Bishop Hying

All are called to recognize the dignity and worth of every human being

      This past Monday I had the joy and blessing of accompanying our Missionaries of Charity sisters in their home visits. We visited a young man who is completely paralyzed in bed because of injuries he suffered ten years ago when he saved the life of a drowning girl. We saw a young mother who raises her children well despite many physical and material obstacles in her life. We talked with a young woman who, despite being wheel-chair bound, finds joy in the love of family and friends who surround her. That night, I had dinner with a beautiful young family whose husband/father has ALS.

      In all of these amazing people I encountered the living Christ! None of them felt sorry for themselves, expressed anger or even seemed sad. All of them had worked through the mystery and tragedy of their chronic suffering and had come to a sacred place of peace and acceptance. All of them spoke of the meaning of Jesus’ cross and the hope that faith and prayer gives them. It was truly a blessed day.

      Each of these remarkable encounters teaches me the dignity and beauty of human life. People can live in the most difficult and painful circumstances, endure chronic suffering beyond imagination, experience heart-breaking setbacks and tragedies and yet, still triumph in love and hope. Faith in the Lord, who suffers with us in tender compassion, carries us in the transforming power of His Sacred Heart and shows us even now the glory of eternal life is the secret to such astonishing victories. 

      I can’t help but contrast such inspiring human transcendence with the dark and terrible realities that afflict our nation and world. We were all horrified to watch the Planned Parenthood videos in which people callously spoke about selling body parts of aborted children over a lunch of pasta and laughter.  And many of our leaders not only tolerate such evil but defend it. The murder rate in many of our cities is sky-high this year; so much of it is related to gangs, drugs, poverty and children who grew up in a culture of violence and lovelessness. Isis and other terrorist groups continue to inflict torture, destruction and butchery upon the world; thousands of people have been killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ and thousands more have been driven from their homes, losing everything they ever possessed as they flee for their lives. More people seem to be slipping into poverty, as low-income wages keep them from ever breaking the vicious cycle which traps them.

      As followers of Jesus crucified and risen, we embrace the Gospel that offers the fullness of salvation, joy, meaning, justice and mercy, not only in the next life but right here and right now. The tenor of our times demands that we make a fundamental choice over and over again: the decision to live for God, to embrace our own dignity as a daughter or son of the Father, to consciously act to lift up those  around us, to embrace virtue, prayer, good works and love as the very meaning of our existence.  We cannot remain morally neutral in a world that, despite some great strides in human rights, respect and dignity, still remains way too mired in racism, poverty, violence, ignorance of God and a fundamental misunderstanding of the glory and vocation of the human person.

      When I think of all the people I encountered last Monday, starting with the sisters at Mass at 7 a.m. and ending with a joyful family dinner, I realize that every single one of them radiated God, goodness, life and joy. It was almost as if they were turned inside out and I could see the beauty and light of their souls. Saint Teresa of Avila reminds us that Jesus Christ is seated on the throne of His glory in the center of our souls, that even in a person who is in serious sin, God is still present. She goes on to compare the human soul to the Tree of Life at the center of the Garden of Eden and the burning bush which attracts the attention of Moses. God is fundamentally closer to us than we are to ourselves, so to discover God, we must go deeply within and there discover the radiance of the soul, this “Interior Castle” made of crystal and shining with the glory of God. 

      How different our world would be if everyone could recognize this substantial truth: the dignity and worth of every human being, created in the image and likeness of God, made to love and be loved, destined for eternal life, shining more wondrously than the rising sun!  This vision of the Kingdom of God, imbedded in the mystery of human flesh, explains the truth, beauty and goodness of both Jesus Christ and ourselves.  As Saint Paul says, we hold this treasure in earthen vessels.  What a treasure! What a vessel!

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