Every life is worth living. This is the message for this Sunday, Respect Life Sunday. Today at every parish throughout our nation, priests and deacons are preaching on one topic, this topic. Let’s hope that it has an impact on our hearts and minds.
You and I are tempted to evaluate our worth based on worldly standards. Husbands and wives think if they can provide for their family, so that their children enjoy life more and have great opportunity, then their lives are worth more. Teenagers struggle with this as well; if they are popular, if more people are excited to know them; they are worth more. In our society, this mentality sinks in because our employers evaluate our service and pay us more depending on our usefulness; our worth is increased according to our productivity. More wrong than this is when we evaluate our worth based on selfish measurements. If we have a greater capacity to enjoy life, then that life is worth more. For example, a person who is young and is fully capable, may think that he is worth more than an older person in a wheel chair.
Both of these ways are clearly seen if we think about who we would save if two people were drowning. If two husbands were drowning, one who provided an abundance for his family and the other who needed government assistance, which would we save? Or if two people were drowning, one who uses a wheelchair and the other who does not, which would we save? This evaluation is being made in our society by many people every day. It’s an evaluation of the worth of human life, of what life is worth living, based on two things: on the usefulness of the person to help others enjoy life and also on the capacity for a person to enjoy life. Based on utility and capacity, our culture is beginning to decide which lives are worth living; which lives are worth saving. Did Christ make this same evaluation when he came to save all human life?
When Christ was walking the earth with us, never did he try to teach us to evaluate and judge which lives were worth living. However he found a person, he attempted to assist them. He tried to teach us to evaluate ourselves not based on our utility or our capacity, but to evaluate ourselves based on how much we were loved. Not how much we were loved by man, but how much we were loved by God. The love of God is the foundation of our self-love. The love of God is the foundation for our love of neighbor. And God loves every life.
So every life, Christ attempts to save. He doesn’t evaluate which persons are deserving of salvation, which persons are deserving of eternal life. No. He seeks to open us up to accepting the Father’s love by displaying it on the cross. He embraces every life, and provides us an example of how we are to embrace our own lives. Christ found himself in a position to help mankind not only by the work that he was able to perform, but through the example he could set. His life was to be one of struggle, suffering and death. He could have easily abandoned the proclamation of the Love of God, and lived an easy life, but he didn’t. We have to make the same decision, are we going to proclaim that God loves every life, or not?
If we have an unplanned pregnancy, are we going to embrace that new life in the womb? If we have a planned pregnancy but the fetus has an unplanned condition, such as down syndrome, are we going to embrace that life as well? The organization, Planned Parenthood, teaches that only “planned” pregnancies are worth embracing, worth saving, but hasn’t Christ shown us a different way? If we get a terminal illness, and the doctor tells us that we only have a few months and the last month is going to be very painful, are we allowed to reject that last month of life by taking medicine to kill ourselves? No. Christ embraced the difficult life he was given, and he embraced it unto its natural end.
Christ has taught us to embrace every life, and every moment of every life, because God is author, and he never abandons life regardless of the circumstances. That’s the depth of his love. We can see this from today’s Gospel which teaches that a husband should not divorce his wife, and a wife should not divorce her husband. Christ offers us the reason: God, not man, is the author of marriage. Since God is the author of marriage, why would man think he could end it prematurely? Furthermore if a person attempts divorce to marry another, it is a sin; it is adultery. Every marriage, no matter how weak, no matter how sick, no matter how close to death is worth saving. This same logic applies to the issues of evaluating the worth of life. God, not man, is the author of life; why would man think he could end it? Furthermore if a person attempts to take a life, it is a sin, it is murder. What God is the author of, man must not weaken but only nurture and assist. God is the author of marriage and the author of life; he never abandons life but embraces it; thus man must nurture assist; not reject and destroy. If Christ had rejected his life because it meant struggle, suffering, and death none of us would be saved. Instead Christ embraced every life, whether sinful or virtuous, whether sick or well. We need to do the same for the sake of salvation.
The next time we are tempted to evaluate whether a life is worth living, whether our life or another’s, let us remember this maximum: every life is worth living. Every life must be embraced, nurtured, and assisted. We are open to life because God is its author. We know how to respond to life because God’s response is love. Regardless of the difficulties, suffering, and sacrifices we will have to make, regardless of the utility and capacities of that life, Christ has shown us the only true way to respond. Every life is worth living; every life is worth saving.