This weekend I visited my parents for my dad’s birthday. Sunday morning the family went to church where my mom and I climbed the stairs to the choir loft to sing for Sunday Mass. It was so good to be “home”–before I got married, I sang each Sunday and practiced each Thursday with these people. When I walked in, two dozen faces lit up; the women tiptoed over to give me air-kisses and advice and the men gave me gruff bear hugs and big smiles. It was the warmest and most effusive reception I’ve had since announcing my pregnancy.
Singing the entrance hymn beside the other altos, I felt completely at rest and at home. First came the readings: Habbakuk, crying to the Lord to listen; the Psalm (one of my favorite) chastening the Pharisee in every heart; Second Timothy, reminding the congregation of our strength; and Luke, teaching us to be good servants. Then came the homily.
Monsignor briefly exegeted the passages, building especially from Habbakuk into the theme of “Respect Life Sunday” and the seeming hopelessness we have faced for over fifty years in combatting abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. Holding my protruding belly, I felt tears well up.
My home parish is less than an hour’s drive from Kermit Gosnell’s abortion “clinic.” The parish is about an hour’s drive from two of our country’s most violent cities: Camden, NJ and Philadelphia, PA. But Monsignor catalogued more distant evils, too: he cited statistics from the movie theatre massacre and the Connecticut school shooting, the number of euthanized sick and elderly people in the past year, and the chilling continuation of the death penalty here in one of the most “advanced” nations in the world.
By this time in the homily I was crying–a combination of hormones and, I think, a mother’s heart grasping fully what it means to protect life other than her own. These were not faceless men and women, girls and boys; in my mind’s eye, every one of them wasmy son, my daughter.
On the carride home, my mom asked me if I had ever heard Isaiah 49, “Does a mother forget the baby at her breast, or the child in her womb? Though she may forget, I will never forget you.” Recalling the passage, my mom reflected on the impossibility of “forgetting” the child one is carrying because your whole life and love is bent to sustaining the life growing inside you. Rubbing my belly, I didn’t disagree out loud.
In reality, a lot of women forget the children in their wombs and the babies at their breasts. The “culture of death” is less about malice and more about selfishness: women aborting their babies for the sake of convenience, or career, or money, or disinterest in child’s father, or to avoid drama; adults forgetting children in the car on a hot day, taking a leisurely stroll around a store or going clubbing; executing criminals from a bizzarely vicious (read: vice-ful) desire for revenge; committing suicide or murder because the gift of life–the first and greatest gift any of us receive–is just too burdensome.
God never forgets us, thought. He–who is beyond gender in the most beautiful way possible–is our Mother, perpetually bearing us in Her womb (Isaiah 49:15) and nursing us at Her breast (Deuteronomy 32:13), never forgetting Her children, the young and old, victims and criminals, born and unborn, good and bad, selfish and selfless. God is always there, rubbing Her belly, protecting us and cherishing us in a way only a Mother can.