Bishop's Column

40 Years After Roe v. Wade, the Struggle of Christ and Herod Continues

The Christmas season proclaims and celebrates the Gospel of Life—the truth of each person’s God-given dignity in Christ. But this January, the Culture of Death—the pervasive cultural mentality of objectification and violence—also marks a milestone: the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion. In 40 years of legal protection for abortion, this ruling has led to the deaths of over 55 million unborn American children.

The struggle between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death is nothing new. Both realities are present even in the Christmas story. Afraid of the coming Messiah, King Herod, the vassal-king of Judea, sought to kill him. But the Son of God was ultimately saved by his Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, aided by the Magi from the East.

In the days after Christ’s birth, the journeying wise men had become caught in a struggle between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death. Herod met with the Magi, attempting to use them as scouts to find Jesus. The travelers nearly became pawns in Herod’s deadly plan.

But the tyrant was thwarted. After encountering Christ and paying him homage, these wise men from the East understood Herod’s wickedness and chose the side of Christ. They did not meet with Herod again, nor would they reveal Jesus’ location. This enabled the Holy Family to escape to Egypt, while Herod ordered a mass-killing of infants in Bethlehem.

Today, this life-and-death struggle continues – and escalates. There is no neutral ground, no option to sit on the sidelines. Like the Magi, we are caught between Herod and Christ, between the Culture of Death and the Gospel of Life.

Four decades after Roe v. Wade, the choice is clear. If we are only "personally opposed" to abortion, but do not seek to stop it, we have given way to the forces that worked through Herod as he massacred the Holy Innocents.

On Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, God’s appearance to the nations, which teaches us how to build a life-affirming culture. By modeling our lives on the actions of the Magi, we can help the cause of Christ and work against the "Herods" of our time.

The first lesson from the Magi is that they were not content to know Jesus from a distance. Knowledge "about" the Messiah was not enough. Though they believed the scriptural prophecies about Christ, they took the further step of traveling to see him personally.

But the wise men were not simply on a personal quest. When they found Jesus Christ, the world’s rightful ruler, they acknowledged his royal authority. He was not simply "their" Lord, but he is the Lord of all.

After honoring Christ’s Kingship, the Magi continued to let God guide their choices. They saw that they could not bow before Christ while cooperating with Herod. So they did what they could to frustrate the tyrant’s plans.

The Magi are models for all believers in the Gospel of Life. We must seek to encounter Christ personally, as they did. But our personal relationship with Christ is incomplete without an acknowledgment of his divine authority. Finally, like them, we must choose between the Gospel of Life and the Culture of Death – knowing that neutrality is impossible, just as it was for the Magi under Herod’s reign.

The threefold lesson of the Magi is simple and powerful: Seek Christ personally. Honor him as King. And uphold his reign against its opponents. Thus, these wise men inspire us to read the signs of the times and respond in faith.

The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is an unmistakable sign in our time, showing the nation’s need for a spiritual awakening. This mournful commemoration calls for prayer, action, and a new commitment to the Gospel of Life.

God’s covenant people, the Church, must take on this commitment together – uniting as one Body, praying and working for an end to abortion. It was in this spirit that Catholics throughout Nebraska began the "40 Days of Prayer and Reflection" campaign Dec. 12. The Nebraska Catholic Conference has compiled prayers and information for each day from now until Jan. 22.

If you have not yet joined us in these days of prayer, I encourage you to do so, by visiting Those already participating should share the informative materials with friends and family. Education is needed to counter misunderstandings surrounding the Roe decision.

Though abortion remains legal, we should not abandon hope. Herod put the Holy Innocents to death, but he could not stop Christ’s reign.

Like the Magi, we must do what we can for the Culture of Life. We must commit ourselves to defend Christ’s Kingship and refuse to cooperate with evil.

Our actions may seem small. But if we are united with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we can rest assured that they are never insignificant.

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