In these past weeks of Christmas, as we have been preparing for OneLife LA, there have been many opportunities to reflect on our work within a special closeness to the Holy Family. I have found myself thinking quite a bit about St Joseph. He is the patron of builders. In a special way, he should be the patron of those seeking to build a Culture of Life!
Chances are, Joseph was the first person Mary told about her pregnancy with Jesus. Imagine that conversation. How terrified she must have been to hear his response.
He was in a position to offer support or express disappointment, or even worse. Certainly, he had some divine intervention to help him out. Still, he was given a very important opportunity to choose how to respond in this situation. And, he responded by embracing her.
I believe this is a very apt image for what Pope Francis is calling us to do in this Year of Mercy. In his Misericordiae Vultus, the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is explicit that not only is this a graced moment for each of us to receive Christ’s mercy in an extraordinary way, but that we are also called in this jubilee year to be agents of mercy in our communities, beginning in our own families.
He writes, “It is my burning desire that, during this jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.”
Performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy is a hands-on task. Much like building a house, when we engage as agents of mercy, each act lays another brick and pounds another nail into the Culture of Life that we are building — a culture that celebrates the beauty and dignity of every person from conception to natural death.
On Dec. 13, amid preparations for Christmas, Planned Parenthood tweeted, “Imagine ‘life in a magical land where abortions and birth control are free and plentiful.’ This place exists.” They then gave a link to their website.
It may be impossible to find a statement in more direct contradiction with the Year of Mercy than this. What great cynicism do we have in our culture if we are asked to imagine a world in which families and communities do not support each other and children’s lives are collateral damage to our disordered desires? Should we not instead imagine what God can accomplish through us in this world?
Pope Francis writes, “In this jubilee year, let us allow God to surprise us!” and “Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive cynicism! Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help!”
The Holy Father appeals to us with a sense of excitement and childlike wonder. Imagine a world, he is saying, in which our eyes can be opened to see the urgent needs of others, but also to see the great effect that even small acts of mercy can have on those in need! When we offer mercy in the name of Christ, we allow people to become the men and women they were meant to be.
This is the same challenge offered at OneLife LA. Our second annual event on Jan. 23 is a catalyst, not merely a destination. Every participant is directly challenged to choose a corporal or spiritual work of mercy (or several) to do, hands-on, during the Year of Mercy.
And we will have fantastic recommendations! We have 18 community partners offering local service opportunities, including mentoring foster children, helping human trafficking victims, supporting pregnant moms, visiting prisoners, walking with the dying in their last days, feeding the hungry and building houses for the poor. There is something for everyone to get involved in!
Will you join us at OneLife LA? Will you take up the challenge to build a Culture of Life in LA? St. Joseph, patron of builders, pray for us!
We invite you to join thousands in declaring a commitment to valuing and protecting all human life, particularly the most vulnerable in our community. The event will begin with a walk up Temple Street, across Grand Avenue and down 1st Street, culminating in a family-friendly picnic with music, entertainment, food trucks and exhibits from community organizations. For more information, visit www.onelifela.org.