By Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life. (Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, 1995.)
In Chapter 3 of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter uses a term that actually has great relevance for us today. He notes the supreme irony that the people of his day called for the release of a murderer, Barabbas, and handed over to death “the Author of Life,” (Acts 3:10) Jesus Christ. The life-versus-death contrast is very interesting. Peter did not call Jesus the “Author” of a book, a project, a great piece of music, or anything else. He calls Him the “Author of Life.” See how the things of the natural world decay and die, notice the effects of illness and age in our own bodies, look at all the sin and crime in the streets; the life-versus-death drama is in the very fabric of our world, and I can’t say that we humans always do so well in the fight. We need Someone to help us overcome these forces of deterioration, decay, and death all around us, and the only one most equipped to show us the way is the One who conquered death and now lives forever.
Let me tell you, as someone who experienced a serious car accident several years ago, perhaps I have a better appreciation of the “Author of Life” than most. My brothers tell me—I don’t remember it myself—that I was actually dead for 27 minutes in the hospital that night. The medical personnel had given up on trying to resuscitate me and could not explain my “resurrection” after being dead for so long, but I know Who it was that brought me back to life. Jesus wanted me here on this earth a little longer, and when the “Author of Life” gives you your life back, you can presume that there is a good reason for it.
God in His Mercy taught me a very fundamental lesson from that earth-shattering event of my life. He taught me in the depths of my being that human life, though fragile, is also sacred. I always knew the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life of course, but because of my own brush with death, I now understood as never before that Jesus is the only one who has “authority” (from which we get the term “Author”) over life and death, and I think I am more dedicated than ever to help in the effort to win this victory over death with Him.
My great priest friend of many decades, Msgr. Philip Reilly of Brooklyn, is the leader of a wonderful movement called Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. I don’t think that there is anyone in the whole world that has done more to save babies from abortion than this man. Surely he is one of the great witnesses of our time. Msgr. Reilly gets up early every day and says Mass for nuns in a monastery, then prays for more than an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament before he goes out to the nearest abortion center to pray and do sidewalk counseling. He fasts during his work and then returns home in the mid-afternoon to have a meal and begin his evening of helping the people he has kept from abortion that day. Monsignor has learned the truth of the Gospel that such demons as abortion do “not come out except by prayer and fasting.” (Mt 17:21)
Honestly, I think that the most extraordinary accomplishment of Msgr. Reilly has been his ability to get the Church, including many priests and bishops, out to the abortion centers of this country. He does it by centering his work on the “Author of Life” in the Eucharist and on Mary in the Rosary. The plan is simple, as all holy things are: he or a bishop celebrates Mass in the nearest parish to the abortion center and then leaves some people praying in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament while the rest of the people march to the abortion mill praying the Rosary. They finish with a moment of silent prayer for the abortion personnel and then return to the church for Benediction. It’s really that simple but innumerable conversions, turn-arounds, and clinic closures have resulted from these efforts, precisely because the “Author of Life” is brought by the faithful to the places of death, accompanied by Mary and her Rosary.
Dear friends, whenever we have the opportunity to defend innocent human life from destruction we must take it and not ever be silent in the face of so great an evil. We must dedicate ourselves to helping those institutions and people who work on the front lines of the culture wars and are struggling for the victory of life over the culture of death. As Catholics we are inescapably joined to the “Author of Life” in this struggle, particularly in our reception of the Sacraments and our devotion to the Eucharist, the source of the Church’s life and holiness. No matter how bad the fight seems to get, we have it on good authority that the life-versus-death drama ends in Life!
Lord of all and “Author of Life,” graciously let a ray of Your Life penetrate our darkened hearts and make us see the immense value of life around us. Allow us to be witnesses of the sanctity of life everywhere we go so that we may proclaim the victory of life in time and eternity. We ask this in Your most holy Name. Amen.
[Excerpted from: Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Jesus and Mary: In Praise of their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.: Huntington, Indiana, 2012.]