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Bishop Burbidge's homily at 2015 Love My Life Rally


Love My Life Rally
January 17, 2015

Just recently, I heard a moving and powerful true story. A 17-year-old boy was in a serious car accident. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Upon entering his room filled with doctors and nurses, the parents were told some devastating news by one physician: “Your son is in a coma and he is not going to make it.” Surprisingly, he added: “That is probably a good thing because if he lives, he would be a vegetable.”

There was one nurse in the room who refused to accept that diagnosis. In the days following, she spent countless hours with the young man: speaking with him, playing music for him, reading to him. Occasionally, she would ask signs from him like ‘blink your eyes, squeeze my hands,’ and he would follow the command. When the nurse told the doctor, he refused to believe, for every time he asked the young man to do the same, nothing occurred.

After weeks of compassionate care and fervent prayers, the young man miraculously came out of the coma. He began therapy and soon went home. After a short time, he returned to the hospital looking stronger than ever. He returned to thank the nurse who cared for him. She was overwhelmed when she saw him and touched by his gracious words. Then, she asked him a question: “How come every time the doctor asked you to blink or squeeze his hand you did not do so?” The young man responded: “Because he called me a vegetable.”

Dear friends in Christ, so very sadly human persons are called names in our society that do not reflect reality. Tragically, the unborn are referred to as “globs of tissue” or treated as mere commodities that can be discarded and aborted in our society. The elderly who no longer are able to function as they once did are often called “a burden.” Inmates are called “derelicts.” Immigrants are called “aliens” and the list continues.

We are here today to call all persons by the name that reflects reality as so beautifully proclaimed in our Readings today: They are, from the moment of conception to natural death, God’s creation; God’s children, created in His very image and likeness; in whom His very spirit dwells. And thus their lives must be revered, protected and cherished at every moment. When people like us refuse to accept the irrational and incorrect labels that society so often uses in references to the unborn and all human persons and instead call them by their true names, they will hear the voice that truly matters and will discover how precious they are in the sight of God, to the Church and to us.

Will it always be easy to defend and witness on behalf of the Gospel of Life? Of course not! You know what often occurs when you do so in school, in your community and even here today. Others will often mock, reject and dismiss you. You may even be called names yourself. Names that are not true and do not reflect who you are. Yet, if we persevere, the Lord will use us to change the hearts of others.

Recently on a retreat the director showed a movie clip of the impact of such a witness. It is a classic movie that I am sure you probably never heard of but this one clip may be worth seeing on You Tube. It is a scene from the movie, “On the Waterfront.” A good and hardworking man was just killed by a mob. The priest was called to the scene. As he prayed over the man, the mob looked down from above while the other co-workers gathered around. Then, the priest addressed them. He confronted their evil, their disregard for the dignity of life and called for a cease of such destructive behavior. The more he talked, the more the crowd above jeered at him, mocked him and even threw things at him. The priest never blinked and the more he was challenged the more he spoke with utter conviction. Finally, there was silence. No one spoke. They were in awe of this priest because his words were matched by an incredible and courageous witness.

More than ever, our world needs you to be such witnesses to confront the evil in our midst and to defend the sacredness of life and the dignity of each person. People will be amazed and will begin to listen if your words are matched by your example and deeds that demonstrate you are convinced that you have the Truth, the truth that all persons are God’s children whose lives must be revered, protected and cherished.

It is that Truth and the strength that God supplies especially at this Holy Eucharist, that allow us to go forth to rally in Raleigh convincingly, confidently, joyfully and peacefully, as true and credible witnesses of the Gospel of Life who remind all of society the names by which every person from the moment of conception to natural death must be called: a child of God and our brothers and sisters!

Know how proud I am of you. May God bless and protect you today and always.