Episode 3 of 4 in our new series, The Teachings of Jesus.
Prayer takes time. Care takes time. Human life takes a lifetime.
Today, the Catholic Church in England and Wales marks its annual Day for Life, when we celebrate the value of human life from conception to natural death. Today is meant to remind us that human life lasts a lifetime, and even in today’s fast-paced world, a lifetime is a long time.
Hollywood and soap operas present us with the edited highlights of a life, squeezed into a 30-minute or 2-hour package. Even the Bible offers us the edited highlights of the story of Jesus: the most remarkable miracles, the prayers which were answered immediately. But don’t be fooled. It takes months to make a movie, and it takes persistence to gain the answer to a prayer.
We don’t see many examples in the Bible of Jesus having to persist in prayer. Usually he gets instant results, though he did once have to pray for the same blind person twice, and at the Last Supper he prayed that all his followers be united – a prayer far from answered when we look at how Christianity is split into denominations and factions across the world. But today Jesus tells us quite clearly that if we need a good thing, and we believe God has the power to give it to us, then we should keep on knocking on the door of faith until we receive our answer.
Prayer takes time. If we feel let down by God, who has not answered our prayers on our terms, have we prayed with the kind of persistence which Jesus taught us to embrace?
Meanwhile, as we reflect on the value of human life, we remember that many of us are called to be carers for a significant part of our lives. As parents, we bring up children. As the children of agèd parents, we care for those who brought us into the world. When illness afflicts our families in other ways, we find ourselves giving more attention to the relatives in need. And some of us earn our living in the caring profession, where we must resist the temptation to treat it as “just a job” – because whatever pressures we are under from targets and managers, every human being we work with has an innate dignity which must not be ignored.
Care takes time. Jesus lives within each human person, and whenever you have cared for a child, a parent, a friend or a patient, you have been tending to Jesus himself.
On this DAY FOR LIFE, let us take stock of our situation. How do we treat Jesus, hidden in those who have most need of our care? The laws of England and Wales have already permitted abortion for many years, and renewed efforts are being made in Parliament to legalise euthanasia. We can and should pray for our politicians to recognise the value of human life, and especially to protect the medical profession so that all doctors and nurses remain committed to care, not killing. I commend to you the ongoing efforts to maintain a prayerful presence against abortion in Cardiff, which continued with a special prayer vigil in the Cathedral on Friday last. Local leaders are currently discerning whether there would be enough support in Cardiff to run another 40 days for life vigil in the autumn – they would love to hear from you if you would be willing to take part.
Not all of us are called to pray on the streets of Cardiff, but all of us are invited to pray for the conversion of human hearts. Yes, this is the hardest of all things to pray for, because God will never take away a person’s free will; yet we do believe that God will invite souls to soften their hearts, and that we should persist in prayer for this to happen: nothing is impossible for God.
When Our Lady appeared in Fatima in 1917, she asked for prayers for the conversion of those who would otherwise enter Hell. When Our Lord appeared to St Faustina Kowalska shortly afterwards, he asked her to make a novena during Easter week, during which she would bring before God those souls most in need of God’s Mercy. Let us not doubt God’s power to answer such prayers – but let us also recognise that receiving the answer takes time, and that God has sent these messages from heaven to remind us that if we want to see human lives change around us, we must be persistent in prayer, not for a week, not for a year, but for a lifetime.
Human life takes a lifetime. Let us defend human life with a lifetime of prayer.
If you are a carer, and especially if you are caring for someone who lacks the ability to speak for themself: THANK YOU.
If you are a pray-er, and especially if you have been praying for the pro-life cause, for vocations to the priesthood, or the needs of this parish, on a long term basis: THANK YOU.
If we were once in the habit of praying a daily rosary or other prayers for souls in need, I invite you today to rediscover that habit.
If you have never formed such a habit, then this DAY FOR LIFE is the perfect day to begin. Pick a cause for prayer. Indeed, ask God to give you an inner sense of what kind of prayer He wants to answer through you, or simply choose one of the causes I have just mentioned.
Prayer takes time. Care takes time. Human life takes a lifetime. And today is the first day of the rest of your life.