After an exhausting year, which made me grateful that my hope is based solidly upon God alone and not upon any human person or institution, I was nonetheless ready for some sign of hope to start this new year. The recent and widely publicized presidential inauguration and large protests here in Washington, DC, did not provide one. However, last week I was blessed to witness a beautiful and uplifting sign of hope: the March for Life.
While by faith “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom 8:28), God also encourages us by giving us signs of his providential ordering of all things for our good, even bringing good out of evil. For example, while the early Church faced severe persecution within the Roman Empire, God ultimately used this evil as an opportunity to raise up great witnesses whose courage in martyrdom brought others to embrace faith in Jesus Christ. This truth is encapsulated in the well-known adage of Tertullian that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians,” which continues to encourage Christians facing persecution today.
Every year, around the anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion in the case Roe v. Wade, people from around the country gather in Washington, DC, and in cities across our nation not only to protest the scourge of abortion, which has killed over 50 million unborn children in this country alone, but also to celebrate the gift of life. Thus, the March for Life is a sign that even in the shadow of evil, God is bringing forth great works of goodness and beauty. As I participated in this celebration of life with hundreds of thousands of people, I was struck by three ways in which this event was wonderfully different from so much of what has captured our attention this past year.
- Gratitude. The day before the March for Life, thousands of people gathered in the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for the National Prayer Vigil for Life, which sets the tone for the March for Life. In addition to asking for God’s help, those present worshipped God and celebrated the Eucharist, giving thanks to God for the gift of life and his many blessings. This was also done by many, many more people at other churches, which welcomed people arriving that evening from all over the country. This spirit of gratitude, even in the midst of horrific evils, focuses us on God’s goodness, which gives us hope and rescues us from falling into the desperation, despair, and anger that have been rampant this past year.
- Joy. Receiving God’s blessings in gratitude results in joy. This joy was especially present in the oceans of young people present at the March for Life. The morning of the March, before heading out to the National Mall, tens of thousands of young people gathered at the Verizon Center, the National Armory, and EagleBank Arena to sing praise-and-worship songs and to again give thanks to God in the celebration of the Eucharist. Shortly after noon, they joined other young people dressed in bright colors, singing songs, and carrying signs to represent their various middle schools, high schools, and colleges. Parents brought their young children, and these loving families added to the joy of this celebration of the gift of life. I was glad to be there with my mother, who happily reminded me that she had first brought me to the March for Life in a stroller when I was one year old.
- Mercy. The path of the March for Life began on the National Mall near the Washington Monument in the early afternoon and ended in front of the US Supreme Court a couple hours later. Near the steps of the Supreme Court building was a stage for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. On this stage, a number of women shared their powerful testimonies. They described their suffering due to abortion as well as the healing they found in seeking God’s forgiveness, bearing witness to the truth of God’s mercy. Among those marching for life were many who had previously walked in the darkness of the culture of death by choosing or providing abortions. These men and women now walk in the light of truth and boldly stand up for the dignity of human life. They bear witness to the healing power of God’s love and forgiveness, inviting even those few abortion supporters who were there to come and walk with them in the light of God’s truth, love, and mercy.
No matter the difficulties we encounter or the darkness which at times surrounds us, let us be encouraged by signs of hope, such as the March for Life, which show us that even where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more.
Lord Jesus, we trust in you!
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., March for Life: the Crowd (used with permission)