This year, as we traditionally set aside the month of October to reflect upon the sublime treasure that is ours in the gift of human life, we are invited to focus upon Saint Joseph and his place within the Holy Family. As the great defender of the life of our Savior, Jesus, and of Mary, his mother, we implore his intercession as we seek to live as disciples of Jesus who treasure God’s gift of life.
In the gospel of Saint Matthew, Saint Joseph is described as a man of deep faith, who, despite his uncertainty about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, is willing to set aside his own judgments and instead place his trust unwaveringly in the power of God. For Saint Joseph, God was in control and that was all that mattered.
During the course of the past year and a half, our world has battled the coronavirus that has taken the lives of over 4.5 million people throughout the world, including over 650-thousand Americans. For all of the different perspectives that have been brought to bear upon this pandemic, one thing is clear. Despite our creativity, our ingenuity and our resolve to care for our world and to determine our future according to our own plan, we are not in control!
That power, as Saint Joseph reminds us, belongs to God.
Sadly, however, we haven’t yet learned this valuable lesson as we continually fail to fully appreciate the treasure that we have been given in the gift of life. It is rather paradoxical that in reflecting upon all of the efforts being engaged to confront a virus that has the potential to destroy life, we’re often conflicted in our perspective upon this unique and singular gift of God. In the midst of the current health crisis, we continually set aside convenience and personal comfort and go to great lengths to protect our children, our families and our neighbors. And so we should! Yet, at the same time, many of us fail to acknowledge or care that the very foundational building blocks of a just world for all forms of human life are being undermined at an alarming rate.
Threats to human life increasingly abound in our world today, most notably the taking of innocent life through the scourge of abortion.
Yet, we’re also confronted with proposals and policies that favor assisted suicide, euthanasia, infanticide and human cloning. These too are dire threats to our belief in the dignity and value of the human person – as are the death penalty, human trafficking, unjust immigration laws and the dire consequences of war.
Sadly, while many of us as Catholics and people of good will are deeply committed to the protection of life in its earliest moments at conception, we can often be somewhat arbitrary in our assessment of other lives and their value and worth.
Unfortunately, brothers and sisters, such an approach towards the sanctity of human life has consequences. We’ve experienced the slippery slope that ensued following the legalization of abortion almost 50 years ago. When we rationalize why the taking of one life should be allowed, every life is in jeopardy.
Several months ago, in reflecting upon the growing lack of respect for our global environment, Pope Francis linked his concerns for our common home to an ever-diminishing sense of respect for the gift of human life.
Pope Francis stated, “Everything is connected. It is the same indifference, the same selfishness, the same greed, the same pride, the same claim to be the master and despot of the world that lead human beings, on the one hand, to destroy species and plunder natural resources, and on the other, to exploit misery, to abuse the work of women and children, to overturn the laws of the family cell, to no longer respect the right to human life from conception to natural end.”
Brothers and sisters, as Pope Francis has noted so well, we are all “connected” and we are all a part of one – and the same – human family. As such, may we be humble enough to set aside the divisions that separate us and to embrace the lessons that we have learned during the course of the global pandemic that continues to ravage our world.
Though well beyond our ability to determine or control, life, from the moment of conception to natural end, is a gift to treasure and respect. We do so, however, not solely through the words we speak or by our self-righteous criticisms of those whose beliefs may appear to be different from our own. We treasure and respect life best when we set aside our differences and, within the lived experiences that we’ve been given, begin to treat one another with reverence and dignity as children of one and the same God.
Saint Joseph, defender of life, pray for us!
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton