In the movie Pope John Paul II, actor John Voight plays the part of the Pope. In one scene, John Paul’s first trip home to Poland, a crowd has gathered outside of the window of his residence. John Paul climbs onto the full window to address the crowd. In his brief comments (true story), he says, “Allow Christ to Find You.”
That line lands like an atom bomb in the lives of all who seek, and all who are lost.
The work of salvation is not our own. It is not entirely up to us. It is God’s work.
Immediately after The Fall, God comes seeking after Adam in the Garden of Eden. “Where are You?”, He asks. God knew perfectly well where Adam was. The question was not for God’s information, but for Adam’s benefit. Though he sinned, God wanted Adam to know that he was still His son, that he was worthy of being sought out, that a Father’s love never fails.
God’s search for us becomes a constant, central theme throughout the rest of the scriptures.
“But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-2
In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that He is a Good Shepherd who leaves the flock to search out the lost and bring them back to the fold.
In Hebrews 3:15, we are admonished, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Indeed, what was the very purpose of the Incarnation?
But how do we “allow” Christ to find us? The answer is easier said than done.
We must stop hiding.
Lost sheep hide behind all sorts of rocks, trees, hedges… There’s no shortage of places we find to cower.
Pride, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, sloth-the seven deadly sins, are a good place to focus. Replacing these with their associated opposing virtues is the work of Lent.
Then there is despair. We are often hobbled by guilt over what we have done. Jesus tells us in the parable of the Prodigal Son, how the Father is waiting on the road for his son’s return. When the disgraced son sees the father, he is consumed by self-loathing. The father, for his part, is consumed with joy over his son’s return.
Volumes can be written unpacking that one line from John Paul the Great. For us in the Pro-life Movement, we must first ensure that we have allowed Christ to find us, which means abandoning those hiding places that close us in and imprison us. That means not defaulting to our rationalizations when we do hear the Shepherd’s voice as He seeks us.
“The soul only communes with itself when the heart is stirred,” says Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism.
We must act on those stirrings. They are the leading of the Holy Spirit of God who dwells within, the Shepherd calling us by name and claiming us as His own. When we come out of hiding, we are better able to be enlisted to encourage others to do the same.
The Pro-life Movement is at its best when we not only champion the rights and dignity of innocent human life, but when we champion the dignity of our pro-choice brothers and sisters with equal fervor, when we advocate not only for ‘our side’, but for them as well. The voice of the Shepherd seeking them out with love.