Dear Ascension Family,

This Sunday, October 3, the Church celebrates Respect Life Sunday. This celebration is a reminder for all of us of the need to respect and protect all forms of human life from conception to natural death. The horrifying truth is this: we live now in a culture that not only does not respect life, but discards it like trash – not only at the beginning of life, but also at the end.

Our worth as human beings comes from God – not from anything or anyone else. Our value comes from who we are, not what we can do. It comes from the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God. To disregard or deny that dignity is to sin against not just the person, but God himself.

There are a variety of evils which threaten the life and dignity of the human person in our time. Foremost among them is abortion. Abortion is gravely evil because it targets the most defenseless and innocent. St. Mother Teresa once said, “If abortion is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.” If we deny the most innocent and defenseless of their right to life, then on what basis can we or anyone else claim any other rights? This is a reason the Declaration of Independence lists the right to life before “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness.” The founders of this our great country rightly saw that without the right to life, then all other rights are meaningless.

In his address on April 11, 2014 to the Italian Pro-Life movement, Pope Francis made clear that human life is sacred and inviolable and every civil right is based on the recognition of the first, fundamental right – the right to life, which is not subject to any condition. Being ProLife is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre. Being pro-life is one of the deepest expressions of our baptism.

There is more, though, respecting life is not merely about life in the womb and life in a hospice. It is also about how one treats those who are vulnerable, and about how one seeks to uphold justice, equality, and the meeting of basic human needs for all members of society. Ultimately, respect for life means respecting the boundaries of what we, human beings, can and cannot tamper with in the realm of God’s plan for the human person. This point brings us to the gospel reading for this Sunday.

The Jewish leaders try to test Jesus with the question of divorce. Jesus asked them, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce.” You know, the world in which Jesus lived was a man’s world. It was a patriarchal society, in which the father was master of his family. Women were considered the property of men. A father received a bride -price from the man who married his daughter. She then passed from the control of her father to that of her husband. This subordination of women to men was reflected in the Jewish law of divorce, which was available for husband but not for wives. The inequality of man and woman is evident. The passage that follows, in which Jesus welcomes little children and blesses them stresses the fundamental equality of men and women. We are all God’s children, all equally dear to him.

Jesus went all the way back to the Creation story in Genesis. He pointed out that divorce was not part of God’s original plan in creation. Moses laid down the regulation on divorce, Jesus explains, “because of the hardness of your hearts . . . what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

In our time, there is a great deal of discussion about same-sex marriages, as well as homosexuality. We wonder, what should be our attitude? The Church is quite clear: we should treat homosexuals with respect. At the same time, marriage between homosexuals is wrong. It is wrong because marriage in God’s plan is meant to be a union between a man and a woman.

Respect Life Sunday is not merely about opposing abortion and euthanasia. If one is going to be pro-life, he/she must oppose a whole host of behavior that violate God’s original plan for the human person – divorce, same sex marriages, transgender sexual assignment surgeries, any theory of gender that denies we are made as male and female, and any attempt to manufacture life outside of the womb.

Our fervent prayers for the respect for life are very important. Prayer leads to the transformation of hearts which ultimately must lead to actions that respect and protect the human person in its fullness. Let us continue to pray. May God bless all of us.

In Christ Jesus thru the Blessed Virgin Mary,

Fr. Anacleto