Life is very good

Life is good. Life is very good. This is one of the most fundamental principles of our Christian faith. "God looked at everything He made, and found it very good" (cf. Gen 1:31). This reality took on a new dimension when the Lord Jesus Christ entered into our humanity at the Incarnation. By fully taking on the human condition and by redeeming it, Jesus Christ definitively testified to the goodness of creation and the special love that God has for mankind.

For 2,000 years, we Christians have boldly proclaimed that every human person is infinitely valuable, that every person has inviolable dignity. In our current times, however, many might perceive this principle to be naive, unrealistic, or antiquated. In fact, many scoff at our attempts to witness to this fully in the way we educate, provide healthcare, govern, and run businesses. This skepticism is surprising to me, as it seems to have crept into our cultural consciousness incrementally, almost without warning. However, that we are faced with it is certain.

Moreover, I find myself taken aback by the way in which life is treated so cheaply today. The taking of human life appears to be inconsequential to many. How often do we hear about violence on our city streets, terrorist attacks, or casualties of war? How many school shootings must we endure?

Moreover, I find the disposability with which people treat one another to be astounding. Various forms of exploitation - human trafficking, pornography, a sexual culture that lauds the "hook up," a sexual encounter divorced from the loving commitment of marriage - have become so prevalent that they sometimes fail to shock us. Artificial forms of reproductive technology all too often involve the anticipated destruction of human embryos and the treatment of the children who are gestated as commodities. And who can fail to think of the lack of loving care that many of our elderly brothers and sisters receive?

Perhaps the greatest manifestation of our cultural apathy toward life is the continued legal right to abortion in our country. Today we mark the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This is a day in which we pause to mourn the lives of over 50 million American children. It is a day when hundreds of thousands will march to advocate for more just and humane laws. Today is a day, though, that we also offer prayers for thousands of women and men who have grieved their choice to end the lives of their sons and daughters. We extend to them the limitless mercy of God the Father, and we pray for their healing and peace.

On this National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, we look forward with hope to the day in which every person is treated as an unrepeatable, precious gift. But how do we build this culture of life?

I believe that it starts with our own conversion. We must honestly reflect on how well we care for our neighbor, and how well we care for the gift of our own life. Last night and this morning, our diocese hosted over 12,000 people at the seventh annual Life is Very Good events. Students, young adults, seminarians, and parishioners from over 50 dioceses from across the nation joined me in praying - not only for an end to abortion - but for a greater respect for life in all of its stages, from conception to natural death.

One of the most important challenges we faced was to examine our own lives and to ask ourselves, "Do I live my life in a way that reflects that all lives are a gift from God? Is my witness credible?"

It is one thing to reject laws and policies that disrespect human life - those dealing with abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the destruction of embryonic human life. But it is another to be pro-life in the manner in which we treat the people around us. This can be a daily struggle in a culture which throws a barrage of messages at us, telling us that our life is the only one the matters - or, at least, is the one that we should care about the most. This culture of the "self" is everywhere - one need only think of how consuming our "i-devices" have become, e.g. iPhones and iPads, and how little we look up and encounter those who are in our midst.

For our witness to be believable, we must be consistent in our behavior. We must proclaim the good news of the dignity of all human life by paying attention to the needs of our neighbors and extending Christ's love to them. We must make choices that reflect our respect for the gift of our own life.

In his apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii nuntiani," Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses" (cf. Pope Paul VI, "Evangelii nuntiandi," Dec. 8, 1975). My dear brothers and sisters, let us not simply teach others that life is inherently valuable. Let us show them by the witness of our lives!

Follow Bishop Loverde on Twitter @Bishop_Loverde.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015