The annual March for Life has been held in Washington D.C. ever since the Roe v. Wade decision made child killing legal in the U.S.A. throughout all months of pregnancy. For me, it was the third annual march for life in 1976 that launched my own involvement in the pro-life movement. This year, the theme so appropriately chosen for the March for Life is Love Saves Lives.
Love is not just a good motive by which we do the things we do. Love has a content and a specific meaning. There are certain things that are always against love and certain things that are always consistent with love. Scriptures tell us that God is love. It also tells us that God is life. Jesus Christ used the word “life” to describe himself many times. He called Himself “the way, the truth and the life.” He said, “ I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” He also said, “I am the bread of life,” and “I am the resurrection and the life.” He talked about life as his own being and his own mission.Scripture also tells us God did not make death. If God is life and hates death, and if God is love, then obviously love leads to life. Love saves lives.
We live in a culture that is deeply immersed in abortion. Abortion is the opposite of love. Love says, “I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person.” Abortion says, “I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself.” It’s exactly the opposite dynamic.
Love is the most misused, abused, and confused word in the English langue. We say we love ice cream, we love our pets, we love our parents, we love our spouse, and we love God. It is also used to describe things that are sinful, like acts of adultery or fornication or even abortion. What then does love mean, exactly?
The word "love" needs to be restored to its original meaning, and Scripture does that for us in the first letter of John. We read, "The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16). Jesus did that. That is love! It is an act that gives oneself away for the good of another person. Love is revealed not just by a symbol of the heart, but by the symbol of the crucifix with Jesus on it, showing how he gave himself away for us.
“This is my body given up for you,” he said on the night before his death. He said it to signify the meaning of love. He was to sacrifice himself so that we might live. Ironically, the same words, “This is my body,” are used by those who defend abortion.“This is my body! I can do whatever I want with it,” they will shout—even if it means killing the child.
In contrast, love saves lives because love lives out the words “this is my body” in the self-giving way that Jesus exemplifies and teaches. He did not just exemplify it and teach it, but he empowers us to live it. Because if we are going to live in love, Jesus is living and loving in us and through us if we are believers and members of his body.
Love saves lives because love itself is life. God is love. God is life. God gives life. Therefore, love gives life. And it’s the inspiration for the prolife movement.
And this is another dimension of this year's theme. Love is behind everything the pro-life movement does. Whether it is pregnancy centers or healing ministries after abortion, we see love demonstrated as we reach out to take the hands and hearts of those who need us to comfort, lead, and guide them. It is love that motivates the pro-life movement to strengthen those who are tempted by abortion to choose the right path instead.
We see love also in the legislative hearings and in the people who are testifying on behalf of unborn children and their families. We see love in those who are working hard on court cases and those who work in political campaigns to elect pro-life candidates. What makes a pro-life candidate endure the sacrifices needed to run for office? Why does a protestor stand in front of an abortion clinic? Why do sidewalk counselors sacrifice their time and energy to reach out to desperate moms and dads going into abortion facilities?
All these activities are motivated by love – love of babies, love of mothers, and love of fathers whom abortion will damage and hurt. If the pro-life movement is not a movement of love, then it is nothing at all. But if it is a movement of love, then nothing can stop it, because as we read in the Song of Songs, "love is stronger than death and more powerful than even hell" (Song of Songs 8:6).
Love is what motivates pro-lifers to intervene in ways that will not be appreciated in return. But we intervene anyway because we can make a difference in the life of that child, that mom, or that family. Our Lord taught us in Luke 14 that when we hold a banquet, we should not invite our wealthy neighbors or friends who can repay us. Instead, we should invite the poor, crippled, and lame who have no way of repaying, making our reward in heaven. Similarly, when we think of the people who work, pray, lobby, and preach for life to save the unborn lives, they cannot be repaid by the unborn children. These children do not know we are loving them and fighting for them. The love that fuels the pro-life movement is, indeed, the most unselfish form of love that we can exercise. Indeed, love saves lives. With every step we take in this year's March for Life, let's ask the Lord to renew that love within us!
Fr. Frank Pavone is the National Director for Priests for Life. Priests for Life is the world's largest Catholic organization focused exclusively on ending abortion. To see the events Priests for Life organizes in conjunction with the March for Life, go to www.priestsforlife.org/MarchForLife.