Homily for the 2023 Walk for Life Vigil
Most Rev. Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento
St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, January 20, 2023
In the gospel, Jesus went up on a mountain. Then the gospel told us that Jesus “summoned those whom he wanted, and they came to him.” This event took place in the early part of his public ministry. From among his disciples, he chose twelve whom he named apostles. These chosen ones he sent forth to preach and gave them the authority to cast out demons. There was one other dimension to this calling. The gospel said they were chosen so that they might be with him, that they might be with Jesus.
Those who responded to the Lord’s invitation came to him. They went up the mountain to be close to the Lord Jesus. At that moment they did not know, nor could they have known, what it would mean to be with Jesus. They were not certain where he would lead them. Many of them may have held their own ideas and hopes about who Jesus was or where he would lead them. They could not have anticipated the path to Calvary.
When Jesus later spoke to them about the necessity to suffer and die, one of them, Simon Peter, would try to dissuade Jesus from this path. Simon Peter, like the other disciples, had something else in mind. Jesus quickly rebuked Simon Peter with strong words, “Get behind me, Satan.” In time and through the course of their journey with the Lord, the disciples would learn from Jesus the true path to life and salvation.
We have come here to this place, perhaps with our own hopes and expectations. We are gathered here for the sake of the gospel of life. We also have gathered here because we are among those whom Jesus wanted. We are here because the Lord Jesus has looked upon us with great mercy. He desires that we be with him like Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the others. Our own hopes and expectations diminish in the light of the Lord’s summons. That we are those whom he wants with him gives a new reason and purpose to this journey. We are here not to take up our own journey but to journey with the Lord Jesus wherever he may lead us.
We gather here in the name of the Lord Jesus. His invitation is our beginning. His wanting us is our destiny. Do not lose sight of this, though there may be many distractions or disappointments.
This past year has brought about a new moment in the journey to foster of culture of life in the hope of ending the practice of abortion and other sinful instruments of the throw-away society in which we live. The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade made clear the flawed and fatal logic that demeaned the dignity of the human person both for the unborn child as well as the woman. The child is a creation of God. The woman shares in God’s creative work. The innate human dignity of both was demeaned and distorted, leading to many lives extinguished and many lives wounded, all in the service of a hopeless and heartless ideology.
Political leadership and proponents of the abortion industry refused to take this opportunity to imagine a society without abortion and craft a new path to offer life and liberty for all. With a stubborn, recalcitrant blindness they campaigned for the lies and deceptions of Proposition One to imbed the destruction of innocent lives into the Constitution of California forging an intolerant blockade against any hopeful alternative for women and their children.
For this new moment on the journey to the Kingdom of God — a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace – we must return to the mountain of the Lord from where Jesus called those whom he wanted, and we must follow him where he leads us with wisdom and mercy. We were born for this. He has called us for this moment. Our own hopes and expectations may too easily be discouraged and embittered by rancorous rage and rivalries of public discourse. Too easily can we be tempted to let our purpose and methods be contaminated by discordant manners and demented methods of the day. Like those first disciples, we cannot predict when or in what manner the Lord Jesus will bring about his kingdom. We are called to remain faithfully in his company and seek to make his mercy and wisdom known to others.
The Lord Jesus has chosen us because he wants us to be with him. He is the one who inspires our preaching and teaching on the gospel of life. He is the one who empowers us to drive out the hopeless, ideological demons of abortion with the truth of charity and the charity of truth. The poverty and seeming insignificance of our efforts in the face of the powerful proponents of abortion should not dishearten us because of the company we keep. Jesus “our high priest has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant”, a covenant of life, liberty, and joy.
Photo: Mary Powers, Archdiocese of San Francisco