Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Today we celebrate Respect Life Sunday which begins a new program of respect for life to which the month of October is dedicated. The theme chosen by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for this year's celebration is Every Life is Worth Living. This theme is a very fitting one, not only for those who experience difficulties in life, but for all of us in regard to what the very meaning of life is all about.
It is so easy to understand life in terms of what we accomplish and how we come across to others in society. Affluence, acceptance, success, physical appearance and influence seem to be at the top of the list when it comes to judging a life worth living. However, as important as these may be, they do not in themselves make life worth living and sometimes can detract from the true joy that comes from experiencing life as a gift from God. Life is worth living because God made us in His image and likeness and chose to enter into a personal relationship with each of us. Absolutely nothing interferes with God's love and mercy for us, not even our failures, faults and sins.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has clearly proclaimed the value of life at every stage and has called us to reach out to respect the life of every person, especially those at the periphery of society. He has spoken strongly against the evil of abortion and how the attitude which permits abortion only ferments the lack of respect for creation which exists in what he calls “a throwaway culture.” We still have a great deal to do to promote within our nation the proper respect that is due to every life from the moment of conception in a mother's womb until natural death. In his encyclical on the care for the environment, Laudato Si, the Holy Father states, "How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away."
Reflecting on Pope Francis' words helps us to realize that every life is worth living and that we must reject everything that is destructive of life and is not nurturing of it. In keeping with our respect for the life of an unborn child, which is a fundamental moral value, we also reject all that is destructive of life and not nurturing of it. Assisted suicide, euthanasia, capital punishment, domestic violence, human trafficking, terrorism, unjust war, lack of concern for the poor, the vulnerable, the homeless and the immigrant are all evils which do not appreciate every life as worth living.
As we celebrate this Respect Life Sunday, let us continue to join in prayer and in doing all we can to realize that our life and the life of every human person made in the image and likeness of God is worth living and is deserving of respect and every support. May we find the joy of life which only our faith in God can bring to fulfillment.
With every prayerful wish, I am
Sincerely Yours In Christ,
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
Bishop of Palm Beach
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