January 3, 1999 The Epiphany of the Lord
For all infants and children:
May we bring homage to the Infant Jesus
by loving and protecting all of God's children;
We pray to the Lord:
January 10, 1999 The Baptism of the Lord
May God's favor rest on us,
as we seek justice and fullness of life
for all His beloved sons and daughters;
We pray to the Lord:
January 17, 1999 Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
May God grant us the vision
to recognize Jesus in all His people,
especially those who cannot speak
or care for themselves;
We pray to the Lord:
January 24, 1999 Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
(See special intercessions for the anniversary of the Supreme Court abortion decisions.)
January 31, 1999 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For all who have been involved in abortion:
that they will come to know the mercy of God
both through our actions and His divine grace;
We pray to the Lord:
of the Supreme Court Abortion Decisions
(January 22, 1999)
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle "A" (January 23-24, 1999)
(The response to these intercessions is "Lord, hear our prayer" or whatever response the community wishes to use. Additional intercessions for the local community and its needs should be added to the following, which may be freely adapted to the community and to particular circumstances.)
Presider: Gathered together by God who calls us out of darkness and into his light, let us intercede for the needs of the human family.
Deacon or Lector: For the leaders of the Church, that they may speak words of life and light to a world overshadowed by the cult of death, we pray:
For President Clinton, the members of Congress and of the Supreme Court, that they may have the courage and wisdom to establish and promote laws which protect the dignity of human life from conception until natural death, we pray:
For those who are preparing for marriage, that they may accept children as a gift of God and lovingly nurture and care for them, we pray:
For all mothers, particularly those who are with child, that God may fill their hearts with holy joy and keep them and their children safe from all harm, we pray:
For children who are unwanted, unloved, neglected or abused, that God may fill these voids with his love, we pray:
For those deprived of their human needs and their human rights, that they may be given the dignity God confers on all his people, we pray:
For those who feel weighed down by years, that society will acknowledge the contributions which the elderly have made and are making in our world, we pray:
For those who work to defend the lives of the unborn, the sick, the infirm, and the aged, we pray:
Priest: All-powerful and ever-living God in whom we live and move and have our being, we thank you and praise you for your gift of life. Hear the prayers of your people, who rejoice in your gifts of life and love, family and friends. Send your Spirit of truth and justice to turn our hearts from darkness to light. We ask this through Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.
The Bible tells us of a beautiful woman, second wife of Jacob, whose name was Rachel. More than anything in life, she wanted a child.
God heard Rachel's cry and she gave birth to a son, named Joseph. Then, she gave birth to a second son as well, this one named Benoni, which in Hebrew means "son of my sorrow." After Benoni's birth, Rachel died.
Rachel's grave was marked by a pillar and is visited by Jews and Moslems to this very day. They come to venerate the Matriarch of Israel and to pay that [they and] their daughters will have healthy children. They pray to Rachel because she understands the perils and the pain of giving birth.
As the first mother of Israel, Rachel has always been seen as embracing a nation and, like mothers the world over, rejoicing in the joy of her family and bearing its pains as well.
One of the greatest tragedies in the history of Israel was to be the Babylonian captivity, which we hear about in today's first reading from Isaiah. The people of Zebulun and Nephtali were the first to be attacked by the Assyrians; they suffered all the horrors of war and were practically wiped out. They knew the great Jewish diaspora like none other. And in the midst of their suffering it must have seemed that they would know nothing but war. How could anything else ever exist?
[Elsewhere?] the prophet Zachariah imagines Rachel crying for the children of Israel who died in this senseless slaughter. Rachel, the prophet tells us, mourns for her children and "refuses to be consoled because her children are no more."
There is another place ravaged today by a silent and senseless assault on women and their children. The battlefields are the clinics throughout our country where children are taken and destroyed by acts of violence, and their mothers left to bear the devastating scars.
Women choose to have an abortion for different reasons. Most perhaps see all their choices as equally difficult, equally bad--raising a child she may feel unprepared to raise, having an abortion, or giving birth and allowing the baby to be adopted. Her reasons may seem convincing at the time. They seem to make sense. It gets a problem over with. It solves things. It seems like it will make all the bad stuff "go away."
But it doesn't. Like every act that is terribly wrong, it makes the pain deeper, it makes things worse. Sometimes the pain is so bad, we bury it deep where no one can find it, sometimes not even ourselves. And it is sometimes only many years later that the pain of an abortion comes to the surface and gnaws at the heart and soul with a pain that is almost unimaginable.
Pope John Paul II spoke of such pain when he wrote directly to women to have had an abortion: The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life.
The Holy Father's words invite women who have suffered the pain of abortion to healing and reconciliation. He recognizes that in every abortion there are two brutally harmed--the child whose life is taken, and the mother confused and burdened by the trauma of abortion.
And the Lord says, even to Rachel, "Cease your cries of mourning. Wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward. There is hope for your future."
God brings even the people of Zebulun and Nephtali home. He led them from "degradation to glory." Even in Zebulun and Nephtali, 'anguish took wing, darkness was dispelled' and 'there is no gloom where once there was distress.'
Just as in the days of the Babylonian captivity, God will hear his people today, and lift them from their sorrow and their distress.
Chances are that you know someone who has been touched by the sorrow and distress of abortion in an very personal way. Perhaps a young unmarried couple who thought it was "no big deal." Or a woman who was confused or afraid or alone and made a terrible mistake. It may even be a mistake so painful that it is hard to admit it to herself and hard to be open to the mercy of God. Tell her God loves her still. Tell her God's mercy is greater than any sin. Tell her it is never too late to be forgiven and to come home. Tell her to see a priest. Tell her about Project Rachel. Tell her the unbelievable great good news that Jesus defeats all sin, all sorrow and even death itself with the wonders of his life giving cross.