I am now on a chartered bus heading back from Washington, DC as I write this. There is a snowstorm moving north of us that we are trying to miss. We left the hotel around 6:30 am, so I have a little time to write and edit some video (scroll to bottom ) during our ten-hour bus ride back to Nashville.
This is my first trip to the “March For Life” in DC and my first reaction is, “Wow! Absolutely Amazing!” I have seen earlier Marches, broadcast on the only network that will air it, EWTN, but being there and experiencing the joy was an unexpected pleasure. The intent of the March is not to condemn, insult, or harass women undergoing unexpected pregnancies considering abortion, but to walk with them, offer them hope, and be a witness to the joy of life and to proclaim to the world that we are unique from day one! From the moment of conception, your unique human DNA is set. Your gender is set. Your hair and eye color are set and your immortal soul is present. From the moment of conception there will never be another YOU!
I consider myself an outsider to the pro-life movement. I am pro-life, but not an active participant. I havent participated in marches or Pro-life events, and I haven’t often voiced my opinion (until now). I do support the cause and occasionally give to Portico, the local crisis-pregnancy center, during their fundraiser drive. I’m not an activist, nor a spokesperson, I don’t have bumper stickers covering my car. I’m just a regular dude with an interest in doing the right thing and always keeping my mind open to truth, goodness and beauty. I suspect we are all open to that, I hope.
Snow had fallen hard in DC the week before, so the grounds were still covered with a wintry mix. It was cold and the crowds had turned the grounds at the National Mall into a slushy, slippery muck! Add the limited convenience to quiet and clean bathrooms, you would think the crowds would be crying out in indignation and misery! In spite of all the inconveniences, the atmosphere was that of JOY!
The abortion debate is a dark subject. It doesn’t bring joy to discuss the methods, reasons and the 600,000 to 1,000,000 annual abortions in the US alone! Abortion for many women in this country has become a cherished “right” inclined toward tolerance, privacy and individual rights. I hear you. Many women proclaim their right to abortion as “Freedom of Choice”, “My Body, My Choice”, “Women’s Health” and recently it’s considered “Healthcare”. When one opposes the “right” of another, conversations can become hostile. This is expected, but the conversation needs to continue. If a right is unjust, can it truly be considered a right? If a civil right (abortion) undermines a natural right (life) what rights are truly being violated? I believe that we need to rediscover the lost art of debate. Our communication level as a nation has sunk to the levels of cynicism, sarcasm and “ad hominem” attacks! No longer is the morality of killing the unborn an issue accepted for honest debate.
I noticed that joy is a natural state of those that proclaim life. Joy shouldn’t be confused with happiness. Joy better describes “the internal state of ones being”, where as happiness describes the emotion related to pleasure. I am happy eating cake, watching a favorite Netflix series or a number of other sensual pleasures. Standing in the cold, in mud, stuck in a crowd, does not bring happiness. In many situations it could actually produce anger and rage. But, joy, I think, is best described as “the internal state of ones being inclined to the highest order of love”. It is the effect or act of selfless love that causes joy. I could be wrong in my Thomistic-layman-shade-tree-theology but for the lack of a better definition and because of the witness’ of thousands of people expressing joy in the face of many sorrows, I’ll use it here.
Joy gives us a sense of fullness and completion. St. John the Baptist lept for joy in the womb of his mother Elizabeth when he heard the voice of The Blessed Virgin Mary in Luke 1:44. Joy is one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22, and is an effect of living a life in faith, hope and love. Jesus said to his disciples in John 15:11, “That my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled.” Joy is not based on what we enjoy but based on what we choose to enter into. I don’t think many came to Washington seeking joy or a happy feel good sensation. I think they came for uniting in a common cause that many believe is destructive to not only babies in the womb, but to the mothers, and to us as a people and a nation. Many came to be a witness for the unborn and to mothers. Many there regret their abortion, but found healing in repentance, forgiveness and the limitless mercy of God. They want others to know that abortion is not the answer, but if you have had one, there is mercy and healing. The effect of selfless “Love” for others is joy. In Matthew 25:21 it says, “Enter into the Joy of thy Lord.”
Happiness is fickle and temporary. I can be happy in a certain situation but if the environment changes or becomes uncertain I can quickly become unhappy. I can’t imagine the uncertainties in many unexpected pregnancies. The natural common reaction to pregnancy, I think, is shock replaced with joy! In any pregnancy there is some shock, but when the father is absent, in tough financial situations or if the mother is young and scared, the joy that should be present to replace the shock just isn’t there. Instead, the Joy is replaced with fear, regret, doubt, isolation, anger and confusion. The presence of thousands of women who accepted great difficulties in unexpected pregnancies and rejected abortion as an option is a powerful witness to the power of selfless love. In 2 Corinthians 8:22 we read, “that in much experience of tribulations they have had abundance of joy”.
I pray that the voice of the Pro-Life movement will be received with joy in the hearts and minds of people with good will and with expectant mothers considering whether to abort or to keep their child. I hope that both mother and child, much like “John the Baptist in the womb of his mother leaping for joy” will rejoice at the gift of life and the Spirit of Hope that springs forth from every birth.
Our faith teaches us that temporal happiness is not enough to satisfy. We long for the joy of the Lord – true happiness is not found in riches, or well-being, in human fame or power, or any human achievement but God alone – the source of all good and of all Love.
“The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” ~ John 10:10