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October 2003 Newsletter Article

“I Am the Bread of Life”- John 6:35

The following are excerpts of homilies and talks given by Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life.

“Jesus said, I am the Bread of Life. He who eats this bread will live forever. I will raise Him up on the last day.” (John 6:47-58) The Eucharistic sacrifice is the very action of Christ by which He destroyed our death and restored our life…the power of the Eucharist triumphs over all of that (death) and therefore we must proclaim it…

Our commitment to defend our pre-born brothers and sisters receives its form and sustenance from the Eucharist as a sacrament of faith, unity, life, worship, and love.
The Eucharist is a Sacrament of Faith. The Consecrated Host looks no different after the consecration than before. It looks, smells, feels, and tastes like bread. Only one of the five senses gets to the truth. The ears hear His words, "This is My Body; this is My Blood," and faith takes us beyond the veil of appearances. Christians are used to looking beyond appearances. The baby in the manger does not look like God; nor for that matter does the man on the cross. Yet by faith we know He is no mere man. The Bible does not have a particular glow setting it off from other books, nor does it levitate above the shelf. Yet by faith we know it is uniquely the Word of God. The Eucharist seems to be bread and wine, and yet by faith we say, "My Lord and My God!" as we kneel in adoration. The same dynamic of faith that enables us to see beyond appearances in these mysteries, enables us to see beyond appearances in our neighbor. We can look at the persons around us, at the annoying person or the person who is unconscious in a hospital bed, and we can say, "Christ is there as well. There is my brother, my sister, made in the very image of God!" By the same dynamic we can look at the pre-born child and say, "There, too, is my brother, my sister, equal in dignity and just as worthy of protection as anyone else!" Some people will say the child in the womb, especially in the earliest stages, is too small to be the subject of Constitutional rights. Is the Sacred Host too small to be God, too unlike Him in appearance to be worshipped? The slightest particle of the Host is fully Christ. Eucharistic Faith is a powerful antidote to the dangerous notion that value depends on size.

The Eucharist is also a Sacrament of Unity. "When I am lifted up from the earth," the Lord said, "I will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32). He fulfills this promise in the Eucharist, which builds up the Church. The Church is the sign and cause of the unity of the human family. Imagine all the people, in every part of the world, who are receiving Communion today. Are they all receiving their own personalized, customized Christ? Are they not rather each receiving the one and only Christ? Through this sacrament, Christ the Lord, gloriously enthroned in heaven, is drawing all people to Himself. If He is drawing us to Himself, then He is drawing us to one another. St. Paul comments on this, "We, many though we are, are one body, since we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:17). When we call each other "brothers and sisters," we are not merely using a metaphor that dimly reflects the unity between children of the same parents. The unity we have in Christ is even stronger than the unity of blood brothers and sisters, because we do have common blood: the blood of Christ! The result of the Eucharist is that we become one, and this obliges us to be as concerned for each other as we are for our own bodies.
In receiving Christ, we are to receive the whole Christ, in all his members, our brothers and sisters, whether convenient or inconvenient, wanted or unwanted. As St. John remarks, Christ was to die "to gather into one all the scattered children of God." Sin scatters. Christ unites. Christ came "to destroy the works of the devil" (1John 3:8). The Eucharist builds up the human family in Christ who says, "Come to me, feed on My Body, become My Body." Abortion, in a reverse dynamic, says, "Go away! We have no room for you, no time for you, no desire for you, no responsibility for you. Get out of our way!" Abortion attacks the unity of the human family by splitting asunder the most fundamental relationship between any two persons: mother and child. The Eucharist, as a Sacrament of Unity, reverses the dynamic of abortion.

The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Life. Whenever we gather for this sacrifice we are celebrating the victory of life over death, and therefore over abortion, and everything else that destroys human life and dignity. The pro-life movement is not simply working "for" victory; we are working "from" victory. As the Holy Father said in Denver in 1993, "Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for life is already decided." Our work is to apply the already established victory to every facet of our society. Celebrating the Eucharist is the source and summit of such work.

The Eucharist is the Supreme act of Worship of God. Two lessons each person needs to learn are, "1.There is a God. 2. It isn't me." The Eucharist, as the perfect sacrifice, acknowledges that God is God, and that "it is [His] right to receive the obedience of all creation." (Sacramentary, Preface for Weekdays III). Abortion, on the contrary, proclaims that a mother's choice is supreme. "Freedom of choice" is considered enough to justify even the dismemberment of a baby. Choice divorced from truth is idolatry. It is the opposite of true worship. It pretends the creature is God. Real freedom is found only in submission to the truth and will of God. Real freedom is not the ability to do whatever one pleases, but the power to do what is right.

The Eucharist is, finally, The Sacrament of Love. St. John explains, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us" (1John 3:16). Christ teaches, "Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). The best symbol of love is not the heart, but rather the crucifix. Abortion is the exact opposite of love. Love says, "I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person. Abortion says, "I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself." In the Eucharist we see the meaning of love and receive the power to live it. The very same words, furthermore, that the Lord uses to teach us the meaning of love are also used by those who promote abortion: "This is my body." These four little words are spoken from opposite ends of the universe, with totally opposite results. Christ gives His body away so others might live; abortion supporters cling to their own bodies so others might die. Christ says, "This is My Body given up for you; This is My Blood shed for you." These are the words of sacrifice; these are the words of love. In Washington in 1994 Mother Teresa said that we fight abortion by teaching the mother what love really means: "to be willing to give until it hurts...So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child." Indeed, the Eucharist gives the pro-life movement its marching orders. It also provides the source of its energy, which is love. Indeed, if the pro-life movement is not a movement of love, then it is nothing at all. But if it is a movement of love, then nothing will stop it, for "Love is stronger than death, more powerful even than hell" (Song of Songs 8:6).

A priest is a man of the Eucharist, and it is in the Mass that we touch the definitive victory of life over death. "Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life." The Eucharist is the sacrifice of life and the banquet of life, and because the priest officiates at this sacrificial banquet, he is truly "Father," imparting life to all who come. The priest guards the Eucharist, which is both a human and a Divine Life, for it is Christ himself. The priest leads his people to adore the Eucharist and to see, beyond the appearances, the reality of life. This is why he must stand powerfully in defense of human life which, in its initial stages, is also hidden from human sight, yet no less sacred for that reason. Just as the Sacred Host is sacred because it is God, so is the pre-born child the sacred image of God. If the priest is the defender of the sacred, then he is such wherever and whenever the sacred is attacked. "This is my Body." These words are at the heart of priesthood. They are also at the heart of pro-life. They are the words of Christ. Are they not also the words of the pre-born child?
St. Paul summed it up well. "Proclaim the word. Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2). The sanctity of life and the truth about abortion are certainly aspects of the "Word" that the priest is to preach. Some say, "Abortion has no place in Church." Then what does? Are people who worship God supposed to be blind to injustice? Are believers supposed to be unconcerned about what goes on in the world? Abortion kills 1.6 million babies in America every year. In Church we say we believe in "the Lord, the Giver of Life." Church is the place to talk about things that concern God, and God cares about the destruction of 1.6 million babies a year!
Suppose for a moment that a clinic were set up in your neighborhood at which eight year old boys and girls were routinely killed every day. What would you do? What would you expect the Church to do? "The greatest lies are told in silence." To be silent on abortion is not to be silent; it is, rather, to shout the message, "Don't be all that concerned about this!" And to the women in the congregation who have had abortions, the silence says, "Your pain doesn't matter, and what you did is no big deal."

"Priests for Life" is a movement that aims to unite priests in a common commitment to defend the sanctity of life, to provide them with resources, suggestions for homilies and activities, and to introduce them to other priests active in the pro-life movement. As a national effort, Priests for Life welcomes input from clergy and laity alike, and is ready to assist any individual or group in their pro-life work. You may write to "Priests for Life, P.O. Box 141172, Staten Island, New York 10314."


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