In a 2015 photo, students from the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington participate in the March for Life after attending the Archdiocese of Washington’s annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center. (CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN)
In a 2015 photo, students from the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington participate in the March for Life after attending the Archdiocese of Washington’s annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center. (CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN)

Later this month, young people will come by the busloads to the Verizon Center and D.C. Armory while perhaps hundreds of thousands more people from around the country will journey to our nation’s capital.

Why are they doing this?  Why will so many women, men and children travel many hours or even days and then sleep on school gym floors when they arrive?  They are coming, as people have for four decades now, to pray and to speak out, to stand up and march in solidarity for human life.  They come to the annual Youth and Family Rallies and Mass, the Vigil and the March for Life to affirm the Gospel of Life and specifically to seek protection for the most vulnerable among us and make the appeal that every child has the right to life and to be allowed to be born.

Life is also what parents with their newborn children or catechumens seek when they come to the Church.  They voice their desire for the gift of new and true life – the fullness of life – for their little infant or for themselves, for the grace in baptism of being born again, this time in the Holy Spirit.

Parents, cooperating with God, give their children human life.  And then, urges Pope Francis, they should “bring them to God so that through baptism they can be reborn as children of God and receive the gift of faith. Thus, along with life, children are given a fundamental orientation and assured of a good future” (Lumen Fidei, 43).

In the sacrament of baptism, we are “reborn” and our identity as originally planned by God is re-established. Through the outward visible sign of water and the formula, “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” we are restored to a state of grace as Original Sin and any personal sins are washed away.  We become God’s adopted children (Galatians 4:5; 1 John 3:1) and partakers of Christ’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), as he has shared in our human nature.

The new life implanted in us is the life of God – a divine seed that needs to be nurtured, nourished, cultivated so that it can grow and flower into life everlasting.  Moreover, this identity we receive in baptism cannot be taken away from us. Our souls have been permanently marked as belonging to the Lord.

Baptism is “the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments” (CCC 1213).  Baptized into Christ, we are also incorporated into his Church and his mission. There are many different expressions of this Christian life and mission, but an essential one is that the truth and love of the Lord should shine in us and through us.

Jesus proclaimed, “I came so that [people] might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  In our day, when life is threatened in many ways, we should be mindful that God holds us responsible for upholding human life and dignity.  “Through the waters of Baptism [and] interiorly renewed by the grace of the Spirit, ‘who is the Lord and giver of life,’ we have become a people for life and we are called to act accordingly,” explained Saint John Paul II. “Everyone has an obligation to be at the service of life” (Evangelium Vitae, 79).

By virtue of our new life in baptism, we are charged with manifesting the Gospel of life through prayer, speaking out and practical action on a personal and societal level.  Each time we do this, bearing witness to the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death, I am especially touched by the vitality and testimony of so many young people. To learn more please visit: YouthRallyandMassForLife.org.

In solidarity with all those coming to our nation’s capital this month to witness to the dignity of human life, we pray for God’s mercy and healing love to touch the hearts and minds of the women, children and men victimized by abortion. We pray that God will heal our nation, that the hearts of judges and legislators who support abortion may be transformed, and that this land may become one that affirms a culture of life.  You can help spread the word on social media and unite in testifying to the value of every human life using #iStand4Life.

Each day, the archdiocese joins with several organizations in an effort to build up the culture of life. Groups like Sanctuaries for Life, the Gabriel Network, Catholic Charities and numerous pregnancy centers throughout the archdiocese provide compassionate care and support to women considering abortion. Project Rachel Ministry extends God’s love and mercy to men and women suffering after an abortion. Isaiah’s Promise affirms the dignity of every human life by providing support for parents and families impacted by a difficult prenatal diagnosis. The generosity of the Catholic faithful to the Cardinal’s Appeal helps make these ministries possible. All of these organizations profess the belief that as children of the Author of life, we have inherent dignity and worth.

Being baptized means being made into a new creation.  Now immersed in the source and fullness of life, we are sent to renew the world.