January 16, 2015

Rejoice in the Lord

God embraces all, and calls us to love one another

Archbishop Joseph W. TobinIn his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), St. John Paul II writes, “By his incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being. This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God … but also the incomparable value of every human person” (“Evangelium Vitae,” #2).

Every human life is sacred. Every person is a child of God who possesses incomparable dignity and worth—no matter what his or her state in life or personal gifts and talents. Regardless of who we are; or what our background is; or the state of our physical, emotional or mental health; or our accomplishments; or our race, religion or cultural heritage; or our age; or our social status; every individual human being is precious in the sight of God and, therefore, should also be valuable in the eyes of his or her fellow human beings.

No one is unwanted by God. His love embraces all.

Think for a moment of the power of that statement. Can it really be true that God—who made the universe in all its vastness and complexity—knows and loves each and every one of us, including (or perhaps especially) those of us who have been rejected by parents, families, communities or society as a whole?

Yes! God sees in us (all of us, every one of us) something that is worth more than we can possibly imagine—something that far exceeds silver or gold, power or prestige, fame or fortune.

When Pope Francis formally began his ministry as bishop of Rome and as pope, he pledged to protect the dignity of each person and the beauty of creation, just as St. Joseph protected the Blessed Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus.

“To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love is to open up a horizon of hope,” the Holy Father said. During his first World Day of Peace message last year, Pope Francis expressed it this way: “New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fueling that ‘throw away’ mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered ‘useless.’ ”

Despair is a consequence of the radical devaluation of the human person. Hope comes when human dignity is recognized and affirmed.

Every human being is wanted by God because every single person has been given the gift of life. This gift is a share in God’s own being that is more precious than anything we can possibly imagine. Life itself is the treasure given to us by God to be nurtured and protected and shared generously with others. Nothing on Earth is more valuable than human life. That’s why deliberately taking a human life by murder, abortion, euthanasia, infanticide or any other means is such a grave sin. God alone gives life, and only he can take it back again.

No one is unwanted by God. That’s why we reverence all life, why we help the handicapped and care for the infirm and the elderly, why we encourage and assist women with unplanned pregnancies and why we speak out forcefully against all attempts to treat society’s unwanted human beings as somehow less valuable than they truly are in the sight of God.

No one is unwanted in God’s family. We don’t always show it as clearly as we should, but all are welcome. All are valued. All are members of the Body of Christ.

All life is sacred—especially those who feel unwanted or who have been rejected by the unjust, unloving and inhuman laws, policies and social practices of this and every other age.

As St. John Paul taught us, “Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can … come to recognize … the sacred value of human life from the very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and political community itself are founded” (“Evangelium Vitae,” #2).

No one ever has to wonder, “Does God really want me?” God wants everyone. That means he wants you and me, and every human being who has ever lived, and everyone who is yet to be conceived.

“Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days” (Dt 30:16, 19-20). †

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