December 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – I once managed to startle a very hostile pro-abortion demonstrator into civilized conversation by announcing that I was pro-choice.
Since this statement was met with some incredulity, I expounded on a few of the more libertarian beliefs I happen to hold, affirming a person’s right to freely choose what to wear, how to vote, and how to educate their children. I concluded by cheerfully reminding her that she was likely quite adamantly anti-choice about any number of issues, such as rape or genocide.
My point, of course, was the arbitrariness of claiming a monopoly on the label “pro-choice” in reference to one particular issue. All of us are “pro-choice” in regards to some issues and “anti-choice” in regards to others. All of us, in fact, would favor the physical restraint of any person attempting to choose certain courses of action.
Of course, if I were to say that “God is pro-choice,” as I did in the title of this reflection, I would have to go even further. God does not, in the normal course of events, physically restrain us from making any choice. That is, He allows us to make any choice that is physically possible according to the laws of nature that He created.
God is what you might call the ultimate pro-choicer. He is, after all, the One Who thought it would be a good idea to give us choice in the first place. He literally created human choice by giving us free will.
Since Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of surgical abortions in the world, has been known to observe the Christmas season by attempting to recruit God for the cause of choice, I think this is an eminently appropriate time to consider what it really means to call God “pro-choice.” And who better to shed light on this than the woman whose choice to embrace an unexpected pregnancy once saved the world?
That Mary’s cooperation in God’s plan was a choice freely made is a fact the Gospel is at pains to emphasize. Before Christ’s birth, at the Annunciation, Gabriel waits for her “yes.” After Christ’s birth, at the presentation in the Temple, we are reminded that in offering her son to the Father, she has chosen the way of the Cross with Him. “Your own soul a sword shall pierce” (Lk 2:35).
At Christ’s birth, we see her placing her Son in a manger, freely offering him to the world on the altar of Bethlehem. As Our Lord makes clear, He laid Himself down on the wood of the cross freely, by His own choice. “I lay down my life that I may take it again. No man takes it away from me: but I lay it down of myself” (Jn 10: 17-18). Anticipating and participating in this act, Mary freely lays Him on the wood of the manger.
This aspect of the Christmas story is particularly compelling for me after giving birth to my own daughter this past May in the safety and warmth of a cozy birthing center. I cannot fathom the idea of laying my newborn child in a feeding trough, exposed to the raw elements of a frigid winter night, instead of cradling her, protective and possessive, against my heart. If there is one thing a newborn child would need in a cold, dark cave, it is body heat.
I’m sure that Mary’s maternal heart was aching to do just that. If she longed to alleviate His suffering as she stood beneath the Cross, how much more must she have felt that urge when He was just her frail, helpless baby? What a pure and powerful act of the will it must have been to obey the Holy Spirit’s impulse, and lay her Son where she knew He wanted to be.
Mary knew what our choice-obsessed culture has yet to learn: our ability to choose is not, in fact, a right we have been invested with, but a gift we have been given. It is a gift that calls, in return, for a response of sacrificial love. It is, in fact, for the very purpose of enabling us to love that this gift was given.
We have been given choice so that we can choose life, love, and all that is truly good. Perhaps we, as pro-lifers, should consider how this might govern our response to “right to choose” rhetoric, instead of the ubiquitous, and somewhat misleading: “well, the baby/elderly/infirm person has rights too!”
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both you and your seed may live” (Dt 30:19).
The Christ Child comes again this Christmas, from heaven into the arms of Mary. From the arms of Mary, he is offered to each one of us. May all of us choose to accept this offering, and to follow in the way of Him Who is Life itself.