Even in the wake of 63 million lives lost since Roe v. Wade, Catholics have hope that Jesus transforms death into ‘steps toward his victory’
DETROIT — Advocates for the right to life will never give up proclaiming the dignity and value of the unborn because Jesus has won the war over sin and death, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said Jan. 23 during a special Mass for the Protection of the Unborn.
The Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit — with participants both in person and watching via livestream — marked the 48th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized abortion in the United States in 1973.
That decision, which led to the “legitimacy of the evil of abortion becoming woven into the fabric of our Constitution,” has resulted in more than 63 million lives lost in nearly five decades, yet Catholics and others refuse to allow such woe to have the last word, the archbishop said.
“We will not give up because we know we are victorious in Jesus Christ,” said the archbishop, who also serves as vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Life is invincible, more powerful than death. In Christ, life has triumphed. Christ has overcome. He is the Lord. He is in charge of history, and he will make everything work unto his purpose for the accomplishment of God’s will to restore creation.”
Archbishop Vigneron remarked that the anniversary was “certainly a sad occasion,” but also a chance for pro-life Catholics to reflect upon Christ’s victory.
“The great power of Jesus Christ is that he is able to take even what might seem like the failures of the last 48 years and he transforms them into steps toward his victory,” Archbishop Vigneron said.
The Mass at the cathedral followed other local pro-life events, including a rosary led the night before by Fr. John Carlin, associate pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Lake Orion, in the days leading up to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., scheduled to take place virtually this year on Jan. 29.
The archbishop expressed his appreciation toward those in the pro-life community who “tirelessly” work to uphold the dignity of life. He echoed USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez, who said earlier in the week that the injustice of abortion “remains the preeminent priority” of the bishops conference.
Reflecting upon the day’s liturgical readings, Archbishop Vigneron noted that both Isaiah in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament faced disappointment and challenges in their quest to change hearts and minds.
Although God anointed Isaiah to preach His word to the unrepentant Jewish people, the great prophet still struggled with feelings of failure, the archbishop noted.
“Isaiah himself felt useless because the enemy was so powerful,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “The forces arrayed against God and God’s purpose were so strong. And ‘yet, my reward is with the Lord,’ Isaiah says. ‘My recompense is with my God.’ That ‘yet’ functions as a great hinge in Isaiah’s reflection.”
Isaiah’s great trust in God’s promise and plan led him to realize that while all seemed lost, his struggles were not in vain.
“God used Isaiah to accomplish a purpose far beyond Isaiah’s own expectations,” the archbishop said. “He used Isaiah to accomplish His plan for the reconciliation of the whole human race.”
What Isaiah foreshadowed, Jesus brings to perfection as the anointed son of God, Archbishop Vigneron said. But even Jesus wrestled with struggle and feeling disheartened.
“We think of all the times the disciples disappointed him,” the archbishop said. “‘Have I been with you so long and you still don’t understand?’ How frustrated he was with the scribes and pharisees. And then we come to the very heart of his life — the holy Triduum, Gethsemane. Jesus sweating blood as he faced his cross. Jesus on the cross crying out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And like Isaiah, there is that moment of ‘yet,’ that pivot — when finally Jesus on the cross says, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’”
Just as Jesus was vindicated through his resurrection from the dead, so all Christians have the sure hope of vindication in the face of unspeakable evil, Archbishop Vigneron said.
“We feel our own weakness, our own impotence in the face of the forces arrayed against us,” he said. “It has always been that way for Christians.”
“It has been many long years that we have struggled to vindicate the right to life. Soon, it will be five decades,” the archbishop continued. “And we will not give up because there is in our hearts this saying: ‘yet,’ which Isaiah spoke and which lived on the lips of Jesus.”
The surest sign of the hope to which Catholics can cling is the Eucharist that’s celebrated each day on the altar, he said.
“In the holy Eucharist, we receive the very strength of Jesus to fight the power of death,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “And besides strength, we’re given a promise, a pledge. In eating his flesh and drinking his risen blood, we taste the victory for which we aim. The victory, perhaps not tomorrow — we don’t know when — but the victory will be accomplished in Christ Jesus.
“We have a pledge that we will not have struggled in vain. It cannot be in vain, because Christ is risen.”