It is the annual Pro-Life weekend, when those who wish to protect the unborn gather together to march, to express their love of life no matter the age.
Marches are part of our culture. They were probably encouraged as an alternative to revolution, a useful venting of group opinion, and have evolved, it would seem, from civic or sports parades. These in turn find roots in military marches of conquering, victorious armies through city gates.
As a peaceful democracy, Americans encourage such free speech. We protect the right of people to assemble peaceably and to share opinions publicly. Cities close streets to traffic to aid these demonstrations. They are important vehicles of social discourse, important to our national conversation.
I considered this as the acolytes and clergy processed up the red-carpeted aisle of St. Peter’s this morning. Processions are a kind of parade, perhaps with a more focused destination. Like parades and marches, processions tell a story, act out a viewpoint. In the Church, they gather us together as we sing hymns and the organ plays and we make a joyful noise to the Lord. As the acolytes and clergy move up the aisle to the high altar, in a wonderful sense, they bring us with them. The procession says to all of us in the pews, let us give thanks, let us rejoice and celebrate the Eucharist. Let us prepare to meet God in the Mass. He is our God and we are his people.
Just so, yesterday hundreds of thousands gathered across our great land to say something as well, to speak publicly in our democratic, peaceful country. Their message was simple. The unborn, they say, are the same as you and I. The unborn, they say, are human beings. We, as a civil people, need to protect these little ones, just as we protect others in our society. We need to allow them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, just as we are guaranteed these things.
And, they say, our law should not allow any of us to take these rights from them. For they, the unborn, the tiny babies growing in the womb, are living human beings, just like you and I. But I fear many do not believe this. Many do not agree. Many talk of convenience and lifestyle and let my will be done, thank you very much.
These are difficult days, dark days, I thought, as I gazed at the tabernacle on the altar, home of the Real Presence of Christ. Today we celebrate the third week of Epiphanytide, this time of revealing the true nature of Jesus. The Gospel today told of the Wedding in Cana, when Christ turned the water into wine. It was a gloriously abundant miracle, our preacher said. The water jugs contained nearly thirty gallons! And there were a number of jugs. It was also a gloriously upscale miracle, for the wine was of the best quality. This miracle, celebrating marriage and wine, revealing God’s son to us, is encouraging, a light in our darkness.
The folks marching in Washington D.C. and across this nation pray for such a miracle, pray for such a light. They pray that our nation will turn away from killing the helpless and vulnerable and walk into the light. They pray for an end to the bloodshed.
As I considered all that excellent wine created from ordinary water, I knew that God could work such a miracle here, in this country. So we process, we parade, we march. We continue the national conversation peacefully, expressing our hopes and prayers, and our love. We pray that in this expression that God will change hearts just as he worked that abundant miracle in Cana all those years ago.
We joined the line of communicants and received Christ, for here, in this very sanctuary, another miracle had occurred, that of turning wine into his blood, into his Real Presence. I left Saint Peter’s full of hope, full of miracle.
How thankful I am to live in a country in which we march, parade, process, and where civil, peaceful, free speech is protected by law.
And how thankful I am for all of those marching yesterday, today, and tomorrow.