‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10)
I am convinced, after almost 60 years on this earth, that all of the problems assaulting us in this world of ours derive from a single root cause: the failure to “respect life.”
Abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment; acts of terror and war; escalating crime; violence and wanton killing of innocents; domestic and sexual abuse; drugs and gang crimes; immigration; poverty and inequality; discrimination and injustice; racism and hatred; breakdown of the family; blatant disregard for the environment — these are all “life issues” because they tear at the most basic obligation of every human: to respect life. Think about it for a moment.
To believe in God as Creator requires that we must believe that God is the author of life, all life, every life. It is not merely the logical conclusion of that belief: it is the only conclusion. And if that is what we believe; if that is the only conclusion that we can derive from our common human experience, how can anyone reasonably not respect life?
Even those who do not believe in God as Creator have to admit that respect and care for life must be the thing that differentiates us, as human beings, from everything else that exists. The survival of the human species depends on it. It is not only a religious conviction, and it is certainly that. Respect for life is a profoundly human conviction, a dictate of human reason that, when joined to religious faith, elevates respect for life to the level of what is truly sacred about human existence.
One need not be a philosopher or theologian to draw this conclusion or even particularly intellectual. One need only to open one’s eyes, to draw a breath, to get out of bed in the morning, to hear another’s voice, to grasp another’s hand, to love another to know that life is worth living and better than the alternative.
And if one is not able to see or to breathe easily or to get out of bed or to hear or to grasp — for some reason known only to God our Creator —to love and to be loved is still possible and defines the purpose of our existence in this world.
Even God himself chose to take on flesh in Jesus Christ, to be born, to be loved by his family, to grow, to laugh, to cry, to make friends, to feel loneliness, to be understood by some and misunderstood by others, to be happy, to be sad, to give himself to others, to suffer for them out of love — in essence, to be fully human while fully divine — and in all of this, to show that human life is sacred, a gift of God, and worthy of respect without exception from conception until natural death.
We who follow Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life, cannot do otherwise than respect life in all its stages. To do less, regardless of any circumstance or situation that we can conceive of or experience, is to be less human, rejecting what God has created, rejecting what Jesus has redeemed in his own human body, rejecting what the Holy Spirit has sustained. On this earth, only the human being can truly respect life and know what that means and requires.
There is no other human choice but to do this.
Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M.
Bishop of Trenton