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Archbishop Aquila: “Make your voices heard” against the death penalty and for life of the unborn

Below is a transcript of remarks from the Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, Archbishop of Denver, at the Celebrate Life Rally and March in Denver on Jan. 12, 2019. Introducing him, in the video below from the event, was David Bereit, the event emcee and the cofounder of 40 Days for Life.

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Thank you very much. It is always edifying to see so many of you here, especially after yesterday’s weather. And the Lord answered our prayers and gave us nice weather today.

Have you ever compared the difference between a candle in the daylight and the same candle at night? They both give off the same amount of light, but the absence of light [at night] makes that candle seem so much brighter.

When it comes to the support of our surrounding culture for life, at every stage, and respect for dignity with which God has imbued every person, that light is fading. But it is precisely in this dimly lit place that the light of the truth and our testimony to it with our lives will shine more clearly and brightly.

Celebrate Life 2019: Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila from Catholic Charities of Denver on Vimeo.

Jesus tells us, as his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.” (Mt. 5:14-16)

We see this even in our landscape. When we look up at the foothills from the city or we are looking down from the mountains, our cities and their lights stand out. As people who strive to protect human life at every stage, we are called to be like this city on a mountain, to be the light of the world in these dark times God has willed for us to live.

Just like a lamp on a stand, Jesus says, to each one of us today, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

There are many areas in which the light of the truth is being suffocated — and especially in our own state of Colorado. We see that in the meaning of the human body and sexuality; in the goodness and dignity of life at every stage; and the lack of belief in the truths that God has woven into creation.

In this past midterm election, some of those lawmakers who were in support of the Church’s teaching in these key areas failed to win their seats, which makes our task today of remaining vigilant and engaged all the more important.

And it is you, the laity, who need to make your voices heard.

There are still politicians in the new legislature that believe as we do, and others who are willing to work with us on certain issues, even if we have other disagreements. We must not let these disagreements prevent us from working together when we can.

During this legislative session we hope to see an effort to repeal the death penalty in Colorado — a measure that the Church has long advocated for, since our prison system can ensure these criminals pose no danger to the public once they are incarcerated.

We also know that men who have been condemned to death, have converted, and have changed. They have opened their hearts to The One who can give them life.

All life has dignity and worth, even the lives of those who have killed others. The state should not participate in the cycle of violence by taking life — but should instead strive to protect it.

In 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a sermon on loving our enemies, illustrating this teaching of Jesus. He stated, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Those words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., need to be heard by both sides of the aisles today. With all of the rhetoric that we see present, among both Democrats and Republicans, in the viciousness of some of their statements, they reflect a lack of belief in God, they reflect a lack of civility, they reflect hatred that has no place in a civil society.

As I stand here in front of the Capitol, I challenge you also to be vigilant and remain engaged as the legislature considers bills that could profoundly change our state’s laws in the arena of life, as well as how our state interacts with issues of sexuality, which are closely linked with life. On the surface it might seem like sexuality and the protection of life at all stages are not related. But sexuality is closely linked to our identity as co-creators with God; they share deep roots. The Evil One hates God, so it should be no surprise that he takes every opportunity to distort and confuse human sexuality in our society and in the minds of people. It should not surprise us that he encourages efforts to devalue and destroy life, as well.

Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, had this to say:

“Among the vulnerable for whom the church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this...

“...Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message...[the message of the Church and of Christ]...about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question...It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life...”

Our legislatures need to hear those words. The Catholics in our pews need to hear those words. The media today would never report on those words of Pope Francis, because they like to put him forward as one who is progressive. But he sees the evil, and the ideology, behind the so-called progressiveness. It is void, it is without God and it lacks the truth. And we must stand against it and not be afraid.

“You are the light of the world,” Jesus says to us. We too often as Christians, and as people of goodwill, have hidden that light. Your presence here today with your friends and families is a light. The beautiful music we hear today is a light. Your continued vigilance on behalf of the unborn, the vulnerable and our identity as children of God is a light. We must be vigilant. We must be those who are willing to put up with rejection, with anger, with hatred, with ridicule, knowing that Jesus himself put up with all of that. And we can expect no less.

If we are truly to be disciples, we must let our light shine in the darkness, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

I pray that God may bless each one of you. I pray that you will follow the words of the Gospel, to pray for your enemies, to pray for those who persecute you, pray for their conversion and their change of heart. With God, nothing is impossible. May He bring you into a deeper encounter with Him so that you are a light that will never be contained, that you are a light that will shine brightly in the darkness. Thank you.

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