My friend, Stephanie Gray, wrote the following: “Aaron called me out. And so he should have. I was being unkind. We were strangers who happened to meet near a pro-life exhibit. We started discussing abortion and I could sense feelings welling up inside me—feelings of judgment, annoyance, and frustration towards him. And I let those feelings spill over into my interaction … until Aaron finally said, ‘You’re not like the other guy… You’re being mean.’”
Can you think of a time when you got emotional when the subject of abortion came up? Maybe we got angry that the other person wasn’t seeing the truth of abortion. Maybe we got angry that the other person wasn’t compassionate.
Stephanie uses this in her book Love Unleashes Life: Abortion and the Art of Communicating Truth as an example of how conversations about abortion aren’t about winning arguments, but about interacting with another soul.
So, before we get into pro-life arguments, which we’ll cover in the following weeks, we have to start with the pro-life attitude. Today we’re going to focus on the Beatitudes in the Gospel, because these are the qualities of love for which we aim as Catholics and pro-lifers. After Aaron called out Stephanie, she did the right thing and apologized, and changed her tone. However, she didn’t back down from the pro-life position, because the Beatitudes teach us that we need to be morally strong. Yet, she had more compassion. If we want to love as Jesus taught us, then we should briefly reflect on the eight Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt 5:3): To be poor in spirit means that we know we need God. We’re not that strong, smart, or holy. In terms of pro-life witnessing, some of us in the past have been arrogant, some of us have been cowardly. We really need God for ourselves and to be witnesses to others.
Because we aim to be poor in spirit, we never condemn anyone who’s had an abortion. We’re all sinners, and, as many people know, we’ve already had three people in our parish family share about their abortions, and our love for them is the same for everyone.
“Blessed are those who mourn” (Mt 5:4): Mourning here doesn’t mean to be sad about just anything. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, He did so because He saw something He loved turn away from God.
To mourn, in the Biblical mentality, means to grieve over sin, like abortion.
“Blessed are the meek” (Mt 5:5): St. Matthew tell us that Jesus was ‘meek’ when He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, because, at that time, the animal for war and for kings was the horse.
So, to overcome abortion, we need to speak up and witness, but our primary means must be prayer and fasting.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mt 5:6). Let’s pause on this one. To be a loving person, we need to desire what is right. This is why so many spiritual authors criticize ‘being nice,’ because nice people are so chill, and do the minimum in terms of what is right. They don’t confront evil and challenge people to be morally perfect the way Jesus did—this is moral laziness.
However, when we hunger, we can’t rest until we eat; we feel pain that God’s will isn’t being done—that’s what ‘righteousness’ means, God’s will, not what is trendy. As we’ve talked about many times, our culture keeps shifting what is the most pressing issue. In 2015, it was the Syrian refugee crisis; in 2018, with wildfires in California, it was climate change; in 2020, Black Lives Matter; 2021, residential schools. The world shifts from tragedy to tragedy, perhaps to make ourselves feel like we’re good people. Yet, most of these tragedies are no longer highlighted. This is not righteousness.
Four years ago, I pointed out that the world should be focusing on the war in Yemen. Why? Because even today the United Nations writes that, “[Yemen] is now the largest humanitarian crisis in the world”. But the Yemeni people aren’t important to our media. So, righteousness must be consistent: Who is in greatest need? Who is the most defenseless?
“Blessed are the merciful” (Mt 5:7): In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows us that true mercy responds to anyone in need, physically and especially spiritually, which includes people who promote abortions, because they need truth and love.
Stephanie writes, “When you speak with people about abortion… sometimes people appear angry, but… it’s often a mask for another emotion, like sadness or embarrassment. Maybe they’ll start to realize their arguments are flawed. Maybe they’ll have an epiphany about an abortion they were involved with… Remember those times you had similar feelings, remember the painful reactions of people around you who made it worse, and make sure you never, ever, treat anyone like that” (23).
“Blessed are the pure in heart… Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:8,9): In 1979, during her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, St. Mother Teresa said that those who see God in each other are the pure in heart, and that we will be judged on how we treat the poor, hungry, naked, and homeless. And then she spoke about abortion as the greatest destroyer of peace (Please watch this video at 9:04-9:34, 9:54-11:01, 11:39-12:52). For statements like this, one article called her a ‘heartless b_tch”, and the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote a book about her with an insulting title, but this is a normal outcome, because Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Mt 5:10). If we truly love people, then we will be persecuted. Love means wanting what’s good for the other, not what feels good for them. If we love people, we will speak the truth, even if that doesn’t make them feel good.
For your information, we’re going to do our annual 40 Days for Life prayer vigil, starting on Feb. 23, 2023 the day after Ash Wednesday.
Please think about joining us, and, for the next three weeks, we’ll invite everyone to sign up for this act of love. If you have any questions, please talk to Cyrena from our parish who’s in charge of the vigil.
We finish with a video from Stephanie, when she went to Google Headquarters in 2017. God bless them for even inviting her! The video has 335,000 views so far, and Steph said that it was received very well by the audience. In this clip, please notice how Stephanie lives out Jesus’ eight Beatitudes: She’s clear, pro-life, and loving. And the story she shares about Debbie is equally clear, pro-life, and loving. This should be our pro-life attitude (Please watch 50:29-53:01).