My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This Sunday, we celebrate Respect Life Sunday which begins a month dedicated to reflection on the great gift of life. The theme this year, “I came so that all might have life and have it to the full,” comes from the Gospel words of Jesus Himself.
Life is God’s most precious gift to us. The world today recognizes in the ecology movement that we must preserve this planet and all that God has created for future generations. Although today there are many who question that God is Creator and rely on theories of evolution and intelligent design, as Catholics we believe that God is the Creator, although we are not privy to the means He used to initially create from nothing the world we live in and all that it contains.
We are confident that life, itself, is a gift from God and we are entrusted with the sacred duty to preserve that life. The modern ecological movement has expanded its horizons in all directions to the preservation of life and the quality of life on our planet. There seems to be no limit to the ecological horizon, whether it be the quality of air, the purity of water, the non-pollution of our oceans, and the preservation of rare species.
It seems, however, that we must make a case for the ecology of the human person as has been mentioned by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. We need to recognize that the human person is the crowning glory of God’s creation, and is the most important life species that must be preserved and given precedence over all others. Not too many years ago, Professor Peter Singer of Princeton University declared that animals have as much right to live as human beings. This type of equivocation, unfortunately, is what has cheapened the value of human life in so many ways.
The spectrum of the concern for life that our Church maintains is broad. Clearly, we must protect innocent life in the womb. In our society today, this means elimination of abortion. Prior to abortion, contraception, and especially contraception which leads to abortion, is also a concern. Today, the reproductive technologies that have proliferated and are well meaning often times involve the destruction of life in the attempt to satisfy the desire for children for some persons. The unfortunate development of embryonic research which destroys embryos purporting to make gains in preserving life is also destructive of human ecology.
As we look to the end of life, there, too, assisted suicide and the restriction of care to those who have the possibility of life are also relevant concerns. Our treatment of persons with disabilities and the identification of disabilities in the womb which leads to abortion must also demand our attention.
As we look to the matter of the death penalty, a much misunderstood teaching of our faith, we should appeal the death penalty on the basis of its ineffectiveness or a deterrent unnecessary in our present-day situation.
The human ecology taught by our Church values life from conception to natural death. Today, unfortunately, expedience has over taken the moral understanding of how life needs to be respected and preserved. None of the Church teaching in these various areas seems to be widely understood. Rather, the individual desire to follow one’s own path in life has lead us into inevitable dead ends.
When Jesus told His disciples that He came so that all might have life and have it to the full, He was speaking not only of life eternal, which He promised, but also the fullness of life in this world which respects the integrity of the human person.
This Sunday and during this month, make an effort to put out into the deep in our understanding of the ecology of human life and all its aspects. Share with your friends, neighbors and relatives your understanding of the sanctity of life. Sometimes a simple conversation can effect the thinking of others. Educate yourself on what the Church teaches and why it teaches what it does. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website, www.usccb.org/prolife, gives detailed information on the subjects mentioned. Make this Respect Life Month one in which you personally thank God for the gift of your life and do your part to have our society respect all life.