This Sunday, October 1, the Church begins Respect Life Month, an opportunity for each of us as Catholics to reflect in a special way on the sacred and magnificent gift of human life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “human life is sacred from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one under any circumstance can claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” Catholic teaching is clear and uncompromising on this issue and yet, sadly, we know how often those who claim to be Catholic can hold positions contrary to the teaching of the Church. This is impossible and inconsistent with what it means to be a Catholic.
Catholic teaching has long articulated that the culture of life, love and civilization that is at the foundation of God’s plan begins in the heart of the Christian family. This is seen in the permanent, faithful and life-giving love of husband and wife in the marriage covenant as designed and ordered by God’s plan which leads to children and the creation of the family, “the school of love.” This kind of love reflects and mirrors for us the love that God has for the Church. It is a love that is at its roots selfless and giving, leading to a total care for others and a deep respect for the dignity, value and worth of every human being in every state of life. The marriage covenant speaks powerfully to all of us of the total giving, the unconditional love, the laying down of one’s life for another that is the hallmark of every Christian life. But whether married or not, whatever our vocation in life, each of us is called to respond to God’s unconditional love with the gift of ourselves in loving service to others. We must see the dignity of each person and respond with love. Blessed Mother Teresa’s ability to see Christ in the face of each person she met is the wisdom and grace that needs to guide us in our relationships with others.
The threats against human life in our society are frightening. Abortion is the law of the land. Each year countless numbers of unborn babies are put to death in the name of a woman’s right to choose without any regard at all for the rights of the unborn child who has no one to be his advocate. But there are threats against life at every stage: persons with disabilities, the elderly, the infirmed, refugees, immigrants, and the poor – so many of whom are pushed aside by our society. As Catholics we have an obligation and responsibility to be defenders of human life, to be advocates for life and fight against the threats that minimize and destroy any human life. We must be those disciples who through our prayer, fasting, and actions work to transform American culture in building a civilization of life, love and hope, in helping to create a society that values the dignity of every human life and cares for the very least of our brothers and sisters who have no voice in defending their right to life. May God bless these efforts!