Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This is a continuation of the series on the four issues of concern for Catholics as denoted by the USCCB and the Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland. For more information see Monday’s post.


Looking out from the window of his room at the cathedral in the heart of the city the bishop reports seeing the poor trying to find a warm place to sleep on the steam grates that dot the pavement. Seeing such people as persons of dignity deserving our respect and concern is at the core of respecting life.

Respect and dignity are not afforded to persons because they can afford it, or that they earn it, or that they can directly add to the conversation, or fight for it, or even care to live it. It comes from only one source and that is that each person is made in the image and likeness of God.

It is said that the Church can only be truly renewed when the people of God first renew themselves. The same can be said here. It is only when we realize our own true dignity and worth that we can come to understand another’s.

We were lost in sin. In fact, it is still impossible for us to live without sin for any extended period of time. God’s forgiveness, love, and salvation are pure gift and the strongest, richest man in the world is just as (if not more so) in need of God’s mercy than the poorest and most defenseless. There is only one thing going to heaven with you, your choice to love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul and your neighbor as yourself. We will stand naked before the judgment seat of God with only this in our hands.

Yet, even though we rejected Him, He chooses us. And He not only chooses us, but He pursues us despite our wanderings. That is what drives up the worth of earthy goods: demand! And that is exactly what gives us worth in heaven: the Almighty’s high demand, desire, and untiring pursuit of us! It’s like Christmas time in the 1980’s and we are a bunch of Cabbage Patch Kids and God is a Yuletide shopper. He’ll take whomever He can get at any price and give us good homes.

And God is so great and so encompassing that for Him to love someone else as overly abundantly as He does you does not in anyway lessen His love. He is too great and too greedy for us. He is greedy for the guy sleeping on the street, for the woman addicted to crack and in jail, to those other oriented, to those in the womb, to our enemies, to those who can no longer directly add to our benefit. And whereas some may need to be deprived of certain liberties for their safety and/or the safety of those around them, they are of no less dignity than anyone else.
Every time anyone is thought “less than” and are treated as such, all of humanity suffers in some way. Every time there is a sanctioned killing everyone moves one place closer to being included in that number. The further away you are from the cutoff line, the harder that is to see. The closer you are, the scarier that it is.

Of course, the exact opposite is true also. Every time we uphold the dignity of another human being we all benefit from that lifting up. Every time we see a spark of the divine in another and attempt to build up that spark, the world becomes a safer, holier place. That is what the call to witnessing to the quality of life is all about. To even love in the teeth of hatred, that’s heroics, that’s going a lot further to fixing society’s problems than, except in the most extreme cases, eliminating enemies or those who inconvenience us from the face of the earth.

We as Catholics are called to find some way to engender a general respect and sense of dignity for others. It will not always be met with gratitude or cooperation, but that is not why we do it. We do it because we are undeserving of that love from God yet receive it none-the-less, and so as persons unworthy to withhold it from others, love even the difficult to love.

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