In the Second Reading we have just heard from the Epistle to the Romans, Saint Paul writes: “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” We all know that prayer is an essential part of the Christian life. Yet the reality is we often fail to know how to pray, and perhaps on occasions even fail to pray, or at least fail to pray as we ought.
In the twenty-third chapter of the book of Leviticus the Lord God instructs the people of Israel to build temporary homes in which they are to live once a year, for seven days (Lev. 23: 33 ff). These dwellings are to act as a reminder of their itinerant forty year exodus, from captivity in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. The annual commemoration of these events is known as the feast of tabernacles, and we read that it was a time appointed for the gathering together as the People of God, to offer sacrifices to the Lord in thanksgiving for his saving acts. Two important themes bear attention: first, the thanksgiving sacrifice of a covenanted people for their salvation from bondage to freedom as children of God; secondly, the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to his people, giving to them a land of their own inheritance.
The Requiem Mass is one of the most startling and pristine acts of Christian worship, with every action and word of the sacred liturgy ordered toward two distinct ends. First, we are summoned to pray for those who have died and who are now enduring the purification necessary to enter the eternal presence of their Divine Master. Secondly, we are called to a stark reminder of our own mortality; of the need to convert our hearts in order not to forfeit that opportunity ourselves; in order not to distance ourselves, through selfish desire, from the mercy of God not simply in this life but for all eternity.
Today is Day 25 of 40 Days for Life and I’m privileged to have been asked to write this short meditation for those supporting this great initiative. Today’s intention is that those who carry out abortions may have their hearts converted. The text is Luke 23: 34: ‘And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’.
It may be naive, but there must be some sense in which those who are involved with this most heinous of crimes against the dignity of human life, are unaware of the depth and seriousness of what they are doing. If they understood fully what was going on, what damage they were doing, then I cannot believe any human would be capable of carrying out this offence.
We rightly make public our opposition to these horrors, but in our hearts too, we must pray that those who are unable to see what they are doing might have their hearts converted. We read regularly of stories of abortionists who have had a conversion experience – often through the witness of a soul whose life has been cut short by them. We might, as a discipline that turns our anger into love – the only force which can bring about true change – pray that more such conversions might come about, as powerful expressions of the love of the Lord, whose incarnation brings a special dignity to the lives of all humans from conception to the natural death.
May the saints – whose lives show us the conversion we all require – support us in this task. And may the Lord use us as his instruments, to show his love to a world which so badly needs it, especially in these darkest of circumstances.
Let us pray.
Almighty and ever-living God, you show us in the lives of the saints the need we have of your mercy and grace, so that our hearts may be conformed to that of your Son. Grant, we pray, that the hearts of those who commit crimes against the dignity of human life, may be so infused with your love, that they may come to depend entirely on you and, in so doing, become the strongest advocates of your mercy and grace. We make this prayer through the same, Christ our Lord. Amen.