In the Catholic tradition we are taught that we are created in God’s image and likeness. That is our primary reason for valuing each life as sacred. The Catholic tradition teaches that this respect reaches from conception to natural death. A pro-life stance means that we value all lives, not just the newborn but the sick and elderly as well. A pro-life stance means that we are concerned about adequate housing, food and education for all. All of God’s creation is sacred.
When we talk about the sacred we mean that we are in the presence of the sacred in the lives of every person. In that presence we might experience feelings of awe, gratitude, peace, humility, concern, compassion, and forgiveness. All people may not feel this but this is what we aim for. The sacredness of human life reminds us that these feelings should lead to action on behalf of those in need.
The famous Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, has written,
“Life is so precious, yet in our daily lives we are usually carried away by our forgetfulness, anger, and worries, lost in the past, unable to touch life in the present moment. When we are truly alive, everything we do or touch is a miracle. …When we appreciate and honor the beauty of life, we will do everything in our power to protect life.”
We can’t give to others what we don’t first possess ourselves. So the quote of Thich Nhat Hanh challenges us to look at our own lives and reflect on how much we value ourselves. It challenges us to recognize the distractions that hold us back from being our best possible persons. It challenges us to have feelings of gratitude and awe, compassion and forgiveness for our own sacred lives so that everything we do or touch is a miracle for others.
This recognition of our sacred value as individuals should extend to all persons. How we think of others and act towards them is an indication of how well we truly believe that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and if we truly do respect all human life.
What does respect for human life mean to you personally?
How do you show that you believe the statement, “When we appreciate and honor the beauty of life, we will do everything in our power to protect life.”