Life Homilies

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All the following items, which I have used in Day for Life homilies, are on this page for your convenience. Clicking on the link below will bring you immediately to the appropriate place on this page.

Also see the story of the baby saved from abortion and pro-life stories

These homilies were delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Modern medical science has clearly shown us that human life begins at conception.

  • At conception a new human being begins, complete with his or her own unique set of DNA, which is present from the first day of life. The new little person’s sex is also determined from the beginning.

  • Eighteen days after conception the baby’s heart is beating.

  • During the first month the baby grows to 10,000 times his/her size at conception.

  • S/he moves six weeks after conception though the mother does not yet feel the movements.

  • At eight weeks every part of the body found in an adult is already in the baby.

  • At eleven weeks after conception the baby has finger-prints and the finger nails are growing.

  • At twelve weeks the baby’s lips open and close. S/he can wrinkle his/her forehead, raise his/her eyes, turn his/her head, smile and frown.

  • At sixteen weeks s/he reacts to sound, sucks and swallows, may get hiccups, yawns and stretches.

  • Although moving since six weeks, at eighteen weeks the mother now feels the movements. The baby pushes with his/her feet and head to exercise and tone his/her developing muscles and also sucks his/her thumb. His/her toenails, hair, eyebrows, fringe of eyelashes on closed eyelids are growing.

  • At twenty weeks the baby sleeps and wakes and is fully able to hear.

  • At twenty four weeks the baby may possibly dream and can make a fist and punch it against his/her mother.

  • By twenty-five weeks the baby in the womb has the ability to hear like that of an adult and can discern the moods and attitudes of its mother. So we obviously want  happy Moms so that we can have happy babies!

  • The baby from an early stage can show the usual symptoms of pain during a pre-birth operation and even release the chemicals associated with adult pain but nobody can judge definitively whether it is in pain or not. 

This account of the miracle of life growing in a mother’s womb leads us to ask, “Are expectant mothers so busy that they do not give enough time to contemplate the miracle within them?”

The beautiful thing about this life is that it is created by God. As our Psalm today says, “let us kneel before the God who made us”. Because it is God who made us we have great respect for human life. The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights.

What Sacred Scripture says about Life in the Womb

Several passages in the Bible tell us that life in the womb is sacred and comes from God. My favorite passage in the Bible about life in the womb is Psalm 139.

For it was you who created my being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you for the wonder of my being,
for the wonders of all your creation.

That passage expresses so beautifully that it is God who is the Creator of life in the womb;

For it was you who created my being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.

What a unique way to express God forming us in the womb,

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

The natural response to this is to praise God as does the Psalm

I thank you for the wonder of my being,
for the wonders of all your creation.

Then Ps 139 goes on to describe how God knew all about us during gestation in the womb

Already you knew my soul,
my body held no secret from you
when I was being fashioned in secret
and molded in the depths of the earth.

There are several more passages in the Bible describing God forming the baby in the womb. This is Job talking to God in chapter 10 of the Book of Job. Job says

Did you not pour me out like milk
and then thicken me like curds
clothe me with skin and flesh,
and weave me of bone and sinew? (Job 10:10-11)

In 2 Macc a mother says

“I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with breath and life, I had not the shaping of your every part. It was the Creator of the world who made everyone and ordained the origin of all things.” (2 Macc 7:22)

In the Book of Ecclesiastes chapter 11 we read,

“You do not understand how the wind blows,
or how the embryo grows in a woman’s womb:
no more can you understand the work of God, the Creator of all.” (Eccles 11:5)

In the Book of Wisdom 7:1-2 we read,

“I was modeled in flesh inside a mother’s womb,
where, for ten months, in blood I acquired substance -
the result of virile seed and pleasure, sleep’s companion.” (Wis 7:1-2)
(ten months = 10 lunar months of 28 days each. This is referring to the lunar calendar that was followed at the time the Old Testament was written.)

Two of the prophets were conscious of their special vocations even from their mother’s womb. In Isaiah 49:1 we read,

“God called me when I was in the womb,
Before my birth he had pronounced my name.” (Isa 49:1)

and in Jeremiah 1:5 we read,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you came to birth I consecrated you.” (Jer 1:5)

Jesus and John the Baptist met while they were both still in their mothers’ wombs. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting John leapt in her womb (Luke 1:41). John was filled with the Holy Spirit at that moment and cleansed of original sin.

The passages above are directly concerned with life in the womb but you may be interested in the following passages also. In the Book of Genesis (1:27) we read that we are created by God.

“God created man in the image of himself,
In the image of God he created them,
Male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27)

So it is no wonder that the development of the baby in the womb touches our hearts because it is a reflection of the very mystery of God. God makes us beautiful, a reflection of God’s own beauty.

Jesus welcomed children many times and blessed them and said the kingdom of God belongs to them (Mark 10:14). In John 16:21 Jesus said

“A woman in childbirth suffers because her time has come
But when she has given birth she forgets the suffering
in her joy that a human being has been born into the world.” (John 16:21)

I conclude this exploration of Scripture passages with Psalm 127:3

“Children are a gift from the Lord,
A blessing, the fruit of the womb.” (Ps 127:3)

Also in many places in the Bible we read that because life is from God, we do not have the right to decide to take another person’s life. Since life comes from God, we would be playing God to take someone else’s life whether fully grown or still in the womb. Human life is sacred, we do not have the authority from God to meddle with the sacredness of human life, to destroy it in any way.

Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae states:

“I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. (Evangelium Vitae §62).

I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person… ”(Evangelium Vitae §65)

Teaching of the Irish Bishops

In their letter for the Day for Life in October 2001 the Irish bishops wrote,

“With the eyes of faith, the dignity of the human person can be seen even more clearly. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we read that man and woman were made in the image of God. This has nothing to do with appearance or personality. It means that we are made for relationship with God. This relationship, undermined by sin, is not just restored, but placed on a completely new level, by the coming among us of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As Pope John Paul reminds us:
‘The unconditional choice for life reaches its full religious and moral meaning when it flows from, is formed by and nourished by faith in Christ. Nothing helps us so much to face positively the conflict between death and life in which we are engaged as faith in the Son of God who became man and dwelt among men so that they may have life and have it more abundantly’ (John 10:10) (Evangelium Vitae §28)
The real problem, of course, is not the fact that people die. Indeed, we believer that physical death is the gateway to eternal life. The real problem is that anyone of us would place so little value on his or her own life or on the life of another person that we would destroy it, because it is inconvenient or painful for us, because we see it as an obstacle, or simply because we didn’t care enough.”

On choice and decision the bishops wrote,

“‘What else could I do? I had no alternative’, ‘I didn’t think it would end up that way’, ‘I can’t be expected to take responsibility’. These reactions, and others like them, seek to abdicate responsibility for our own actions, including actions which result in the death of another person. But the very definition of an action is something for which I am responsible, because I made a decision to act or not to act, knowing the consequences. I am responsible not just for what I intend but for the full foreseeable consequences of my action. There is always an alternative. We are inclined to forget that the consequences of our choices and decisions are not just outside us. Our choices are, in a very real sense, what we become. Each time we choose death, we ourselves die a little more. Each time we choose life, we begin to life more fully.”

The letter concludes, 
“If, in the past, you have chosen death over life, we invite you to turn to Jesus who is the source of all life. He is full of mercy and compassion, and he makes all things new.”

My Replies to Reasons for Abortion

What about someone who might say, “Its my body and I have a right to choose”. I would say firstly that in any crisis pregnancy there is plenty of help available from Cura to help a woman of any age. A woman need never suffer on her own. Help is there, just ask for it. Then I would say that the baby is not your body, that is another body. And your right to choose ends where somebody else’s rights begin. Somebody else’s rights begin with the right to life, that is where your right to choose ends.

You might say, but the baby won’t know, that baby is not intelligent. I would say that every human person deserves equal dignity and respect. Just because a baby in the womb has not yet grown to become knowledgeable does not mean that we can snuff it out like a candle. Every person is God’s creation, whether or not they have attained their full potential.

You might say to me, “But if the baby is conceived as a result of rape it is unfair that the woman should have to carry that child”. Rape is, of course, a terrible trauma to endure, and thankfully we have Rape Crisis Centres in every city in Ireland willing to help women and men who have been abused in any way. As the baby grows in the womb the pain experienced by the woman can also grow, especially when she feels the baby’s movements. Also each birthday that the child celebrates is a painful reminder of what she suffered. But killing a child conceived due to rape is not a solution to a problem. The mother also needs to be reminded, even in this painful case, that the child is her child. In Isa 49:15 we read, “Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne?  Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you.”  Do you do evil to solve evil? Of course not. Do good to solve evil. Love the child. Also remember it is not only the woman who suffered due to rape. The child conceived is also a victim of that violence. That child also needs healing, also needs love and care. In that situation, both the mother and child need special love and care.

As we reflect on this sin against life, I would also like to call to mind that God is a God of mercy, willing to forgive us no matter what our past. I am sure that any priest would be compassionate and forgiving in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If any woman or man is burdened with guilt, please turn to God for forgiveness.

It is a fact of life that there are unexpected pregnancies and in this situation women need support. The organization Cura helps women in difficulty. It has 14 offices throughout the country. Cura gives support of many kinds, as well as counseling, information, and counseling for women traumatized after abortion. It also helps women who find an unexpected pregnancy in mid-life stressful and helps the parents of young women with unexpected pregnancies. All its services are private and confidential. Women do not have to suffer on their own, there is plenty of help available. Cura Cares. In our Gospel today Jesus was rejected in Nazareth by those who knew him. Unfortunately some women when unexpectedly pregnant experience rejection from their family and those who know them. But Cura is there to care and help.

All I Ask

I do not ask to be conceived and born
into a rich family
Only into a loving one.
I’d rather be poor and loved
than rich and lonely.
I do not ask to be born into a mansion.
All I ask is to be born into a home.
I fear that you may invite me to your table
which although well laden with food
may lack the things that make life beautiful;
love, goodness, laughter, sharing.
The only poverty I fear is the poverty of people.
I don’t want to be conceived because some contraceptive failed,
or as a result of some drunken embrace.
Yet Heaven preserve me from being a completely planned baby.
Let there be some bit of mystery, of wonder, of surprise at my coming.
I do not ask to be born perfect.
All I ask is to be accepted for what I am when I arrive.
Then if it should happen that I arrive handicapped
my spirit will blossom in the rich soil of your love.
But if I should arrive whole and you should reject me
I will grow up crippled in spirit.
I long to be conceived and born into a peaceful home.
If you, my future parents, know how to live in peace
then your peace will shelter me from the storms of the world
and its hatred and violence will do me no harm.
I fear that you may invite me to the banquet of life
only to discover that the hosts do not talk to each other.
Do not, I beg you, conceive me
if after a few months you confide me to white coated murderers
who’ll terminate my existence even before I see the light of day.
All I would ever know of the world
would be the inside of a trash can and an incinerator.
I want to be welcomed on my arrival.
I want to be a source of joy to you my parents.
I don’t want to be looked on as an intruder,
making one of both of you an outcast in your community.
If you ask me to put all my desires into one word
it would be the word: Wanted.
I want to be wanted.

Published by Family Life Centre, Our Lady’s Shrine, Knock, County Mayo, Ireland.

Let Me Live


CD cover of Let Me Live - by David ParkesI have concluded some pro-life homilies by playing the title track of the album Let Me Live sung by David Parkes. In that track a child in the womb asks its mother to allow it to live. It stirs a very positive response. The album is available from Irish Records International. The lyrics of Let Me Live were written by Margaret Byrne and it was put to music by Jim Byrne, both of Navan, in County Meath, Ireland. They own the copyright and have kindly given permission to include it in audio here. As I liked that song so much I received permission to record it anew in my own recording, The mp3 here is from my recording.

mp3 (reduced quality for 56k dial-up modems)

I have concluded some pro-life homilies with the following excerpt from Psalm 139:

For it was you who created my being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you for the wonder of my being,
for the wonders of all your creation.

Already you knew my soul,
my body held no secret from you
when I was being fashioned in secret
and molded in the depths of the earth.

More material for Respect Life Sunday

Pro-life stories