When most Catholics hear about Respect Life Month or Sunday, they usually think of abortion and the sanctity of a child’s life in its mother’s womb. Our call, however, is to respect all life. Our faith tells us that all human life, from the womb to the tomb, is precious and loved by God. Too often we concentrate on eradicating abortion, which is a noble and important cause, but we often neglect to speak out against the other ways human life is also disrespected.
One way that comes to mind is the death penalty. Jesus often spoke of the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. He did not say that it is up to us to pick and choose whom we will forgive. He even tells us to love our enemies. To me it seems contrary to be against abortion but support the death penalty.
We also forget that when we are not concerned about the poor, especially the needs of poor children, we, in a sense, disrespect life. Some people spend more time and money on their animals and their care, than they do to fight against poverty in our country and throughout the world. Often we encourage poor women to have their babies, but too often we neglect to offer them the help and support they need to be good parents.
How we view those different from ourselves is also a measurement of how we really respect all of life. We need to examine our attitudes toward immigrants — legal or illegal — people of different faiths, races or sexual orientation.
Another indication of how well we truly respect life is how we treat or think about the frail elderly and the mentally and physically handicapped. These groups in our society are often neglected or frowned upon. Little is done to increase their quality of life.
Something we don’t usually think about when examining how well or not so well we respect life is our treatment of one another — those with whom we live and work or go to school. If we hurt others, no matter who they are, by our words or other poor behavior, we are certainly not respecting the fact that they are loved by God and must be treated with reverence. If each of us truly loves and respects all of life, especially human life, I believe there would probably be fewer wars and less violence in our world. More families would be reconciled and the divorce rate would drop. There would be fewer prisons and the poor and elderly would be taken care of lovingly.
So when we pray and work for an end to the evil of abortion, let us not forget all the other people whose lives are also precious to our God and who also need to be treated with respect.
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