Sacredness Of Life
All of us know that January 22nd marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling of 1973 that made abortions legal in this country. Since that time an estimated 30 million unborn children have been the victims of abortion because of that Supreme Court ruling. I would like to share some thoughts with you on the subject of the sacredness of life. The areas of life that will be considered are (1) the dawn of life, that is the unborn child; (2) the twilight of life, namely the homeless; and (3) the shadows of life, namely the elderly. For those who are non-Catholics I would like to present what the Catholic Church teaches about the sacredness of life and for those who are Catholics I would like to remind all of us that no matter what the stage in life might be we can never take the sacredness of any persons life for granted.
The teaching of the Catholic Church concerning those in the stage of life that we call the dawn of life is simply that life, from the first moment of conception, is sacred and cannot be abused and cannot be aborted. On January 22nd, 1973, the Supreme Court changed this concept of Christian thinking by legalizing abortions. G. Santayana once said that those who don't learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to commit them in the future. And this is so true in the case of the Supreme Court. If you go back to the famous case in Supreme Court history that we call the Dred Scott decision, it was then that slavery was legalized by the Supreme Court. And almost from that time onwards our country was convulsed by what was to become known as the Civil War. The abortion decision doesn't just apply to Catholics, it affects all people of all races and creeds and colors. The Dred Scott decision and the abortion decision of both Courts de-emphasized the human element in each person and the sacred element in each human.
Some one has said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Not too long ago I saw a 28 minute film about abortions. The picture is called The Silent Scream. It is about the subject of the unborn and the subject of abortions. There is one segment in the picture that is about seven minutes in length. It shows with all clarity a twelve week old baby fighting for her life as the doctor tries to apply ultrasound equipment to terminate her life.
You see the twelve week old struggle to find a place that is safe in her mother's womb, doing everything that her strength of twelve weeks would allow to stay alive. It has to be one of the most moving scenes and one of the most horrible that you will see in any film. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the picture is about life in the womb. There is no doubt that if you see this picture called The Silent Scream you will in effect see a tiny infant that was executed.
The late Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago had applied the expression "the seamless garment" of Christ to all life no matter what the stage. Just as the seamless garment of Christ could not be divided by the soldiers who crucified him, neither can life, the sacred life of any person, from the womb to the tomb, be abused or hurt by another. And so next to those who are in the dawn of life, namely the unborn, I would like to share some thoughts with you on those who are in the twilight of life, namely the homeless. You might have all sorts of theories as to how these people go in this stage of life, but that doesn't change the obligation we have to personally help them even if our help is rejected and spurned. When our Lord said, "when I was hungry, you gave me to eat; when I was thirsty, you gave me to drink; when I was naked, you clothed me." He was reminding us not only of the homeless of his time, but the homeless of our time. They are part of what Dr. Tom Dooley called the agony of mankind. When he said, "listen to the agony of mankind and know full well that not until I share their bitter pain, their living hell, shall God within my spirit dwell." These are the homeless in our society.
When Emma Lazarus, in writing about the Statue of Liberty said, "give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," I am sure that the homeless of other nations must have been in this author's mind. If you really believe the message of Christ that whenever you do for these my brethren, you did for me, then you will do everything you personally can to not to take the homeless for granted. They are just as sacred in the sight of God as we are.
And the final phase reminding us of the sacredness of life, the seamless garment of Christ, are the aged. They are in the shadow of their lives. The children today will grow up hearing the word divorce and abortion and because it is mentioned so often it really does not have the meaning it should have. As these children grow they will hear the word mercy killing, euthanasia. We heard these words years ago, but they are becoming horrible realities today. Holland passed a law that made suicide legitimate with the help of medical assistance. In other words, a group of medical men can, after you sign a document, end this life of yours. It is just that callous. That is totally contrary to the sacredness of life taught by Jesus Christ. We have become desensitized to violence more than we realize. Our aged people, with whatever faults they have, have given us a good name, a lease on life, a family tradition. They are the ones who risk their lives bearing us and spent their lives bearing with us and we walk away because oftentimes what they ask is an inconvenience. It never occurs to us to think of the inconvenience and the hardship we brought into their lives. I am always amazed when I meet Korean families, Cambodian families and people from Southeast Asia. Because of their family tradition, their aging parents are provided for. But we, with our affluence and our education, cannot do the same. Something is wrong with the interpretation we have of the fourth commandment which says, honor thy father and mother.
Just as the seamless garment was considered too good to be divided, so Christ today offers respect and reverence to those who are in the dawn of life, the twilight of life and the shadows of life. To write letters to your congressman when your Christian heritage is being abused, should be done by all of us. To write to a television channel when our heritage is being devalued should also be done. Great movements start often with one person. Ghandi in India, Martin Luther King in the United States. If you go back to California a number of years ago you might recall the story of the mother whose child was killed by a drunk driver. She started the organization known as MADD -Mothers Against Drunk Driving. God has given each of us a space on this earth. We have to improve it and leave it a better place than we found it and enrich it be keeping in mind that each person we meet in life is sacred to Christ and should be sacred to us. To be passive, to be a spectator, to wring our hands and do nothing, is going to endanger the value system that Christ died for. Martin Luther King once said, "if you accept evil without protesting it, then you are, in effect, cooperating with it. " And Christ never died on a Cross so that we could spend time tolerating the spread of evil.
The pure heart is a heart that is free, free to give,
to love until it hurts.
The pure heart is a heart that serves, that loves God with undivided love.
- Mother Teresa