Mass for Life 2015

Published: January 18, 2015

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the annual Mass for Life at the Statehouse Convention Center ballroom in Little Rock on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. It is based on the readings for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B.

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Bishop Taylor

What brought you here today? Not a single one of you just showed up here by chance. Some of you came as participants in our Youth Extravaganza with other teenagers from your parish. How many of you are here for the first time? Welcome! Others of you began coming to this Mass for Life years ago. But none of you came here by chance. You came in response to a call from God — the very source of life, sort of like the vocation stories we had in our Scripture readings today.

In our first reading we have the call of Samuel while he was still a youth. Actually, God already had a plan for him from the first moment of his conception. His call kept waking him up at night. When it happened the first time he thought what he was sensing was of merely human origin, and the same when it happened the second and third time. He thought that Eli the priest wanted him to do something, but Eli said it wasn't him: it was God, the very source of life, who was calling and the next time he felt the call, Samuel should say to God, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."

I'll bet some of you young people have had that same experience ... maybe some of you older participants too. A tug in your heart that won't go away, which you don't understand the first time it happens, or even the second or third time, and which may feels kind of scary because you sense that this feeling you are having is not of human origin. You can already tell that this call to a fuller life is somehow from God. Actually, it derives from something God has planted in you from the first moment of your conception! You want to ignore it but the tug in your heart keeps coming back.

Hebrew names have a literal meaning and Samuel can mean "God listens" or "He listens to God.”

Hebrew names have a literal meaning and Samuel can mean "God listens" or "He listens to God.” Both meanings of that name should describe us too. God listens to our prayers and we try to listen to God. The reason we've gathered here today is to pray for the unborn to a God who listens because we have listened to God regarding the sanctity of life and responded to his call to give witness to it and defend it.

But don't forget, the call of God embraces all of life. God called Samuel to give witness to him on many matters, because everything having to do with fidelity to God, the source of life, is interconnected. The same is true for us whom Jesus calls to follow him today.

We see a similar thing going on in our Gospel. Two men who had already made an initial response to God's call — they were followers of John the Baptist — were redirected by John to Jesus. Then one of them, Andrew, gets his brother Simon Peter and then all three of them leave everything to follow Jesus. Maybe some of you are experiencing the same thing: you've already made an initial response to God's call, you've gotten really involved, maybe in a single area of Church life ... and now it seems that the Lord is redirecting you to something that is much more demanding, a more complete, deeper and more committed response — a call to leave everything to follow Jesus too.

Some of you may be like those two former disciples of John the Baptist — already committed, at least part way. Others of you are like Peter, brought to the Lord — or at least to this Mass — by someone you know. Maybe this is your first experience of God's call.

Pope Francis has designated 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life in order to promote religious vocations. I would say especially female religious vocations--you women bring gifts of tenderness that our world needs desperately. But also vocations to the diocesan priesthood and to male religious orders. We live in a world where this radical witness to the Gospel of Life is desperately needed.

As Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium: "The defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every human right ... a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development ... Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the whims of the powers that be."

Since everything having to do with fidelity to God is interconnected, our response to God's call to give witness to the sanctity of life today begins with Mass, with prayer to God who listens, and then challenges us to listen to God like Samuel did, to God who uses moments like these not only to invite us to follow Jesus more closely, but indeed to embrace fully our own role in God's plan — that call which God has planted in you from the first moment of your conception. That's the only pro-life witness that is really complete! "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."