The Respect Life Program, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, started in 1972 and begins anew each October. While the first Sunday of October is designated as Respect Life Sunday, the program extends throughout the year until the following September. The program promotes respect for human life in light of the intrinsic dignity of having been created in God’s image and likeness and called to an eternal destiny with Him. Life, from the first moment of conception until natural death, is so precious that it should always have a prominent place in our thoughts and decisions.
Each year the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes materials that draw attention to pertinent life issues. This year’s six topics, prepared in a brochure format, can be found on the USCCB website (www.usccb.org). I am including the topics with a brief description of the content, taken from the website, hoping you will visit the website and read them in their entirety. There are multiple life issues. Our journey with Christ naturally includes equipping our consciences to make morally good judgments and acting accordingly. The materials for the annual Respect Life Program are a valuable aid in forming our consciences according the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.
• How to Build a Culture of Life: In these challenging times when respect for life is so often disregarded, how do we build a culture that cherishes all human life? The answer goes back to our identity and call as Christians.
• Catholic Considerations for our Earthly Passing: As Catholics we know that death is the door through which we must pass to gain eternal life. Several considerations are provided as starting points for understanding and preparing for our earthly passing in a way that respect God’s gift of human life.
• What to Do When a Friend is Considering Abortion: If a friend told you she was pregnant and considering abortion, would you know what to do? Learn tips for loving her in a way that is life-affirming for both her and her child.
• Understanding Conscience: This brief introduction to conscience addresses what it is, why it is important, and how to form our consciences so they lead us into a deeper relationship with God and one another.
• Death Penalty: Catholic Q and A: What does the Church say about the death penalty? Is it a pro-life topic? This brochure explores the issue of the death penalty within the context of respect for God’s gift of human life.
• Top Reasons to Oppose Assisted Suicide: Polls indicate the public is receptive to the general concept of assisted suicide. However, when people understand the associated dangers, they are less likely to support the practice. Learn compelling reasons you can share for opposing assisted suicide.
Watching the news and reading the headlines, I hear and see many issues that directly affect human life. The homeless on our streets, immigrants worried about deportation, refugees fleeing their homelands and looking for a safe haven, legislators debating assisted suicide, and abortion rights activists, to name a few. The issues are complex and often emotional. They touch the very core of our Christian principles. They touch human life and the essence of our identity and worth, the source of our dignity. As St. John Paul II reminded us, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son” (Homily, 17th World Youth Day, July 28, 2002).
Pope Francis often reminds us to be faithful to the call of our baptism and to live as missionary disciples. One of the ways we do this is to recognize the part we play in creating a culture that joyfully proclaims the truth of God’s love, purpose, and plan for each person. When we personally encounter Christ, we become more aware of our worth and that of others. “His love for each person is cause for great joy, and growing understanding of this priceless treasure motivates us to share his love with others. Our lives are often changed by the witness of others; so too, others’ lives may be changed by our witness and authentic friendship with them” (USCCB, Creating a Culture of Life, 2017).
When we are confronted by the complexity and enormity of life issues, we find courage in the words of Jesus: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Do not be afraid to embrace the gift of life. We are not alone. Jesus accompanies us on our journey of life and faith.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.