, then isn’t it wrong for everyone? And, if you think it’s wrong, why would you recommend another doctor to help? Finally, if you think it’s wrong, why do you turn that part of yourself off when dealing with your patients? Also, I decided I wouldn’t go back to her because I wanted to find a doctor who was truly pro-life.
Speaking unpopular truths is generally never easy for us. We’ve talked many times about how we censor ourselves because some teachings of Jesus are politically incorrect.
Let’s go to the First Reading and listen to the call of Jonah to preach against the city of Nineveh. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord” (Jon 3:1-3).
Notice the clarity of the call. There’s no ambiguity here. In the same way, we sometimes hear in our hearts a call from God to speak a hard truth. That clarity is something we have to face.
Jonah received the call ‘a second time’ because God called him once before but he resisted it, and three times the text says that he fled ‘from the presence of the Lord’ (Jon 1:3,10). We all resist God’s call but He uses every means to bring us back to Him, to send us on mission. Only after Jonah resisted and fought with God, and finally had a death and resurrection experience (John Bergsma & Brant Pitre, A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament, 922) did he accept God’s call. This can also happen to us: With grace, we can accept His call.
Next, the text says, “Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’” (Jon 3:3-4).
Keep in mind that Nineveh is Jonah’s enemy. Jonah is Jewish and Nineveh is the capital of their Assyrian enemies. So, when God calls us to speak the truth, we’re often preaching against our enemies, in the sense that their world view is opposed to God’s. Other times, we’re preaching to our family and friends, and there’s tension.
Furthermore, our words are strong like Jonah’s, words of justice: ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ Two Saturdays ago, a young lady asked me a question: She had been wrestling with Who God is: Is He more concerned with justice, as in the Old Testament, or with mercy, like Jesus? The answer is both. God is love, and mercy and justice are one in Him. He always does what’s best for us, and sometimes we experience His love as justice and other times as mercy. Dr. Robert Stackpole says, “God’s justice is always exercised with mercy, and His mercy is never unjust”.
Here’s the thing: When we’re young, we can’t appreciate mercy until we have a sense of sin and justice. When I was in elementary school, I heard about a teacher who gave idle threats. When all the kids were misbehaving, she shouted, “Alright, that’s one minute of detention after class.” You know how the students responded? “Oooh….” They didn’t take her seriously. The same is true when God teaches humans: If we don’t understand how bad sin is, mercy will mean nothing to us.
The last part of the Reading says, “And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it” (Jon 3:5,10).
The people responded the way God was hoping! They changed their moral conduct and apologized for their wrongs. Here we see that the Old Testament God of justice is also one of mercy. In fact, God’s repeated forgiveness of pagan nations sometimes frustrated some Jewish people! They wanted God to punish their enemies, but He would forgive them (The Didache Bible, 1149).
We’re now in our annual pro-life parish season. For those of you who have just started praying with us, please keep in mind that our parish has been speaking about pro-life for many years and we’re much more comfortable discussing this issue than before; and whenever I ask people if they want to grow and be challenged, they always say, “Yes!” When we talk about abortion, it’s for two reasons: 1) to stop the killing of preborn babies; 2) so that people turn away from sin. But we need to start with the truth.
Here is a graph of the causes of death in the world since the start of 2021 until Jan. 22, according to Worldometers:
According to this, abortion is the number one cause of death in the world. Protecting against COVID-19 is important and we should continue the fight. However, simply from a numerical point of view, ending abortion is more important, because it’s causing more deaths. Yet, there’s a problem: When many of us talk, we talk as if COVID-19 is the biggest problem of our time. Why the incongruency? It’s reported that 1.5% of abortions take place for reasons of rape and incest, and this is the common reason for allowing abortions, but that barely changes the graph. Even if people insist that these cases are morally permissible, shouldn’t they fight against 74% of the cases when people say it would dramatically change their life? Is that a valid reason for taking a life? For the sake of consistency, if more people were dying of COVID-19 than abortion in the same time span, I would dedicate more time, energy, and prayer to ending that. But there’s still a fundamental difference between contracting COVID-19 and abortion. Contracting COVID-19 usually isn’t deliberate; people don’t try to infect people; they might be careless, which is wrong, but it’s rarely intentional. In abortion, however, it’s always a direct taking of a life; in Canada, you’re permitted by law to do it if you want, and that’s wrong.
Changing our attitudes and behaviour because of the facts is hard, because most people don’t like these facts. But I believe the facts are clear. I think God’s message is also clear, and we need to wrestle with it. That’s our duty as people who try to live according to truth. The first thing I’d ask you to consider is joining us for 40 Days for Life this year. Here are some pictures of what we do:
We publicly stand up for the right to life, pray silently for an end to abortion, and don’t confront people. The sign-up will be on our website next weekend. The second thing that I’d like to propose is that we actually show images of what abortion does. Two years ago, I suggested that we show the reality of abortion, and I received a lot of feedback: The vast majority of people supported it, with the caution that parents should be warned first so that they can make the decision about their children’s viewing these images or not.
All deaths are tragic, and all murders wrong. But, when an injustice is invisible, it’s easier to ignore it. When we saw an officer’s knee on George Floyd’s neck, the world was rightfully shocked. When people have the courage to look at what abortion actually is, then something inside us changes—that’s what happened to me: Once I saw it, I couldn’t go along with the crowd anymore. When we look at the graph of causes of death, most people think that the babies killed by abortion aren’t really people—images will prove that idea wrong.
God’s call is clear. Jonah followed God’s call, and the people of Nineveh repented! We end now with a short testimony about God’s justice and mercy.
Hi. My name is Eric. While I am reluctant to share my personal experiences in public, since becoming devoted to Jesus, I have felt compelled to tell this story.
When I was younger, I got the person whom I was with, pregnant.
She was unsure of what to do, so I made the decision for both of us and decided on having an abortion. I was 24. She was 20. As I now reflect back, I realise the only reason I chose to terminate the life of my own child was because it was going to inconvenience my life by placing a burden on me, a burden for which I didn’t think I was ready.
Another truth is, until I started believing in Jesus, the abortion never bothered me at all. In fact, I almost never thought about it all these years. At heart, I’d like to believe I am a family man. I have always wanted a family as I have now with two children, but when I had my first chance, I chose to terminate. The thinking was, for me, there was always more time.
Then three years ago I was seriously injured while playing ice hockey. It left me very close to full paralysis. I required surgery through my neck to get to my spine. The end result was a left arm that couldn’t move. In the months after, I realised how so very close I came to not getting a chance to having the family that I always envisioned for myself.
The truly damning part was how according to the infinite wisdom of our contemporary culture, nothing was wrong with any of it. Not the killing, not the choices, and most certainly, nothing wrong with the end. Welcome to contemporary Canada.
I could start to see everything wrong with the way we’re educating people. Nothing wrong with casual sex when you’re 15, just use birth control. Nothing wrong if birth control fails, just get an abortion. Nothing wrong with abortion. Everyone says it’s OK. And the biggest lie of all, there is nothing wrong with killing your baby. It’s just a bunch of cells.
I started searching for a better way. As my search was leading me to Jesus, my wife now, Sandra, became pregnant. This time I heard the “abortion is always a choice” from certain family members. The honest truth was, it started to cross my mind. Was this always going to be the path forward for my family? That every time one were to become pregnant, the first question would be, “should I abort?” If the conditions weren’t perfect, “should I abort?” If I didn’t have enough money, if the man wasn’t perfect, if the baby wasn’t perfect, if I have a vacation planned for eight months later, “should I abort?” This cannot be the way for any family to exist. There is no future in this. So I did what I never thought I would do. I trusted in Jesus. As I read more, I started believing the truth of everything He taught. When my daughter was born, my arm was around 60% strong. I couldn’t lift heavy objects, but it was just good enough to carry a newborn. As she got heavier, my arm got stronger. Always just strong enough to carry out the duties required of me as a father. Now that she’s a big healthy child, my arm feels almost as strong as it used to be. God, in His mercy, was granting me an incredible chance to right my sinking ship.
As mentioned earlier, since following Jesus, I have felt compelled to tell this story. While God has forgiven me, this must never be forgotten. If this even gives one person the courage to speak out against abortion, my privacy is irrelevant. I also hope it recharges all who are against abortion to remember the importance of the cause. I look at my daughter and son now and not only do I see them, I see lives that will come from them. When I terminated my child, I didn’t just kill my child, I terminated the uncountable number that would have followed him or her. This action will undoubtedly be one of the darkest chapters of my family history, but it must never be forgotten, and more importantly, it must never happen again. It is because of this that I have come to Jesus and will dedicate my life to ensuring my family stay His course. God bless you all, especially those of you who find the courage to speak the truth against the evil tragedy that is abortion.