40 Days ’09: Hours 1 and 2

One of my favorite people in the world is Father Mike, who led the blessing last night to kick off 40 Days for Life. As he invoked the Holy Spirit, the wind picked up on an otherwise still, peaceful and beautiful night, a generous sign.

What struck me in the prayer he offered was the dignity of the human person flowing through it. We prayed, of course, for protection and safety and sanctity for all who will pray there for the next 950-some hours now, and for protection for those in danger of abortion. But we prayed also for all the women contemplating abortion because they are scared or angry or desperate or frustrated, that they will get the help they need. We prayed that God would bless those who provide abortions there. We prayed for all those who would be angry at our presence.

That’s no great credit to us. That’s the standard of Christian life, which I fail to meet often enough. Only God’s grace turns an obscene gesture directed your way into an invitation to prayer for that person in your heart.

I mention it because that prayer is profoundly true, and we don’t see clearly what we’re doing until we see that. A lot of times the Gospel of Life gets reduced to something less than it is, or even distorted into something else. For some, it becomes exclusively a political slogan. For others, it is reduced to saying “abortion is bad!” (Well, duh.)

But the Gospel of Life begins in the Gospel. Its fundamental point is the awesome dignity of every human life, that God made that person specifically to reflect something of Himself and that He gave His own life to rescue that person from eternal death, so that the person has the opportunity to share in His infinite love for timeless eternity. It is sheer gratuitous love all the way down. That’s why every person exists. We cannot possibly comprehend how beautiful every human life is.

That’s true for the unborn child, for the mother, for the abortionist, for the person at the prayer vigil, for the person screaming an obscenity at the prayer vigil, for the prostitute working down the street, for the cop driving by, for the drunk man who stops to chat in the middle of the rosary.

God loves each of those persons with an infinite love we cannot begin to comprehend. And so we must love each of them, too, in the heart.

I was apprehensive and restless all day Tuesday. My own prayer, as I drove to the vigil, was for God’s power to prevail in perfect peace, understood not only as the absence of conflict, but as the presence of true justice and the true good of all concerned. Will you join me in praying for that?

I would also ask specific prayers for those entrapped in lives of prostitution on that block, for two young men who passed by and talked with us, and for a woman who passed by and was upset by our presence.

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