The Fourth Easter Sunday’s readings presented to us some food for thought. Their spiritual richness surely speaks to our reality.
In the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the latter, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8), spoke to the “Rulers of the people and elders” (Acts 4:8), regarding a healing that a vulnerable man received. Peter made it clear that it was not he who worked this miracle, this “good deed” (Acts 4:9), but thanks to “name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 4:10), this crippled man was healed. How mighty is the name of Jesus!
It interesting that this Jesus, who “is the stone which was rejected … has become the head of the corner” (Acts 4:11). Not only this but “there is salvation in no one else” except in the name of Jesus the Lord! This is so because, as Jesus says in the Gospel of John that was also proclaimed on that day: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Unlike the “hireling [who] cares nothing for the sheep” (Acts 4:13) because he is “not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not” and at the appearance of “the wolf coming … leaves the sheep and flees” (Acts 4:12) and let the wolf snatching and destroying the sheep, “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). And even when he speaks to his sheep he transmits to them that love which He has for them “to the end” (Acts 13:1).
These powerful readings perfectly coincided with the pro-life demonstration organized by the Life Network Foundation on the very same day these readings were proclaimed in our churches. The Archbishop of Malta, Mgr Charles J. Scicluna and Gozo’s Bishop, Mgr Mario Grech, both invited people of good will as well as the laity, priests and consecrated people to join them in this manifestation in Valletta that had only one goal: that of safeguarding life from the first moment of its conception. In their communique, the Bishops encouraged all the Church communities in Malta to pray for the safeguarding and protection of life. Furthermore, as they explained in their statement on the Bill that amends the Embryo Protection Act, the bishops exhorted all those responsible to pass laws to “truly protect life and human dignity and do nothing that will undermine the rights and well being of the child”.
The heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is inviting the lawmakers to “protect the dignity of embryos from beginning of life and throughout their development into childhood by making sure that they are born and raised by their natural mother and father”. The heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is calling those responsible to safeguard the children’s “physical, emotional, psychological, moral, and spiritual needs [since] they are the future generations that will reap what is being sown today”.
In practice what all this means is that there should be a no to anonymous donors of gametes, surrogacy, and the freezing of embryos by choice. This is so because the child is not a commodity. It is a fully-fledged human person. A child has the right to know and be taken care of by his/her natural mother and father.
What the Good Shepherd’s heart is saying to all of us, through our bishops, is likewise the same as it is telling us through Pope Francis’ pronouncements on this issue. In his address to the joint session of the United States Congress on 24 September 2015 the Holy Father said:
“Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development”.
Are we humble enough to abide by Jesus’ life-giving words?