Dear friends, greetings and blessings to you all.
Each October, the Church in the United States celebrates Respect Life Month, and the first Sunday of October is observed as Respect Life Sunday. As Catholics, we are called to cherish, defend, and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning of life to its natural end, and at every point in between. During the month of October, the Church asks us to focus our attention and prayers on the sacredness and dignity of every human life. The theme for this year is: “Live the Gospel of Life.”
As Catholics, we believe that every human person is made in the image and likeness of God. Every human life is therefore sacred and inviolable and should be protected and cherished from conception until natural death.
Christ through His Church continues to urge us to be defenders of life in the midst of the culture of death. The term culture of death, coined by John Paul II, is an accurate description of the drift of our Western culture, which seeks to promote a so-called “quality” of life instead of a “sanctity” of life.
Because every human life is created in God’s dignity and likeness, we believe that each and every human life is valuable. If not, then no human life is valuable. If the dignity and value of a human being is rooted in anything other than being made in the image and likeness of God, then that dignity would always be fragile and never permanent.
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As written in the document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, [which I encourage everyone to read as we approach this next election], “In the United States and around the world, many challenges demand our attention. The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”
The “Quality of Life” ethic leads us down a road where not all life is treated as being valuable. The “Sanctity of Life” ethic leads us to the kind of world where everyone is valued—not for what they can do, but for the fact that they are created, and created by God. It is a world in which we joyfully acknowledge that “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” (Pope Francis’ 2013 Day for Life Greeting).
A person who is not deeply aware of their own dignity in God, will never be aware of the dignity of the child within the womb; will never be aware of the dignity of the person who is sick, the dignity of the person who is vulnerable, the dignity of the person who is handicapped, etc.
Perhaps as we take this time to reflect upon what it means to be pro-life, we also take the time to reflect upon our own dignity in a deeper way. It will have an impact in two ways, I think. The first way: we will come to a deeper understanding of who we really are as individuals created in God’s image and likeness, as “masterpieces of God’s creation”; secondly, in doing so, perhaps we will come to have a greater compassion for those who are suffering, for those who feel the need to choose the path of least resistance, and find ways to bring them hope in their difficult situation, whatever it might be.
Friends, don’t we want to be the face of Christ to others, offering that hope and love which they do not see? God’s infinite love for each one of us helps us to grasp our identity and our worth. The recognition of this dignity leads us to respect and protect each person’s life, including our own. This is the true message of hope, to which you and I are called witness. By our prayers, by our actions, by the way we treat other people, we help to shape the world in which we live.
Following the theme for Respect Life Month, “Live the Gospel of Life”, the truth of the Gospel of Life is at the foundation of who we are as followers of Christ. In his earthly life, Jesus provided the perfect model for how we are to love our neighbor and live out the Gospel when he said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:40).
Jesus calls each of us to “care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible” (EV 87). The Gospel of life is intrinsic to the whole Christian life and foundational to the decisions we make on a daily basis.
Each year at this time there is a real effort to pray specifically for a pro-life culture and the end to abortion and the culture of death. I suggest that we fast and pray for this year-round until the “Sanctity of Life” becomes the heart of our culture. Let us place our trust in the Lord and ask for his continuous guidance as we continue the fight for the sanctity of human life.
Friends, may God make us courageous and wise to lovingly protect His gift of human life, each and every day, and at every stage along the way.
Peace and God bless you all.
Bishop Robert Gruss
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