Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Love Life!

You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the Help of the Holy Spirit.

St. Paul is speaking these words to St. Timothy – a young man who he had appointed as a bishop. And Paul is urging Timothy to recognise the great gift he received in being ordained a priest of Jesus Christ and how he is to make every effort to proclaim the truth in season and out. The something precious he has been entrusted to look after was the flock of the Church which he had to look after spiritually.

Now not all of us will be bishops or priests, but everyone of us is entrusted with something precious to look after, or rather with quite a number of things. For me as a priest I am to see to the spiritual welfare of the people of my parish, I am to urge them to be open to the Lord’s leading in their lives, something done more effectively by my example, which is so often less than perfect, than by my preaching, I am to help them to be faithful to their responsibilities as Catholics and I am to warn them against anything that would endanger their eternal salvation.

Many are parents – and so to them have been entrusted the little sons and daughters of God who depend completely on them for the natural things in life, but also that they will lead them to and teach them about the supernatural things in life – about God, Jesus Christ, his Mother and all the other bits and pieces that make up our faith. And that is a great mission given to them by God.

Each of us is entrusted with something special in our lives and we should strive to guard it well. What I am entrusted with is not for you, what your neighbour has to do – not what you have to do. But there is one thing that we have all been entrusted with and which we are commissioned by almighty God to guard well, guard securely and guard with our lives. That thing is life itself – firstly our own and then the lives of others, whether they be next door to us, in a test-tube somewhere, in the womb, or on their death bed – every human being, because he or she is alive has an inalienable dignity that is not given by the law of any country, but given by almighty God himself. It is the job of governments to recognise and protect that right to life and its dignity, but not to legislate about it as though one person’s life is worth more than another’s. That human life is precious and from God is a given, though in many places life is not respected nearly enough. In its early stages as embryos human lives are manipulated in various laboratories. Many people, Catholics included, do not know or choose to ignore the fact that IVF and Embryonic Stem Cell Research are wrong, and strictly forbidden by the Church.

In life’s later stages, when the burden of years begins to take its final toll – we often hear people say things which seem to judge the value of life by its usefulness, rather than by the fact that it is from God and, therefore that it is for him to decide how and when it should cease. How often have I heard at wakes or funerals – sure wasn’t it better for him, better for her – he or she had no quality of life – as if the quality of life should always determine its inherent value. And indeed I have heard that said about the person in their presence at their sickbed – and how cruel that is for those people who are being basically told that they would be better off if they died as soon as possible. The sick need to feel valued, cherished and loved, not that they are a burden, an inconvenience or worthless.

The mentality that places the quality of a person’s life over the inherent value and dignity of their life is, I’m afraid, alive and well in the western world. And if that mentality were to take deep enough root then we will have here, as some countries already do, euthanasia on demand. And that will undoubtedly quickly move from a situation where a person can choose to die, to a situation where a person feels compelled to die because he or she feels themselves to be a burden that their family or wider society could do without. It’s a slippery slope. Quality of life should never trump its inherent value and dignity. Be careful when you hear people use that term – quality of life – what thinking lies behind it? As Catholics we should proclaim the greatness of life at all its stages – even its final stages – always remembering that it was precisely at the weakest, most pain-filled and horrific moments of his life that Jesus Christ brought to fulfillment the great mission of salvation. Who knows what great mission is being worked out at the supernatural level by those in their final days and hours.

Every heartbeat is precious, whether it be the first stirrings of the foetal heart in the womb, the pumping of a strong heart of a young athlete, or the last gasps of an exhausted heart in a hospital bed – equally precious in God’s eyes and equally to be cherished. As Catholics we are called to cherish life in all its stages and to see those stages as the unfolding of God’s plan for the human person. And no law should ever be accepted that seeks to diminish the value of a single human life. The person dying of cancer, perhaps bedridden and in need of constant care – that person’s life is of no less value in God’s eyes than that of a young man or woman in their prime who hasn’t a care in the world. No less value in God’s eyes, then in our eyes too they must be equally cherished, guarded, and loved.

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