Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Balm of the Baby or How to Save America

This may not be pleasant. I’d like to start this reflection in the same way we start every Mass, with a confession of our sins. I don’t know if that part of the Liturgy ever bothered anybody else but it used to bother me. “Sheesh. At least we’re in church, now the first thing you do is throw our sins in our face?” But now I get it. To get to Heaven, or Happiness, or Wholeness, or Holiness (which is all saying the same thing) you have to have a starting point.

When I bring up directions in my Google maps app it always asks if I’d like to start from my “current location.” Great idea! In the Mall, the directory says YOU ARE HERE. I think we ponder our sins so that we can see where we are with God. The Penitential Rite is our Catholic GPS – God Positioning System.

So… Where are we? Typically, our locale is Sin City. The Heartbreak Hotel. We are sick, half-hearted, tired. We are too big, too full of ourselves, super-sized, maximized, stuffed and stunted in our spiritual growth… or is it just me? We are all the Biggest Loser…. We all need an Extreme Soul Makeover. Think about it. We are all in Divorce Court. As Peter Kreeft says, "All of history is a kind of broken marriage and God puts it back together again."

This being the case, let's not kid ourselves by saying "I'm OK, you're OK" but by saying "Hi, I'm ________ and I'm a sin-o-holic." Then God, the Higher Power, can set to work. We've told the Doctor of our souls where it hurts and now He can get some healing done.

Now to the main point of this reflection... Abortion. Oh, I know the word is a scar on the American landscape, I know it hurts us deeply, and I know no one wants to talk about it. Haven't we said enough? Can't we just leave it be, behind those locked clinic doors so we don't have to talk about it? No. It's a very real wound on our collective body and we need to give it air and space to heal, we need to get it out of the dark and find a real remedy. Like the woman in the gospel who had the hemorrhage for 12 years and was trying to touch Jesus. But we have more than triple those years bearing the burden of abortion, a self-inflicted wound. We need to touch the hem of His garment. And that means getting up and moving out of the shame and into the Light of Day. That day was last Monday, by the way.

It was the 38th annual March for Life, gathering nearly 400,000 people from all over the country and every stage and walk of life. And there I saw the antidote for our illness. God is touching us right where it hurts. His balm for abortion is the beauty of the baby. His medicine is a mother's child. These are the only ones that can slip past our cynicism, pain, pride, and our sarcasm. They have been spurned and rejected by abortion but they will return to us if we open our hearts (and bodies) to them! They can fill these empty wombs again, they can slip into the spaces in our cracked hearts and fill us up. God constantly comes into the world, it's been said, in two ways; at the altar in the Eucharist and in the womb, in the presence of new life.

Think about it. It’s the perfect antidote! Babies turn the toughest skins into the mushiest hearts. Babies get us out of our own heads and, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the Other. Before they ever learn their first steps, they are teaching us to walk in the Way of Love.

This is the scandalous beauty and power of Christmas, which is absolutely ridiculous. God becoming man? It’s the BIGGEST event ever to hit our tiny little planet. God becoming a tiny little part of His own creation… The Creator becomes His Creature – it’s like Shakespeare becoming Romeo, or Michelangelo becoming a figure on the Sistine Chapel ceiling… Forever locked in, so to speak, to the work of His own hands.

Christmas is too good to be true. It’s like a fairy tale, like a dream, like the romance to end all romances, for this is the story of how Heaven kissed Earth. How the author entered his own story, how the Master Painter allowed Himself to become a brush stroke on the canvas of His own creation. Christmas, and every new birth in a certain sense, is like the Eucharist…. it is inconceivable. Unable to be conceived by our 3½ pound brains. Only God could conceive of the Idea, or give flesh to this Word of His idea… which is exactly what Christmas is, and what the Eucharist is... His Word made Flesh. And what babies are supposed to be; the direct object of a husband and wife's sentence, "I love you."

To heal the wound of abortion, we must image this self-empyting love. We must not contracept it, terminate it, or withhold it. We must learn by Jesus's body language. "This is my body, given up for you." By the body language of every baby too, we can learn the steps to love. They become defenseless. Little, helpless, dependent… why? So that they can be loved, held, snuggled, yes, literally. So let us let them in again. For whosoever welcomes them welcomes He who sent them. And to such as these little ones, the Kingdom of Heaven has been given.

Originally published in a shorter form on

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