I. Homily – January 21-22, 2017 – The Value of Human Life
II. “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
A. We hear the basic tenet of our faith. The Lord is the one who guides and saves us.
B. This was the concern of Saint Paul in our second reading today.
1. There were numerous divisions in the community at Corinth.
2. Some quoted the Christian preacher, Apollos. Some were professing to be loyal to Cephas…others, Jesus Christ.
3. Saint Paul tells the Corinthians this: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”
4. In other words, Saint Paul is telling them that there is not one truth for one person and another truth for another person. He is asking them to be of one mind…and, in order for them to be of one mind, there is some truth which all of them are going to need to embrace.
C. Indeed, there are some truths that are simply true and right and good.
1. That Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God is simply true whether we believe it or not.
2. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is just right.
3. And, there is another principle central to our faith and our humanity but which is obscured and denied these days and it centers around one question:
III. Who determines the value of any particular human person?
A. Some would say that we determine ourselves…afterall, we are free to make up our own minds, follow our own path and espouse the values that we see fit. Hence, we determine our own value.
1. This would seem to be the case in that we are told from the time we are born that we can do anything we set our minds to accomplish.
2. If we decide we want to be a doctor, we study hard and consider well our educational decisions to reach that goal.
3. If we decide to be a fine finish carpenter, then we follow the proper apprenticeship and steadily refine our wood working skills.
4. We can do whatever we set our mind to…
5. Indeed, we as Americans do tend to define our worth by our job, our name, our wealth, the place where we live, etc.
a) But, if this is the case, then the same principle must lead us to the conclusion that those who have not achieved that which they set their mind to must have less worth than those who have accomplished their dreams.
b) And, yet, there is something inside of us that tells us that devaluing someone because of their employment status or walk of life is not Christian.
c) There is something inside of us, even if we might sometimes fall into the trap in practice, that tells us we should not look down on others no matter who they might be.
6. So, the value of a human life and the value of a person’s accomplishments in this life are not identical.
a) Certainly, we acknowledge the exemplary nature of certain deeds.
b) We give the medal of honor to those who demonstrate great valor but we do not say the person who did not earn the medal for valor does not have value as a person.
c) Our Church canonizes saints, but she also defends the right to life of a thief.
d) There is, on one hand, the value of deeds which differ from person to person…,
e) …And, on the other hand, there is the objective worth of a human person simply because they are a human being.
f) All persons share this dignity no matter who they are, what their name is, where they work, where they live…no matter their race, gender or age.
B. So, we come back to our core question: who determines that worth? Who sets the value of each human being in place?
1. Well…before we say who determines this, we must come up with what it is?
a) The first point describing the worth shared by all human beings is exactly this: it applies to everyone and not just some.
(1) In other words, it does not depend upon my opinion. If it is something that everyone possesses, then it is something that does not depend on my opinion about it.
(2) The worth of the human being does not come from my or any other human being’s assessment of it.
b) The second point describing the worth of every human person is that it applies to every human person no matter their situation, context, location or state in life.
(1) This means that every human being has value no matter how expensive their care.
(2) This does not depend on the weather outside or the value of the home on the inside.
(3) The person has worth no matter where they live or how old they are or what they are able to do.
(4) Their worth is something true and objective no matter what the circumstances of their existence.
c) The third principle follows from the first two: if the person’s value does not depend on my opinion and is present no matter the context in which the person exists, then their value is something innate in them…it is found in them from the first moment of their creation.
d) This means that the objective worth of each and every human person was placed in them when they were created by their creator and the reason this value exists is that it is His worth.
e) When God created us, He created us in His image and likeness and this is the reason we have worth…because we are created like Him.
(1) Our Founding Fathers acknowledged this in a correlative way when they spoke about our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
IV. Up until this point, we may have all agreed with these points about the dignity of the human person but this is where some of us will diverge.
A. The repercussions of believing that the human being has innate dignity which is not open to personal opinion flies in the face of the law of our fair country.
B. The law of our country states that it is a matter of personal privacy and personal choice as to whether some people who are not able to speak can live or not live.
C. The problem for Christians in espousing this view is exactly what we said before: something inside of us, our conscience, tells us that we should not look down upon another human being who does less than we do or lives in a place that we do not think they have a right to and we most certainly should not kill that human being.
D. Every scientist worth their salt will tell you that human life begins at conception…our faith tells us that every human life no matter their size, place of residence or accomplishments has dignity created in God’s image and likeness…our law tells us that only certain people’s lives are worth defending and preserving.
V. It has never ceased to amaze me how the position that every life has value whether it be mother, father, child, brother or sister is not simply denied, but no discussion of it is allowed.
A. Certainly, concern for the child in the womb must be accompanied by love and concern for the mother.
B. There is no doubt about this.
C. Yet, compassion for one person can never consist in the destruction of another person.
D. I hope that simple principle is also one that is obvious. We do not kill someone because their presence in my life will create hardship for me.
E. Our concern for the life of both must take the form of actual, active and concrete love that walks with one and helps them through hardship.
F. Rarely are quick answers, the right answers.
G. Hence, this one simple truth, that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God with equal worth and dignity, is not something that depends on my opinion…it is simply true and so our thoughts, words, actions and policies should live in accord with that basic truth.
H. Fascism afterall…is based not in the teaching that every human life no matter creed, gender, race or place of residence has worth…no…Fascism is based in the belief that certain lives are worth more than others.
VI. The reality persists that the future of our country does not lie with any President whether Trump or Obama or Clinton…our future lies with her people…you and me…
A. Let us ask ourselves: do we respect the dignity of every human being? Do we fight to defend those whose dignity is threatened? Are we willing to set aside our comfort, our friendships, our business and our wealth, in respecting the dignity of the human person?
B. Perhaps you have…more likely…we can all do better…certainly we should hold our leaders accountable for their policies and teaching, but we must first hold ourselves accountable for our thoughts, words and actions.
C. Let us pray for our nation, our Church, our leaders, all our people…for ourselves, that there will be an increasing swell in respect for the dignity of every human life from conception to a natural death.
I. Homily – January 21-22, 2017 – The Value of Human Life