Billboards and signs with moving words and animated pictures boldly grab our attention, especially when we're driving. It is almost as if the words and pictures are leaping out at us. These messages can be so dazzling to us that we slow down to carefully read them and take them in.
During the month of October, a more subtle, hidden message that most of us drive right by each day demands our attention. Most of our parishes throughout the Diocese of Buffalo are marked by a sign bearing the name of the faith community, and scripted below we usually find the words, "a respect life community." Isn't every Catholic Parish a "respect life community?" Why do parishes identify themselves with the words, "a respect life community?"
In the book of Genesis, when God created each element of creation, the Scriptures tell us, "God looked at all he had created and said, it was very good." In God's loving act of creation, God filled the world with goodness, which is His signature. The gift of life, originating in and from God, gives all life dignity and makes all life sacred.
When it comes to the sacredness of life, most people like to focus on one issue, the lives of the unborn. As the teaching of the Church has evolved, Catholics have come to use the term, "consistent ethic of life" to describe their position on the sacredness of life. In the encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)," St. John Paul II wrote, "Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias or discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good. We need then to show care for all life and for the life of everyone."
A consistent ethic of life means being pro-life across the board: opposing abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide and euthanasia. In our American system of government, we call the right to life inalienable, meaning that it cannot be challenged or taken away. Thus all human life is sacred and must be protected. All of the choices that we make, both individually and as a society, need to be weighed in light of their impact on human life and dignity. Living out a consistent ethic of life demands that we care for and protect the most vulnerable in our society - the unborn, the infirm, the homeless, the refugee and the poor.
Due to our common humanity, we are called to be concerned about any issue that impacts the dignity of human life. For example war, hunger, poverty, education and health care are all issues that affect people. As we look upon these issues and reflect on them, we are invited to be concerned about people. In this view, we are much more concerned about a homeless person than we are about homelessness.
During October, let's remember that we are part of a respect life community, and grow in our understanding of living a consistent ethic of life. Our parishes are named respect life communities. Let's reflect upon this aspect of our Catholic identity.