Seeking Justice And Mercy
In Matthew 5:3-12 we read the Beatitudes, which give a blueprint for Christian spirituality and therefore for the spirituality of being pro-life. In this column, let us reflect on how each beatitude illumines and strengthens our pro-life commitment.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs." When the Lord speaks about the poor in spirit, he is speaking about those for whom there is no help or hope but God Himself. God is the only hope for any of us, but when we have a lot of possessions, friends, and earthly protection, we are tempted to think that those are the things on which our spirits can ultimately rely. "Only in God be at rest my soul; from Him comes my help and salvation" (Psalm 62:1). Today nobody is more unsafe and unprotected than the child in the womb. Their plight makes even God ask, "Can a mother forsake her child?" (Isaiah 49:15) Yet the psalmist declares, "Though father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me" (Psalm 27:10). The unborn are the poorest of the poor, and God calls us to acknowledge and bless them.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." We are blessed indeed, if we mourn over our sins, and over the evils in the world, like the daily killing of children by abortion. When is the last time we shed tears over the shedding of blood, and wept for the lives of these babies killed and moms and dads wounded? Let us pray for the gift of those tears! Let us ask the Lord to give us a broken heart over abortion. That is where pro-life activism begins, because when our hearts are broken, they are humble. They are also open to the grace God wants to give us to do our part in ending this evil. And he will also give us comfort, as he brings justice to the world.
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." The meek person knows that God is the source of all he needs. The meek are strong and secure in their dependence on God. They will have a healthy ability to fight for their rights, but will not do so with an anxious need to dominate. In the Lord, they know they will inherit the earth.
The Culture of Death, on the contrary, is built on the idea that sometimes you have to do violence to advance your rights, your career, or your freedom. The violence of abortion is seen as a path to fulfillment. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice: they will be satisfied." This beatitude speaks to the heart of the pro-life movement. We seek justice first of all by seeking to be right with God and in all our relationships. We also seek justice by seeking to protect the rights of all, especially the weakest among us, our brothers and sisters in the womb. We are bless not merely by believing they have a right to life, but by feeling the hunger and thirst, the longing and yearning, that they be protected and that this right by recognized and secured by law. We also seek justice by working to extend healing and forgiveness to all who have been involved in abortion, that they too will be right with God and know peace.
"Blessed are they who show mercy; mercy shall be theirs." At the heart of our religion is the cry for mercy that we direct to the Lord. His mercy does not only mean his forgiveness for the wrong we have done, but also means his protection for us from the power of our spiritual and physical enemies. But when we seek and receive his mercy, we also incur the duty to extend that mercy to our brothers and sisters who depend on us to protect and rescue them. Those who need our mercy the most are the children in the womb. They have been deprived of the most basic protection of their lives. Blessed are they who show mercy. Blessed are they who speak up for these children and work to end abortion.
"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." This beatitude impels us to ask ourselves what our deepest longings and desires are, what motivates our choices, and how consistently we want to do what is right. The pure of heart seek to please God before they please themselves, even at the cost of great sacrifice. Having a pure heart protects us from the temptation of the culture of death. Meeting the needs of a vulnerable child in the womb requires a new and selfless center of gravity. We put the child first and our own plans and conveniences last. And when we speak up for that child, we stop worrying about the criticism we might receive. The pure of heart don't care about that. They only care about doing what is right.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Peace is more than the absence of war. The foundation of peace is justice, that everyone's rights are protected and everyone's dignity is recognized. Peace means that our relationship with God and one another are what they are supposed to be. To fight abortion, therefore, is one of the ways that we work for peace. Abortion completely oppresses and diminishes the rights of the child who is killed. Rather than foster right relationships, it destroys them, starting with the most basic relationship between a mother and her own child.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, the kingdom of heaven is theirs." Those who work for justice will always be persecuted by those who foster injustice. Those who work to preserve the most basic justice, that is protecting the right to life, are persecuted all the time, by both believers and non-believers. They are accused of having a narrow focus and a lack of compassion, while in reality the are focused on the most broad-based right of all and have compassion for the most vulnerable of all. Because they know this, pro-life activists can be at peace in the midst of the persecution. They need not be distracted, nor should they ever doubt themselves. The ridicule they endure is a promised blessing from above, the blessing of suffering for doing what is right.
"Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven." So many pro-life leaders I know including myself, have been falsely accused in public of advocating or even doing violence. Pregnancy centers, which compassionately serve parents and their babies every day have been falsely accused of deceiving the public. Activists who try to change the laws have been falsely accused of opposing democracy. The litany goes on and on, and proves that pro-life people are living this beatitude. They should rejoice for the reward in heaven indeed is great. The children, who cannot know how much pro-life people love them, cannot repay them. They will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.
Source: Fr. Frank Pavone,