Homily for the Respect for Life Mass

(Print Version)


The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge delivered the following homily October 8, 2017, the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, at St.John the Beloved Church in McLean. 


Every day is Respect Life Day. However, the Church in her wisdom calls October Respect Life Month. This designation is a way of renewing within us our profound gratitude for a gift we can often take for granted: the precious gift of life itself. This heightened awareness also seeks to deepen within us a firm resolve to persevere in our work of proclaiming the sacredness of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death and promoting the dignity of each and every person.

Today’s Scripture readings from Isaiah and the Gospel use the image of the vineyardof the Lord. Recently, Pope Francis stated the Lord’s vineyard is God’s dream for his peoplea people who might care for the vineyard and bring forth good fruits of truth and justice. Yet, as we see in the days of old and in the times of Jesus, God’s plan was frustrating. And so it is today.

We live in a society in which the vineyard of the Lord is not cared for and not protected as God intended. It is a vineyard that legalizes the killing of the unborn, and seriously compromises the teachings of the Gospel of Life in detriment to the poor, elderly, sick, immigrants, refugees, inmates and the most vulnerable. In doing so, the vineyard is no longer what God wants and desires for his people.

And so, it is into this vineyard that God sends us: to be the instruments who plant good seeds, nurture them, care for them and protect them.  Yet, as we go out into the vineyard and proclaim the sacredness of all human life, it will not be easy. We will meet ridicule and rejection. We will be labeled unfairly. Yet, St. Paul says to us today: “Have no anxiety at all.” His message is consistent with the theme of this year’s Respect Life Month throughout our country: “Do not be afraid.” This is the mandate Jesus gave to his disciples and to us accompanied by the promise that “He will be with us always even until the end of time.”

So, how is it that we go into the vineyard without anxiety and fear? It is by remembering that we are merely the branches. Jesus is the vine. Jesus is the One who gives us the strength we need to persevere. Jesus is the One who uses the seeds we plant in miraculous ways that we could never imagine.

And so it is important for us to know how Jesus is doing that right here in the vineyard of the Diocese of Arlington. There are so many examples of how Jesus is producing abundant fruit through the witness, deeds, example and advocacy of the faithful throughout our Diocese. I recall my first experience of the Life is Very Good Rally in January in which thousands of youth and young adults from our Diocese and beyond gathered peacefully, joyfully and fearlessly to proclaim the truth that all human life is sacred and must be protected, celebrated and cherished. I think of how the Knights of Columbus and other organizations provide ultra sound machines that have been effective in helping mothers and fathers make the right choice. We are so proud of our Catholic Charities in the Diocese, and the many parish initiatives that each and every day provide clothing, food, housing, and counseling for our brothers and sisters in need. I think of the many ways our schools and parishes are promoting programs that are teaching our youth and young adults how to reflect the exhortation of St. Paul in our second reading and to live honorably, purely and chastely. How proud are we of Project Rachel that serves as an instrument of God’s healing power to mothers and fathers experiencing destructive consequences upon choosing abortion and assuring them of Our Lord’s infinite love and divine mercy.

Let me just highlight one more example of which there are many of how the Lord is using our efforts and perseverance to produce abundant fruit in the vineyard of our Diocese. Perhaps, you saw our recent announcement about the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic. Through the great work of our Catholic Charities and many people of good will, it will be opened in Manassas next month with physicians and nurses volunteering their time and talents to offer a wide-range of medical care to the uninsured, which numbers around 8,000 in that area of our Diocese. Here is the amazing point:the facility that will be used was once a long-standing abortion clinic, outside of which for many years the faithful throughout our Diocese prayed the rosary on behalf of the unborn. With the help of Mary, Mother of Mercy, and the divine assistance of her Son, this facility will be a place where people will now find hope and healing.

There is still much work for us to do in the vineyard of the Lord. Yet, we persevere in joyful hope, “having no anxiety at all,” and in response to the mandate of Jesus who tells us: “Do not be afraid.” Why? Because He is with us always even until the end of time. Amen.


(View the video version here.)