Sunday, December 20, 2009

Homily for December 20, 2009

Those who have followed my blog for a while may find this homily sounds familiar. I used a large part of my homily from last Feb as the basis for today's homily

Here is the text for those who can't listen

The following story is quoted from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission

As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in World War II, General Eisenhower had been given information about the Nazi concentration camp system well before he led the invasion to liberate Western Europe (June, 1944). Reports on the massive genocide inflicted on Jews, Gypsies, political prisoners, homosexuals, dissidents, and other groups by the Schutzstaffel (SS) had been circulated among all the Allied leaders. Very few of the Allied commanders, however, had an accurate conception of what is now known to the world as the Holocaust until their troops began to encounter the death camps as they marched into Western Germany.

On April 4, 1945, elements of the United States Army’s 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division captured the Ohrdruf concentration camp outside the town of Gotha in south central Germany. Although the Americans didn’t know it at the time, Ohrdruf was one of several sub-camps serving the Buchenwald extermination camp, which was close to the city of Weimar several miles north of Gotha. Ohrdruf was a holding facility for over 11,000 prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and crematoria at Buchenwald. A few days before the Americans arrived to liberate Ohrdruf, the SS guards had assembled all of the inmates who could walk and marched them off to Buchenwald. They left in the sub-camp more than a thousand bodies of prisoners who had died of bullet wounds, starvation, abuse, and disease. The scene was an indescribable horror even to the combat-hardened troops who captured the camp. Bodies were piled throughout the camp. There was evidence everywhere of systematic butchery. Many of the mounds of dead bodies were still smoldering from failed attempts by the departing SS guards to burn them. The stench was horrible.

When General Eisenhower learned about the camp, he immediately arranged to meet Generals Bradley and Patton at Ohrdruf on the morning of April 12th. By that time, Buchenwald itself had been captured. Consequently, Ike decided to extend the group’s visit to include a tour of the Buchenwald extermination camp the next day. Eisenhower also ordered every American soldier in the area who was not on the front lines to visit Ohrdruf and Buchenwald. He wanted them to see for themselves what they were fighting against.

During the camp inspections with his top commanders Eisenhower said that the atrocities were “beyond the American mind to comprehend.” He ordered that every citizen of the town of Gotha personally tour the camp and, after having done so, the mayor and his wife went home and hanged themselves. Later on Ike wrote to Mamie, “I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world.” He cabled General Marshall to suggest that he come to Germany and see these camps for himself. He encouraged Marshall to bring Congressmen and journalists with him. It would be many months before the world would know the full scope of the Holocaust — many months before they knew that the Nazi murder apparatus that was being discovered at Buchenwald and dozens of other death camps had slaughtered millions of innocent people.
General Eisenhower understood that many people would be unable to comprehend the full scope of this horror. He also understood that any human deeds that were so utterly evil might eventually be challenged or even denied as being literally unbelievable. For these reasons he ordered that all the civilian news media and military combat camera units be required to visit the camps and record their observations in print, pictures and film. As he explained to General Marshall, “I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’”

His prediction proved correct. When some groups, even today, attempt to deny that the Holocaust ever happened they are must confront the massive official record, including both written evidence and thousands of pictures, that Eisenhower ordered to be assembled when he saw what the Nazis had done.

I bring up this story because it relates to a similar story that is taking place in our country, right now. There is a holocaust in our country that has led to the legal killing of over 45 million persons since Jan 22, 1973. Sadly, it is not a holocaust that we are trying to hide, but many of us fail to take notice of it happening. Those who are promoting the killing post their tally on the internet and in their “professional” journals.

In preparing for this weekend’s homily, I went to the Guttmacher Institute’s web page. They have a page entitled, “Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States”. I’d like to share with you a few of the facts.

• Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.
• Each year, about two percent of women aged 15-44 have an abortion; 47% of them have had at least one previous abortion.
• Forty-three percent of women obtaining abortions identify themselves as Protestant, and 27% as Catholic

The sad reality about this holocaust in America today is that we have pictures of what is happening. Like many of those in Germany, we know the gruesomeness of the killings, but we try to bury our heads and pretend that they are not taking place. We refuse to look at the pictures because it might require that we step forward and do something about the violence that is taking place. I have copies of the pictures and would really like to pass them around, but it is not something our children should see. I just hope that by not passing these pictures around that I am not helping you in your denial of the reality of abortion in our society.

I have mentioned in the past that 3,000 to 4,000 abortions occur every day. The most recent statistics that I could find, which is 2005, point to approximately 3,300 abortions each day. We have about 6,600 people who die each day. That means that 1/3 of all deaths in our country each day are as a result of abortion.

In today’s gospel, we hear the response of Elizabeth when Mary comes into her presence. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Truly, every fruit of the womb should be seen as blessed.

I’d like to share the following from Mother Teresa,

"America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts -- a child -- as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters"
And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign." (Mother Theresa -- "Notable and Quotable," Wall Street Journal, 2/25/94, p. A14)

Most of you are probably aware of the health care debate that is taking place in Washington, even as we speak. Even as it approaches a vote in the senate, the legislation will require Catholics to pay for abortions. From what I hear today, some states could opt out, but in those states who do not our taxpayer money will be subsidizing insurance payments for those wanting abortions. Now, I know, some of you are going to want to challenge me to say I am taking a political stand. In reality I am taking a moral stand in encouraging you to contact our senators and representative. As I’ve said before, as those who vote, we need to hold our elected officials accountable.

I also realize that some of you are wishing I would stop bringing up this topic. There are some who want to bury their heads in the sand so that we can pretend that this is not happening. Perhaps the priests who have served here in the past have tried to keep their homilies focused solely on God’s love and have not presented many challenges as we strive to live out our faith. We can’t ignore our obligations as Catholics to be active in the world to make a change for the good.

I’d like to close with quote from John Paul II.
"America you are beautiful . . . and blessed . . . . The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life."
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