The First Reading, the Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel all talk about vineyards and growing grapes in the vineyard. I thought I would bring some with me but I won’t do anything with them. Don’t worry.
(Father shows a bunch of grapes) What do we have here? Grapes, thank you. What do we have right here? What is it? A grape right? (Father pulls one-off) What do we have now? A grape, right? It’s a grape on the vine; it’s a grape off the vine. That’s going to be the message today. A grape on the vine and a grape off the vine.
We believe that life is sacred from the very moment of conception until death. We live in times right now where that belief is not held to be something common or something sacred to everybody’s lives. Through each of these readings, we hear about this image of the vineyard that produces the fruits from the vine and the vineyard that produces Jesus.
We hear in the Gospel that the master that created this vineyard, He left and would, every once in a while, send servants to go forth and bring forth the fruit of the vineyard, the produce. Finally, as each one of them is beaten, killed and slaughtered, he decides to send his only son. He sends his only son into the vineyard, and he says, “Surely they will respect my son.” But when they saw the son they said, “’ This is the heir, come let us kill him.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” Just as Jesus was rejected, suffered, died, and was crucified, from the very moment of conception, every life is created in the image and likeness of God.
I want to talk about a couple of faith teachings. I am going to use the paradigm of faith and reason. In our church, we believe in faith and reason. A lot of people might not understand reason, but one aspect of reason would be science. So, I’m going to talk about science and then also scripture and tradition. So, these are what set our beliefs.
First of all, science. What does science say about this? Peer-reviewed journals in the Biological and Life Science literature have published many articles and they represent the biological view that a human’s life begins at fertilization, which is conception. As those statements typically offered without explanation or citation, the fertilization view seems to be uncontested by editors, reviewers, and authors who contribute to the scientific journals. What that is saying there is the belief that life begins in conception is uncontested when it comes to the scientific journals.
The interesting thing is, that Americans are split on whether fertilization is either a philosophical or religious belief. So, those who believe philosophically or religiously, only 45% would believe that life begins at conception.
Of those that are more biological and scientific, only 46% would believe that life begins at conception, and 38% of Americans do view fertilization as the starting point of human life. So, 38% view conception as the start of human life and I say that because 31% of Catholics believe in the real presence in the Eucharist.
In the two studies that experts explored on the matter, and this one is the most popular perspective held by all public health professionals, the recent study done in 2022 asserts this: 80% of Americans view biologists as the most trusted source to determine what life is. So, 80% of Americans view biologists as the most trusted source.
They took biologists from 1,058 Academic Institutions around the world, and they assessed them in a survey of when human life begins. They found that 96%, 5,337 out of 5,577, affirmed the fertilization and conception view. The principles of this suggest that scientists have an ethical and professional obligation to inform America about this. So, science is very clear that life begins at conception.
We all know that our faith is very clear, that life begins at conception. How do we have such a distorted view that goes against science and against faith that life begins at conception?
My guess? I don’t know the answer to that, but I would guess that it’s used in politics to divide us. Only politicians, that I know of, would disagree with both science and faith.
The church teaches human life is sacred.
Now I’m going to get into that scripture and tradition. We talked about faith and reason, scripture, and tradition. The church teaches human life is sacred from its very beginning and involves the creative action of God, and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the source of all life from beginning to end. No one under any circumstance can claim for himself the right to directly destroy innocent human life. It’s what our church believes.
I want to take some examples from scripture. We first start with the Old Testament. During the Old Testament times, which is different than now, thankfully, child sacrifices were going on. The pagans believed, and I talked about this in another homily: sacrificing children. Children didn’t even have a right, so a child could be killed for any reason whatsoever because children were not seen as being created in the image and likeness of God, in the pagan world.
In the Jewish realm, we see how life begins at conception throughout the Old Testament, and I’ll show you some examples throughout the New Testament.
This is from Deuteronomy: This is Moses proclaiming this, he says, “When you hearken to the voice of the Lord God, all these blessings will come upon you and overwhelm you. May you be blessed in the city and blessed in your country. Blessed be the fruit of your womb; the produce of your soil; the offspring of your livestock; the issue of herds and the young of your flocks; blessed will be your grain and your bull. May you be blessed in your coming and going.” Moses is telling us that the fruit of your womb is blessed and holy.
Then we hear this from Samson when an angel came to him in the book of Judges. “The angel told the mother of Samson, as for the son you will conceive and bear. No razor shall touch his head, for this boy will be consecrated to God from the womb.” So consecrated in and from the womb.
Then we hear in Job: Job stated, “Did not he who made me in the womb make him?” So, he is acknowledging that God made me in the womb. “Did not the same one fashion us before our birth?” So, even before our birth, God was fashioning us.
My favorite, Psalm 339: “Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
We hear in Sirach, “Beloved of his people, dear to his Maker, dedicated from his mother’s womb consecrated to the Lord as the prophet Samuel from my mother’s womb, he gave me my name and consecrated in the shadow of his arms.”
Then in Isaiah, we hear, “The Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb that Jacob would be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him and I made glorious in the sight of the Lord my God in this new strength.”
Finally, Jeremiah says, “The word of the Lord came to me before I formed you in the womb. I knew you before you were born. I dedicated you.” So, you’re dedicated even before you’re born in the womb. “A prophet to the nations I appointed you.”
So, that’s the Old Testament, and this continues through the New Testament as well as we hear the story of the visitation when Mary and Elizabeth come together. “Thereupon, Mary hurried into the hill country to the town of Judah, where she entered Zachariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped into her womb. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried loudly, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. But who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby leapt in my womb. Blessed is she who trusted that the words of the Lord would be fulfilled.’”
From the very beginning of scripture all the way through, we hear the dignity of human life in the womb.
Something pretty unique happened on June 24, 2022. June 24th is the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist and it’s also my baptismal anniversary. But on June 24, 2022, in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 50 years of precedent, overturning Roe vs. Wade. We believe our faith is not contained to us here in this church. Our faith is to permeate all of society, all of our culture.
We hear in the “Gospel of Life” from John Paul II, “The law of God is written in man’s heart, the sacred value of human life from its very beginning to its very end can affirm the right of every human being has a primary good respected to the highest degree upon recognition of this right, every human community and political community itself should be founded upon this.”
So, we know in our church, we believe that our society and community should be founded upon this. He continues, “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, willful self-destruction, whatever, violates the integrity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on the body and mind attempts to cause whatever insults of dignity subhuman conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, selling of women and children as well as disgraceful working conditions, we people are not to be treated as mere instruments. When we do this, we poison human society, and they do more to harm those who practice it than those who suffer from the injury.”
So, our society, our America, has been poisoned.
I want to go back to this image of the grape. The grape is attached to the vine, and many people will say that a child is not a child because it’s dependent on its mother. A grape is a grape, even if attached to the vine. The grape off the vine is still a grape. We believe in this image, this undeniable dignity of life, and the beauty of the fruit of the womb. Even a child in the womb is consecrated to God.
The child in the womb, from the very moment of conception, is life, is a human person. We find this in science. We find this in faith. We find this in reason. We find this in scripture. We find this in tradition. If all of these things add to life, why is it so difficult to believe? A grape is a grape whether or not it’s on the vine, and life is a life whether or not it is in the womb.