Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
The USCCB has designated today as ‘Respect Life Sunday’. To many people this may sound synonymous with bringing an end to abortion. But while ending legalized abortion is a major component of respecting life that is not all there is to it. Now it seems obvious to me that such a designation on this Sunday would not be necessary if our country did in fact respect life. But it does not. Quite the opposite is the actual case for what our country believes about human life. There are numerous words that we could use to describe how our society, especially those in power, view human life – they disparage it, denigrate it, despise and disregard it, and have the utmost contempt for it. In short, our society dis-respects life. And we all, to a greater or lesser extent, are guilty of this disrespect for human life. But in order to understand just how deep this disrespect for life goes in our society, we must first understand what it means to respect life. I would define the respect for life as having a due regard for the rights and dignity of all mankind, whether they be born or unborn. Therefore, if we have racist tendencies, thinking we are better than someone else on the basis of skin color, then we are showing disrespect for that person’s life. And while not everyone is a racist, I think this example can help us to see how each of us, even if we are pro-life, is susceptible to a disrespect for the life of others. Now I don’t want to sound as though I am trying to belittle the concern we should have about abortion – I am not. Instead, my purpose is to try to show that there is an underlying problem within our society that leads to at least a tacit acceptance of abortion by many people in our country.
It seems to me that everyone expects to be given the respect their life demands and so you would think that they would desire this same respect for all other human life. But we know that this is not the case and, therefore, must ask why? Why do people not respect the life of their fellow man? There are several things that lead to a disrespect for life. One major component in our lack of respect is a lack of thankfulness for the life we have been given by God. People often take life for granted; in other words, we do not question how we came to be. And because we gloss over that question of how we came to be, we never acknowledge that we did not create ourselves. But in our lives, we must pause and consider the world around us. Where did the universe and everything in it come from? Do we really believe that it is all just chance? Absolutely not! We believe that it is God who created everything, including ourselves, and we need to constantly remind ourselves of this fact and be thankful. It is this lack of thankfulness that exists in our society, though, that is linked to another reason for its disrespect for life, which is this: we do not consider what the ultimate meaning of our life is.
Going back to the first point, if we never consider where it is that we came from, then we will never ask the next logical question: where are we going? Our Lord, and His Church, teaches us that our end, our telos, the reason for our existence is to be with God forever. Out of His infinite love God created mankind in order to be with Him in an everlasting communion of love. And even after mankind sinned, God sent His Son as the expiation for our sins in order to reestablish that communion of love with us. But if we take our life for granted then we will never see beyond this world and into the next. In fact, it would be impossible to do so. And if this world is all we can see then we will start to believe what the world and the devil would have us believe about our life – that we are just a collection of atoms with no ultimate purpose or meaning.
And yet, everyone desires for their life to mean something. And so we try to fill that void by getting as much as we can for ourselves. After all, if we are just a collection of atoms with nothing special about us, then that means that there is nothing special about anyone else. And then we come to view others as obstacles that are just in the way of obtaining the things we think we have a right to possess. And it is this selfishness that has led us to where we are now – over 40 years of sacrificing the unborn so that we can get the things that we want! In regards to this plague of abortion many people have been shocked in the last several months by the undercover videos about Planned Parenthood selling body parts. But I ask this – why are we shocked?! The purpose of that organization has always been to make money from the destruction of human life so why are we surprised that they have found new ways to make money off of it? The real thing that we should be surprised at is the fact that legalized abortion still exists! But we have become numb to the fact that abortion exists and therefore tacitly accept it. But we can do this no longer.
In order to overcome this we must come to an understanding that we all, born and unborn, are much more than just the sum of our parts. If we were the sum of our parts, then we could take the appropriate ratios of elements that make up the human body, put it in a blender and push puree – and voila you would have a new human. But that is not possible because there is a source of life underlying all those parts. Consider, for instance, what happens when someone dies – the body starts to decay. And the reason that the body starts to decay is because there is no longer any unifying principle within the body. In other words, the life has gone out of the body. And this unifying principle that brings life to the body is what we call the soul.
When a man and woman come together in bringing forth new life, they contribute the genetic material necessary for a new, unique person. But that which gives life to the new body – the soul – comes from God. Therefore, if on this Sunday we want to begin to truly respect life – that being to give our due regard for the rights and dignity of all people both born and unborn – then we must remember where life comes from and be thankful.