A More Excellent Way

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

St. Paul begins his beautiful exhortation on love in this Sunday’s second reading by promising to show us “a still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31). He describes this “excellent way” of love as being patient and kind, not seeking self-interest, and rejoicing in the truth. Love endures all things.

Paul’s description of love may sound like a list of flowery platitudes, but if we pause to consider just what is involved in being patient, in having endurance, and rejoicing in the truth, even when that truth doesn’t serve our self-interest, we quickly realize what real lovers have always known — love takes work. Our inclination is to think of ourselves first, but love requires us to consider the good of others, even when it involves personal sacrifice.

Many of you are no doubt aware of the permissive abortion law passed in NY this past week, allowing for abortions at any stage of pregnancy. This comes on the heels of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, DC. Just when we think we are taking two steps forward in fight for the rights of the unborn, it seems like we slide three steps back. The reason for these sort of state laws is tactical. With a Supreme Court now more likely than ever to overturn Roe v. Wade should such a case present itself to the court, abortion laws in our country would revert to individual states. So states that want to preserve access to abortion want to make sure they already have permissive laws on their books.

But why do so many people want to permit the intentional killing of children in the womb in the first place? It’s because the world has convinced many of us that abortion is a “loving” act. But this is not love as St. Paul describes it, because it does not rejoice with the truth.

Advocates for abortion “rights” succeed by framing the argument in terms of compassion. Women should have the right to choose whether or not to become mothers (who could argue with that?). Women should have access to health care (again, who could argue?). But these points side-step the issue at hand, which is that the child in the womb is a living person. This is the truth which this false “love” wishes to conceal, because once we recognize the child as a living person, we are forced to admit what abortion really is — the killing of an innocent human being.

But what about cases when the child is conceived in rape? What about when the child is deformed, or when the mother’s health is in danger? Or when the child will be born into poverty? These questions tug at our heart strings. These are difficult situations, and we want to be compassionate and loving toward those struggling with them. St. Paul says love is kind, and isn’t giving the mother the option to abort her baby the kind thing to do? It might seem that way, because it gives the appearance of making the difficult situation “go away.” But it’s a false kindness that conceals the truth that the unborn child is a living being. It’s a false love that says the way to solve our problems is by killing an innocent person.

True love rejoices with the truth. And the truth is that every human person — no matter how young or how old, how big or how small, how healthy or ill, how rich or poor — is a person deserving of love. God tells us through the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading for this Sunday, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer 1:5). Each one of us is a unique individual beloved by God.

God loves us and wants us to love each other. And taking an innocent human life is simply incompatible with love. This is why the Catholic Church has always condemned abortion. It’s been a teaching of the Church since long before Roe v. Wade. The earliest Christian document outside of the Bible is called the DidacheIt dates to the last decade of the first century, and it says, “do not murder a child by abortion or kill that which is begotten.”

Every single person has innate dignity. Everyone has the right to life. The child conceived in rape does not deserve the death penalty. The child with a genetic defect is worthy of our love. The child conceived in poverty is just as worthy as the child born into comfort. They deserve love, not death. And so do the parents of these children. They deserve real love, as St. Paul describes, that actually helps them be good parents even in difficult situations. They need to be offered hope and real compassion — not the quick and dirty “solution” of abortion.

This is what the countless crisis pregnancy centers around the country are so good at — including our own Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Center near campus. They help struggling mothers and fathers to succeed as parents by loving both the parents and the child. Sometimes one hears pro-life activists accused of only being “pro-birth” and not “pro-life” because we supposedly don’t care for children once they are born. But I’ve never met a single pro-life advocate for whom that was true. (By contrast, Planned Parenthood doesn’t even offer pre-natal care, let alone support for parents and families after birth).

Rearing a child, even in the best of circumstances, takes sacrifice. It takes patience. It means putting your own self-interests aside for the sake of another. It takes endurance. But, as St. Paul teaches us, that’s what love is. And love never fails. It is not the easy way, but it is the more excellent way.

If you are struggling with a crisis pregnancy or wish to volunteer to help mothers and families who are, I encourage you to contact the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center at http://smpcc.org.