Happy Respect Life Sunday!

Today marks the beginning of the annual Respect Life Program of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which lasts through the month of October.  It is a time for Catholics and non-Catholics alike to unite behind the banner of the pro-life movement and renew our commitment to abolishing all evils that denigrate the human person. The theme for this year’s program comes from none other than Pope Francis: “Each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation.”

What does it mean to be a masterpiece? A masterpiece is a work of outstanding skill, often considered to exemplify the high point of the artist’s career. Think Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” or Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  As the masterpieces of a Divine Creator, we are handcrafted by the same God who placed the stars into their constellations and fashioned the Himalayas. But we, not the stars or the mountains, are the high point of creation. We are participants in the Lord’s providential plan for humanity.

If the majesty of this statement does not shake us to the bone, we need to take a long look in the mirror. We are masterpieces of creation, no matter what the world may tell us. And we are called to give a due response to God’s masterpieces. As one would be loathe to slash the “Mona Lisa” or rip the original manuscript of War and Peace, so must we fight any attempt to tarnish or destroy the human person.

In this Respect Life Month, let us renew our commitment to defend life from conception until natural death. Through prayer and action, let us further the culture of life and light in a world filled with so much death and darkness. Let us truly engage with our opponents and promote the truth, bearing no mind of the cost.

Critics of the pro-life movement often retort that pro-lifers have a one-track mind. They focus on abortion and ignore the many other gross human rights violations in the world, such as genocide, torture, and human trafficking. These critics argue that the pro-life movement is “obsessed” with abortion and that this “obsession” constitutes a certain hypocrisy in comparison with the world at large. Considering that abortion is the largest human rights abuse of our generation, these critics have little ground to stand on. However, they are right in the sense that the pro-life movement, by its very nature, must encompass more than abortion. To be pro-life is to be pro-person, in all stages and in all circumstances.

Pope Francis sets that record straight. Let’s look at the theme for Respect Life Sunday within the entire context of the pope’s message. Pope Francis  tells us, “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”

Yes, the pro-life movement supports the rights of the unborn. It also supports the beggar,  the migrant, the sex slave and the woman with an unplanned pregnancy. The pro-life movement respects all human persons as the masterpieces of the Divine Artist, with the dignity inscribed in us by God, who created us out of love and for love. That, my friends, is a worthy cause.