April 7, 2006

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

We are all created in the image and likeness of God

The first principle of Catholic social teaching, often referred to as the principle upon which all others are based, is the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore is entitled to all that life has to offer—beginning with life itself, from the moment of conception to natural death.

We find this principle in the very beginning of God’s Word, where we read in Genesis, “So God created us in God’s own image, in the image of God they were created; male and female God created them” (Gn 1:27). Just ponder that for a moment—if you ever doubt your own or another’s value, deeply consider that you and I were made in the very image and likeness of God. Could there ever be anything more wonderful?

Psalm 139 paints a beautiful and poetic picture of God as the weaver of life: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. … When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body” (Ps 139:13, 15).

Not one of us, born throughout history or yet to be born, is unintended by our Creator. Although many around the world are born as a result of or into extremely difficult circumstances, each of us is called to be a reflection of something wonderful about God. Although none of us (save for our blessed Mother Mary and Christ himself) never fully realize all that we were created for, we are each called to strive to reflect God’s glory and help others reflect that same glory.

The principle of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person is relatively easy to state. However, it has profound implications for how we are to act as human beings, Catholic Christians and as an institutional Church. We are called to regard all with respect and dignity.

This “all” includes AIDS orphans in Africa, the mentally ill, the physically challenged, the man on death row, the 16-year-old single mother living in the center-city of Indianapolis and the chief executive officer of a large corporation. This principle does not allow us to discriminate based on race, religion, color, education, wealth or any other measure that we humans place on one another.

With this challenging principle before us, we are compelled to measure our own individual actions and the actions of our Church, government, corporations and all institutions by whether they threaten or enhance life and the dignity of the human person.

Imagine a world where this principle is practiced by everyone—imagine the peace, the joy and the freedom. It all begins with you and me, guided by the wisdom, love and strength of the Holy Spirit. Join me in praying for the grace to live lives worthy of the fact that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries.)


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