The first Sunday of October is designated by the United States Bishops as Respect Life Sunday. The theme for this year is “Every life; Cherished, Chosen, Sent.” This observance is meant to remind us and renew in us the importance of the culture of life. Human life is both a gift from God and a creation of God. The creation stories in the Book of Genesis tell of God’s creating Adam and Eve. God named them both, thus showing his relationship as creator to us, his creations. He permits Adam to name the rest of creation indicating that while God is creator, He has given Adam and Eve the responsibility of being stewards of creation. The most precious life on earth is human life for we are created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing else created by God can be described that way. Thus we have the God-given responsibility to cherish, respect and protect human life from conception to natural death.
The most important aspect of our call is to protect life in the womb. By saying this I do not mean that other life issues are not important. All life issues are important and should be the concern of everyone.
In Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home, Our Holy Father reflects on our call of be good stewards. He puts in the context of Genesis and points out that the mistreatment of others and poor stewardship of the environment comes from, and leads to a lack of respect for human life in the womb. This culture of death, as Saint John Paul II called it during his pontificate, In many ways is the root of all the other acts of disrespect and violence towards life. The culture of death begins with a disrespect for life in the womb. For if the innocent and vulnerable human life in a mother’s womb can be discarded, what reason do people have to show respect for the rest of human life?
To grow in respect for all human life one needs to have a good relationship with the Lord. This involves an experience and understanding of God as our creator who made us in his own image and likeness out of love. Because love cannot be mandated or forced, but can only be given and received freely, God has given us a free will to accept his love or not to accept it; to love Him or not to love Him. A good relationship with the Lord is one in which we accept the gift of God’s love and love him in return. This relationship with God opens our hearts to love and respect all that belongs to God; that is all of creation. It opens our eyes to see the child in the mother’s room as being part of the miracle of God’s creation, and to look at others as being made in the image and likeness of God, out of God’s unconditional love.
Other than our relationship with God, where do we experience unconditional love? We do so in marriage. When a couple exchange vows the various forms all say the same thing; that they promise love each other in good times and in bad, in richness or poorness, in sickness and health, all the days of their lives. They promise to love each other without conditions. Marriage is the best human example we have of the love God has for us. It mirrors the unconditional love of God and brings it down to earth for us. Hopeful this will lead us to see every life as cherished, chosen and sent.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Artwork: Leonardo da Vinci: Study of Foetus in the womb.