The gospel readings during these weeks after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord focus on discipleship. Since we believe that Scripture is the revealed truth of God, it should be something we take seriously because we take God seriously. The gospel of Mark we are reading these weeks describes discipleship as something requiring a serious commitment. Why? Because God has invited us to be His collaborators, his partners and colleagues, for the salvation of the world.
“Auxiliary discipleship” of Jesus, a term used by theologian David Garland to describe Christians who continues the pursuit of money, success, and life on their terms rather than the Lord’s, will severely limit our impact as God’s collaborators for the salvation of the world, something we are all called to by our baptism. Peter, Andrew, James, and John literally left everything behind and became God’s agents of the salvation brought into our world by Jesus. We are forever changed because of their commitment and willingness to take a risk to follow Jesus. Imagine what our world would look like if 2.2 billion Christians were seriously committed disciples. Fortunately, there are many committed Christian disciples in our world but there are also too many auxiliary ones, especially in North America. The Lord invites us to step forward in faith and deepen our commitment to be his disciples.
On January 29, the annual March for Life will take place in Washington, DC. The full legal protection of the unborn is the goal of those who participate in the march. It is the teaching of our Church that life begins at conception and science makes a compelling case in support of this teaching. The Creed we profess on Sundays expresses this belief when we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” This statement of faith proclaims that the Holy Spirit brings the divine spark of life to the embryo which remains until the end of life. Catholic teaching says that the human embryo is not a potential human being but a human being with potential. This belief informs our consistent ethic of life from conception to natural death and explains why we pray for and take action around a wide range of pro-life issues at St. Francis.
This consistent ethic of life from conception to natural death has generated a lot of controversy over the years in our nation and within our Church and challenges many of us in one way or another. The issues connected with each category of our consistent ethic of life from conception to natural death are very complex. Think of the range of thinking about abortion and the death penalty, to name but two categories.
I have grown in my appreciation of this complexity in my years of participation in Project Rachel, a post-abortion retreat for women and men that seeks healing for those who have had an abortion. This ministry has provided me a window into the often-agonizing complexities that are in play when a woman or couple discovers she is/they are pregnant. I am grateful the Church has a clear teaching on when life begins but also that it has a clear teaching on mercy and forgiveness, especially when an agonizing decision is made to terminate a pregnancy. There are many opportunities to be involved in this important ministry on behalf of the unborn. The March for Life this year will be largely virtual. You may view/participate in the March for Life via live streaming at https://marchforlife.org.You may support the work of our local pregnancy center, Birth Choice, or pray for our country for a greater reverence for the dignity of all life, especially the unborn. You may also support Project Rachel by your prayers, your presence, and/or your financial support for those desiring healing after an abortion at: https://projectrachelnc.org/.