For many people 2000 means Y2K, and that spells trouble. But for Catholics, 2000 means something much greater and certainly more hopeful than the anticipated computer-generated glitches.
Pope John Paul II has called 2000 the Great Jubilee, a "year of the Lord's favor," when God will pour out graces in abundance. "Above all," John Paul explains, "the joy of every Jubilee" is a "joy based upon the forgiveness of sins, the joy of conversion" (As the Third Millennium Draws Near , 1994). From Isaiah we know that God not only forgives, He also promises to "heal the brokenhearted ... to comfort all who mourn ... to give them ... a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit" (Is 61:1-3).
As we look back over the Twentieth Century—indeed over the last year alone—we find much to mourn: genocidal slaughter based on ethnic and religious differences, cold-blooded killings by teens, ten prisoners a month executed by the state, doctors in Oregon and The Netherlands assisting patients to commit suicide with the law's blessing and 50 million children destroyed by abortion worldwide.
Violence and "legitimized" killing are such serious and pervasive problems they may seem to be beyond our control. And so, we reason, we have no power nor responsibility to change things. Yet the observation of Edmund Burke rings true: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
We are not helpless onlookers: "The future is not determined; we co-author it with God," as one bishop reminds us. Just as countless individual sins contribute to the "culture of death" now infecting the world, countless individual choices to be virtuous are needed to build a "culture of life" in the coming millennium. (Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M.Cap., Archbishop of Denver, "River of Mercy," December 1998)
We start be making the personal choice to uphold—to really witness to—the sanctity and dignity of every human life. Forgiveness and conversion must take root in our hearts and in our communities, so that we can hold out to others a vision of hope and healing. St. Paul describes the Christian mission as being "ambassadors" in God's "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18, 10).
And nowhere, perhaps, is the need for reconciliation and for healing more urgently felt than in the hearts of those wounded by abortion. Theirs is often a hidden world of profound remorse, of darkness and despair. The death of a child through abortion is a loss of such magnitude that time not only fails to heal all wounds, it deepens them. Often grief becomes manifest through alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, chronic anxiety, fragmented relationships, marital unhappiness, loss of joy in life and spiritual alienation. Women find themselves trapped by the circular message that whirs inside: "I allowed the life of my child to be taken; my sin is too great for even God to forgive."
Breaking through the darkness and despair with words of hope, Pope John Paul II says to these women:
"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 ... 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" (The Gospel of Life, 99).
Each of us can help transform this message of hope from words on a page to life-giving water. How? By sharing this message of Christ's unconditional love and forgiveness with someone who is hurting from abortion. We can become the catalyst for restoring that person to new life in Jesus Christ.
A culture of life will flourish if people of faith, people of life, give witness to God's love. And united as one body, may we enter the Jubilee Year of 2000 with great rejoicing, proclaiming the redeeming power of God's merciful love.