Image: Children play on the Trans-Canada Trail marker, Tuktoyaktuk
Today is the second Thursday in May. Traditionally today, across Canada, people would be gathering in our major centers for the annual March for Life, the campaign for justice for the unborn. This year was to be the first year for just such an event here in Yellowknife. Unfortunately, as for many organized events this year, the plans to gather have been scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are and will be many virtual events available through the gift of technology the physical gathering of so many who hold the gift of life sacred and who want to encourage the lawmakers of country to do the same will not be taking place.
Though our social isolation protocols have come at a great economic cost and at great inconvenience to us all, we can applaud the resolve of our government and all of us who are willing to put so much on the line to preserve the population from the ravages of this indiscriminating virus. Yet there is a great irony that, in a country which routinely aborts more than 100,000 unborn children every year, no expense has been spared to save the lives of far fewer people who will succumb to the disease.
Like a strong wind scouring the earth, the pandemic has revealed many inconsistencies in our nation’s life ethic, its laws regarding the right to life and to its understanding of the value of life from conception to natural death. With this disease, one of the hardest hit demographics has been our population of senior citizens. We watch the news with dread as the illness tears through our nursing centres and homes for assisted living, decimating our most vulnerable. Yet Canada holds with pride its stance on the right die, normalizing the premature deaths of so many of these same venerable elders.
The irony and inconsistency is not just philosophical, it is the symptom of a grave illness and we are living in an age of denial where it is becoming more and more difficult to discuss the symptoms lest we uncover the true infection that lies masked underneath.
Our Gospel readings from the book of John fill our Masses this week with images of abiding in God. Yesterday’s image was that of a branch clinging to a vine from which it receives all the nourishment it needs to bear fruit. Today Jesus says that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend, a gift that he will offer himself for the sake of the world.
As a nation we have lost our connection to the source of our life and as a consequence we have lost our sense of what each and every life is worth. We applaud our efforts to stay home to prevent the virus while at the same time lamenting that because of the pandemic, procedures to terminate the unborn and to provide end of life services to the aged are having to be postponed.
How do we get well again? While laws, once made, might seem immutable, it is important that as people of faith and good will we continue to point out the illness that festers in our country and to hold our politicians accountable for the overall good health of our nation. While they might seek to dull that nagging pain, eventually it will not be able to be ignored. Though our gatherings this year are virtual, our voices are real, and it is important and necessary to raise them and make your thoughts known to your representatives.
Our prayer is also real and effective. Today’s Gospel reminds that whatever we ask of God in the name of Jesus will be given to us. So, we lift up to God our intentions for the unborn, the elderly, the terminally ill and all those who are vulnerable to being devalued as human beings because of the status of their development, health, or age. Important also to pray for our health care workers who seek to heal and not to kill and who face continued pressure and the erosion of their conscience rights. I pray for the young people of our communities who have been taught that abortion is an easy and painless solution to an unplanned pregnancy, that they will be stirred in their conscience and that they will find the support they need during a very difficult time.
And we pray for our country which has so much to be proud of but is need of great healing. That God will open our eyes and hearts to his presence, that we will be open to the spiritual life that has been withering in us and that the gift of life with which God has endowed each one of us, will be seen and protected for its true value.