And whoever gives to one of these little ones but a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.Matt. 10:42
The past two Wednesdays, during my regular weekly prayer time in front of Planned Parenthood, a young man has come up to Cathy and I to present us with a gift of water and handwarmers. It was obvious that he had put some thought and planning into this, because he had taken the time to tape the handwarmers to the bottles of water. Last Wednesday when he approached us, in addition to giving us the bottle of water, he also blessed us using the “Blessing of Aaron“. He spoke these words to us shyly…I could tell it was taking courage for him to do this:
The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.Numbers 6:24-27
I have kept this little gift as a reminder that what we do in front of Planned Parenthood matters. Not only are we a “sign of contradiction” to those who think that the killing of babies in their mother’s wombs is “healthcare“…but we are there as a light of encouragement to those who need to see that there are Christians who are willing to put themselves out there in a public way, to represent God’s love in this dark world.
We can get very discouraged as we stand on those cold sidewalks, praying and hoping to see someone change their mind and choose life. Watching couple after couple entering those doors…knowing that a tiny beating heart is about to be silenced. Seeing the apathy, or even the hostility, of passersby…can make us wonder if it is worth being there at all. But God reminds us in little ways, such as this young man…that we are doing what we are supposed to do. It is important.
Today’s readings in the traditional Catholic missal, from the commemoration of St. Valentine speak to me in so many ways that I had trouble narrowing it down to just one point for this blog post. I will try to do my best without making this blog reflection too long.
First, the Epistle reading from Wisdom; I read it while in the adoration chapel at the oratory early this morning, right after I had poured out my gratitude to God for opening my eyes almost 20 years ago to the fact that He knew and cared about me in a personal way. (I had always believed in Him, I just didn’t believe that He cared about me.) It seemed to me that the words of this verse could have been written by me:
The Lord guided the just in direct ways, showed him the kingdom of God, and gave him knowledge of holy things; He prospered him in his labors and made abundant the fruit of his works, stood by him against the greed of his defrauders, and enriched him; He preserved him from foes, and secured him against ambush, and He gave him the prize for his stern struggle that he might recognize that devotion to God is mightier than all else. He did not abandon the just man when he was sold, but delivered him from sin. He went down with him into the dungeon, and did not desert him in his bonds, until He brought him the scepter of royalty and authority over his oppressors, and showed those who had defamed him false; and the Lord our God gave him eternal glory.Wisdom 10:10-14
God “gives knowledge of holy things” to us when we seek Him, and seek to do His Will. We look around at the darkness all around us and wonder, “why can’t others see what is really going on here?“. It seems so plain to us…but those who don’t know Him are spiritually blind.
Our “stern struggle”, that we embark on every Lent, is rewarded by God in the fruit that we receive from our efforts; A closeness to Jesus, love for one another and even for our enemies; Saved lives and souls, which surely happen with every 40 Days for Life campaign; We become less weak and selfish.
We recognize that devotion to God truly is more important than anything else. We see how bad life can get without God. We see the ugliness, the pain and suffering that is caused from the absence of God…when He is pushed out. That makes us more determined than ever to devote our lives to Him, to cling to Him and to never let Him go.
And finally, “He went down with him into the dungeon, and did not desert him in his bonds”. When we are there on the sidewalk to pray for those little ones who are being led to the slaughter…we need to remember that even when it appears that these tiny babies are all alone in their victimization…they are not. God is there with them in their sufferings, and they are precious to Him. We are there for those little ones as well. I have often thought that when their souls leave their bodies, and they are being carried up to Heaven by their guardian angel, they must look down and see us praying. They see that they did not die alone. They were not deserted.
And then of course, today’s Gospel (traditional missal), is from Matt. 10, and is completely fitting for our mission in front of Planned Parenthood:
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to send peace upon the earth; I have come to bring a sword, not peace. For I have come to set a man at variance with his father, and a daughter with her mother, and a daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake, will find it. He who receives you, receives Me; and he who receives Me, receives Him Who sent Me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a just man because he is a just man, shall receive a just man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones but a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.Matt. 10 :34-42
Praying in front of an abortion clinic for 10 hours a day, for 40 days in a row is hard. It requires effort and sacrifice. We must be willing to suffer and to give up some of our comforts. But it is important, and it is worth it.
Our schedule is looking better, but there are still many hours that have only two people scheduled that really need at least one more person…and there are still seven 2-hour shifts that only have one person that are in critical need of a second volunteer! Here is a screenshot of how the schedule looks right now: (Green cells are well covered with either a church group or at least three volunteers. Yellow means there are just two people, and red is one person alone.)
If your church hasn’t yet signed up for a prayer shift during these 40 days, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.40daysforlife.com/pittsburgh to put yourself on the calendar. You can also contact Donna at email@example.com to be added to the schedule as an individual prayer volunteer. Please consider taking one of the red or yellow time slots.
There are two wonderful opportunities to help us to kick-off these 40 days by preparing the way spiritually:
Jericho March around Planned Parenthood this Sunday at 3:30. CLICK HERE FOR FLYER.
Kick off Mass and Candlelit Eucharistic Procession to Planned Parenthood next Tuesday, Feb. 21st at 6:30! CLICK HERE FOR FLYER. So far there are 10 priests who plan to be at the altar to offer the Mass and lead the procession, along with 5 seminarians serving the Mass and walking in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Ian Brown, music minister of Divine Mercy parish will once again bless us with his schola of beautiful music and Gregorian Chant. It should be a beautiful and spiritually uniting event and I encourage everyone to come!
Please consider bringing a pack of diapers to the kick-off and leave them in the box in the church narthex! I apologize for the confusion about this! Although Women’s Choice Network does not currently need diapers, Birthright is in need of them. Please help us to support Regina and her life-saving efforts at Birthright of Pittsburgh!
PARKING ADVICE: It would be best to park near Planned Parenthood, (if you planning to join the Eucharistic Procession from Epiphany Church to Planned Parenthood), so that after the prayers end in front of Planned Parenthood (at about 8:15pm) you will be near your car and won’t have to walk back to the church in the dark. There is a parking garage (Pittsburgh Parking Authority Garage) at the corner of Liberty & Ninth that is just $6.00 after 5pm on weekdays. If you are only attending the Mass, there is a parking garage directly across from the Church.