My first reaction when I looked at the return address on the envelope was, Oh No! some , parishioner or sister in Christ, has managed to get themselves thrown into the Vanier prison for women. Then as I read the letter, I remembered that just before Christmas when The Interim had suggested that we write to Linda Gibbons, that I had sent her a brief note in a Christmas card.
At the time I received her reply I was studying the readings for the second Sunday in ordinary time. It struck me forcibly that Linda Gibbons is living the meaning of that Sundays readings.
In the first reading from Isaiah 49, the prophet is inspired to speak of himself, the people of Israel, and in a veiled way of Christ the suffering servant, as follows:
“And now Yahweh has spoken, He who formed me in the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, to gather Israel to Him” (Is. 49:5).
Women who have abortions kill unborn children in the womb in the same way they might have a cancerous tumour excised. We rightly protest that they have not just removed “tissue” or “cells” , but have killed an unborn child.
The passage from Isaiah just mentioned points to the ultimate blasphemy of such an action. That Almighty God who is “forming” the unborn child, “in the womb to be His servant,” is pushed aside, and His work interrupted and destroyed. At this moment whatever formation He had planned in His infinite mercy for the mother is also severely damaged.
In psalm 40, the psalm for that Sunday, the psalmist proclaims: “He put a new song in my mouth a song of praise to our God.”
In her silence before the court, pointing to the silenced voices of the unborn, Linda Gibbons sings a ringing song of praise which says:
“Only He who created all life has the right to take it.”
The gospel for that Sunday describes John the Baptist, recognizing Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
In her courageous action, Linda Gibbons is saying to all with ears to hear—These are lambs of the Lamb. He commands us to feed them not slaughter them while they are on their way to his banquet. We must quickly learn the difference between feeding lambs and slaughtering them. If not, the Lamb of God who calls all lambs and sheep to His banquet may say to us, that any age which slaughters and does not feed lambs must end.
There is another way that Linda Gibbons mirrors John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness of this age.
Scripture tells us that when John was in the wilderness his food was locusts and wild honey.
In other words, when he was called to pray and to proclaim Christ, he just went, He didn’t pack a lunch.
Yes, I remember the story about having enough oil in our lamps. Scripture certainly has many examples which suggest we ought to plan carefully and pray well about this day and the future.
But we must never forget that when Jesus tells us also to “consider the lilies” not to be preoccupied with detail, but to be occupied with seeking first the Kingdom, the lesson is simple: That unless there are some like John the Baptist, like Linda Gibbons,who stand up in each age and say, “This is the Lamb of God” and “These are the lambs of the Lamb,” the whole age is headed for self annihilation.
I note, finally, two things in Linda’s letter. That she used many of the cards and bits of Good News she received in jail to share the hope which is ours in Christ with her sister inmates. For some of these, perhaps it is the first time they have heard Christ’s message of peace in a way they could understand it.
Flowers bloom in the wilderness but we have to go there to discover this. Linda is being moved from prison to prison. We ought to write to the Minister of Justice about this. What usually happens when a prison becomes crowded is the prisoners are released if their offences are minor.
Should she who has laid her life on the line to prevent murder, be treated as if she had just committed one?
Dear Sister, Dear Linda, in the words of that Sunday;s second reading. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
From a sermon delivered in response to a letter received from Linda Gibbons, who is serving jail time for pro-life activism.