When human dignity is threatened so is sacredness
When you look in the mirror every morning when you are getting ready to meet the day, what do you see? Do you see a masterpiece? Do you see the masterpiece that God has created? If not, ask the Lord to give you eyes to see it, eyes to see who you really are.
“Each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation.” This is the theme for this year’s Respect Life Month. Each October is always set aside by the Bishops of the United States as Respect Life Month, a time for all of us to reflect upon life issues and to particularly pray and promote greater respect for all human life.
The two most important principles of Catholic social teaching are the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person.
The foundational principle of all Catholic social teaching is the sanctity of human life. Catholics believe in an inherent dignity of the human person starting from conception and enduring through to natural death. We believe that human life must be valued infinitely above material possessions and anything else.
In looking at the dignity of the human person, this principle of Catholic social teaching states: “Being in the image of God, the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #357). As the years have gone by in fairly recent history, especially since Roe v. Wade when abortion became legal, the social order has led more and more to a disposable society. It seems that life is not sacred anymore. As the culture has become more secular over time, the sanctity of human life in all of its stages has been diminished. As individualism has become more prevalent, respect for human dignity has become increasingly threatened. When human dignity is threatened, the sacredness of human life is threatened. We must recapture this sacredness.
This will happen over time as we give witness, each in our own way, to the powerful and life-transforming love of Christ and to the respect and reverence that is due to each person as a “masterpiece of God’s creation.”
Our Holy Father has made this an important part of his pontificate. On the world stage, Pope Francis has revealed a deep tenderness towards humanity, especially the elderly, the imprisoned, those with disfiguring disabilities, the unborn and many others through his actions, his humility, his warmth and compassion. His examples of reaching out challenge all of us to see the human dignity of each and every person. In his 2013 Day of Life greeting Pope Francis said, “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
The terrible violence in our cities around the world today, the horrific atrocities against Christians and others by ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorist groups, the many lives terminated through abortion and euthanasia, the execution of inmates by the state as a punishment for a crime, the sexual exploitation of children and women through sex trafficking — these examples among others result from a grave disrespect for the dignity of a human person and a lack of respect for human life.
The Lord invites us all to respond, not with anxiety or doubt, but with confident trust in and dependence upon God. But it begins with ourselves. If we never see ourselves as masterpieces of God’s creation, how will we ever see it in others? If we are to recapture the sacredness and dignity of human life, we must first seek Jesus in prayer and in the sacraments for our own sanctification. In doing so, we also ask for the grace to see ourselves and others as God sees us — as masterpieces of his creation. We must look at ourselves and others in light of this truth, treating all people with the reverence and respect that is due to them. We must foster community and solidarity with “the least among us.”
This is why Respect Life Month is so important. During the coming month of October it is imperative that we reflect on these and other life issues, spending time in prayer and reflection, seeking the Lord’s guidance in how we might be more visible instruments of Christ’s love in our society and our world, giving a voice to “the least among us,” those who do not have a voice.
If we want peace in our world, we must work for justice. If we want justice, we must respect human life in all its stages, from conception to its natural end. Then, and only then, will the kingdom of God be made present.
In the words of St. Paul, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of justice, peace, and the joy that is given by the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ in this way pleases God and wins the esteem of men. Let us, then, make it our aim to work for peace and to strengthen one another” (Rom 14:17-1).
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us!