For Sunday, January 22, 2012
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
In an astonishing editorial published on Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Rajendra Kale, the Editor-in-Chief, called for an end to revealing the sex of a child before thirty weeks of pregnancy. The provocative title of his essay ("It's a girl!"—could be a death sentence) highlights the fact that among certain ethnic communities in Canada, knowing the sex of an unborn child places that infant at risk for abortion because boys are more valued than girls.
Dr. Kale originally comes from India. Previously, he had been the senior editor at the British Medical Journal before taking his present position in Canada in 2008. He cites data that is just beginning to be analyzed in suggesting that sex-selection abortion rates are increasing among families of Asian ethnicity in Canada. Dr. Kale suggests that the common practice of aborting females in countries like India and China is now having an effect in Canada (and in the United States). You can read Dr. Kale's provocative editorial at: www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2012/01/16/cmaj.120021.
While Dr. Kale does not share the same religious convictions about the evils of abortion that infuse the Catholic tradition, he does writes in his editorial, "Should female feticide in Canada be ignored because it is a small problem localized to minority ethnic groups? No. Small numbers cannot be ignored when the issue is about discrimination against women in its most extreme form. This evil devalues women."
Reaction in Canada has been swift and intense. While some advocates express complete disagreement with Dr. Kale's position, insisting that the right to know is enshrined as a basic right, others propose education as a way of influencing the cultural values that lead to this imbalance in abortion.
Unfortunately, no one quoted in news reports upheld the Catholic position that abortion is wrong altogether. Newspapers and radio programs weren't interested in that perspective. Abortion is portrayed as a perfectly acceptable practice, as long as it is accomplished equally, killing both boys and girls in roughly equitable distribution. Dr. Kale's arguments are good, as far as they go. But they do not address the larger problems of abortion in general, and the lack of support for women who are pregnant.
In our own country, the Catholic Church has been very good at getting out the message about the evils of abortion. The anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court always gives us another opportunity to reiterate the value of life.
Most people have a pretty clear idea that Catholics are against abortion. But we have been less competent at helping people understand what we are for. Being pro-life means that we are not only concerned about the child developing in a mother's womb, but that we are also concerned about the mother and the father (whether he is absent or present). It means that we are concerned about the child's education and health care throughout his or her lifetime. It means that we are concerned about whether the mother, the father, and the baby that is conceived will have enough food, a decent place to live, and the possibility of a family supporting job. Being pro-life means that we are willing to advocate with our legislators on a whole range of issues that affect the well-being of human persons from conception to natural death.
In this weekend's first reading, we encounter Jonah, that very reluctant prophet. At first, he was not interested in carrying out the Lord's will, so much so that he fled the other way, until he was thrown up on the shore from the belly of a great fish. Jonah finally did what the Lord required, by going through Nineveh with a message of repentance.
I sometimes think that we are like Jonah. We'll do as much of God's will as we are comfortable with. We might take up the anti-abortion banner, but do nothing to work for adequate health care for everyone. Or we'll crusade to feed the poor, but not care that some of those who live in poverty freely get abortions. Or we'll demand that jobs be created, but not be willing to pay taxes to educate young people for new kinds of work. We'll adhere to a cause that garners some interest, yet ignore other aspects of Catholic social teaching that are just as integral to the total pro-life message.
In the end, Jonah learned that God's demands—all of them—applied to him as well. When Jesus calls his disciples, as he does in this Sunday's Gospel, it is not an invitation to choose only those parts of his message that we like. He calls us to follow him completely, and to not turn back, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
We are called to be pro-life—consistently and in every situation—and to work for the end of death sentences, whether for unborn children, starving adults, condemned criminals, or vulnerable elderly. Death has no place in a culture of life!
who brings us into being
and sustains us with your Spirit,
give us the strength and courage
to follow the teaching of your Son,
protecting and supporting all the living
from birth to natural death.
After our faithful service on earth,
bring us one day to the fullness of life in your presence.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on January 18 and continues through January 25. Resources are available from several sources, including the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20110414_week-prayer-2012_en.html) and from the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute (www.geii.org/). Many dioceses encourage communal prayer to bring an end to the scandal of separation among Christians.
The North American Forum on the Catechumenate is hosting a webinar on January 24, on "Receiving the Baptized: A Ministry of Unity." To learn more about it, and to register for the event, visit: www.naforum.org/wordpress/event/receiving-the-baptized-a-ministry-of-unity/.
COLLECTION FOR THE CHURCH IN LATIN AMERICA
Many dioceses will take up the 2012 collection for the Church in Latin America on the weekend of January 21–22. Resources for this USCCB-mandated collection can be found at: http://usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/latin-america/collection/index.cfm.
FORMING CONSCIENCES FOR FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP
Bulletin articles, podcasts, Scripture study, lesson plans, discussion guides, and worship ideas are all available from the USCCB in this election year. Make it a New Year's resolution to plan how you will use these resources in your parish in this election year. You can access all of these items at: http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/.
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