“As Catholics, we are called to cherish, defend, and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning of life to its end, and at every point in between.”
These are the powerful introductory words found at www.respectlife.org, the homepage for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2019 Respect Life Month efforts.
Every October, the Church in the United States celebrates Respect Life Month. You likely heard your parish priest preach about the life issue on Respect Life Sunday, which is annually celebrated on the first Sunday of October.
This celebration gives Catholics a moment “to reflect more deeply on the dignity of every human life.” As we all know, our life—in all its hustle and bustle—can have us focused on any number of routine concerns. Concerned by life’s daily anxieties, we can often forget to reflect on the higher values of life—the first things, without which we would be nothing. Chief among those first things is the fundamental and inviolable right to life each of us possesses as a human being, created in the image and likeness of the Holy Trinity.
Thankfully, the USCCB provides pastoral resources to help us with this moment of reflection, in the hope that this moment will become a habitual way of life. Through this habit, we may become—as St. Pope John Paul the Great desired—“people of life and for life[.]”
This year’s theme is particularly dedicated to that most beautiful virtue of hope. As Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chairman for the USCCB’s Pro-Life Secretariat, noted: “While attacks against human life seem to grow ever more numerous and callous, we know that Christ has conquered sin and death. Through our Christian hope in the Resurrection, we are given the grace to persevere in faith.”
It is with Christ’s Resurrection in mind—knowing by grace and faith that He has come for us, that He has lifted up the lowly, that He has made us heirs to the Kingdom—that we can find the hope we need to confront the grave attacks against human dignity we find throughout daily life in the 21st century. It is with this gaze of hope that these attacks can be placed at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, that they too—like us—may be transformed.
Without Christ’s Resurrection, as Pope Benedict XVI so succinctly put it, “we would be alone.” We would stand convicted as Cain, repeating his words: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). We would have no care for our brothers and sisters. We would pass by the leper, the orphan, the widow. We would find no concern for the half-dead man laying on the side of the road. We would consider the Good Samaritan a complete lunatic. We would consider Christ—perhaps an interesting figure of history—a fraud.
But, thank God for the Resurrection.
It is the Resurrection that has made the preaching of the Apostles powerful (cf. 1 Cor. 15:14-15). As Pope Benedict XVI has also stated, it is the Resurrection that led Christ’s disciples to encounter “an entirely new reality, far beyond the limits of their experience.” Through the Resurrection the disciples were invited into the eternal power of God, the power of the One Who became man, took on our sins, cleansed us, and presented us to the Father.
It is also through the Resurrection that life attains its ultimate meaning: that we are a people destined for glory with the Father—and that the Father desires for us to have a foretaste and experience of this glory during our earthly pilgrimage. God desires us to love and to be loved by Him, and to share this love with each person—family, friend, and foe—we meet in our daily encounters.
My hope is that this year’s Respect Life material will help you to see more deeply the power of the Resurrection, how this one event has changed the course of history and reveals more deeply the immeasurable dignity of every human life. So, when you get a chance, visit www.respectlife.org to learn and pray more about the ways God desires us to be disciples of the Gospel of Life!