October 4th is the feast day of one of everybody’s favorite saints, Francis of Assisi.
Saint Francis loved life. He reverenced all of God’s creation. Francis would genuflect before a pregnant woman. He would only walk barefooted on the spring soil lest he crush the fragile new life of nature. And Francis had a special love for animals.
Saint Francis’ love for animals reminds me of today’s First Reading, from the very first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis. There is Adam, the first man. God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” So God creates the animals, and God has the animals come to Adam, and Adam gives each of them a name.
But God still knows that none of those animals, as nice as they were, could be a suitable partner for Adam. So He puts Adam to sleep, takes out one of his ribs, and creates the first woman, Eve. And God presents them to each other in marriage.
Notice that from the very beginning – in the first book of the Bible, Genesis chapter 2 – marriage between a man and a woman was God’s idea and God’s gift to the human race.In today’s Gospel, Jesus quotes from this same passage from Genesis, and impresses upon us the sacredness of marriage: “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” [Mark, 10: 6-8 and Genesis 2: 24].
In fact, Jesus raises the state of marriage to being a sacrament. That’s how important and how blessed the calling of marriage is. A couple united in faithful love, and in cooperation with God, the Author of Life, may conceive and bear a child.
Jesus, at the end of this reading, wants the children to come to Him, and He blesses them. He embraces them and says, “Let the children come to Me. Do not prevent them. For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
These readings from the Scriptures are perfect for this Sunday, known as Respect Life Sunday.
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago. He died in 1996. He crafted an expression that has become part of our regular vocabulary: he talked about the importance of “a consistent ethic of human life.”
We believe that our life began not at the moment that we were born, but nine months prior to that, when we were conceived in the womb of our mothers, with the assistance of our fathers, who cooperated with Almighty God in giving us this gift of life. We reverence all human life, from the moment life begins in the womb at conception until God calls us home through natural death,
And to be consistent with our reverence for children in the womb, we cannot be indifferent to the world that these children will be born into. When we reverence life in the womb we also need to be sensitive to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the unemployed, the ill, the elderly, those with disabilities, the immigrants, those who are discriminated against, and so on. We cannot become callous to violence and war and terrorism.
We also show our reverence for all human life by the way that we treat people who are right in front of us. Do I make people around me feel welcome, or do I give the impression that they are a bother? Do I look people in the eye when I shake their hand, or do I just hand them off as quickly as I can? Am I quick to compliment others or am I quicker to criticize? Do I try to eliminate the gossip, bullying, name-calling and prejudice around me or do I contribute to it?
A consistent ethic of life means we reverence ALL human life, from the moment it begins in the womb until natural death – and every moment in between.
We have a lot to pray about and to do in our world today. We look to the saints for their example and their prayers. And we ask the intercession of Mary Immaculate, the patroness of our United States, and of good old Saint Francis of Assisi in our efforts to safeguard and promote reverence and respect for all human life