Below are speaking notes from a keynote address I gave on May 27th 2016 in Saint Albert, Alberta, to a retreat for senior managers of Catholic Social Services. -- Mark
THE SANCTITY OF LIFE:
Why all human life matters
Do you believe in universal human rights or only in
certain human rights for certain people? Be careful how you answer that
question. To believe in universal human
rights is a tall order. Universal human rights include everyone. After all that
is what the word “Universal” means.
adj. & n • adj. 1. of, belonging to, or done etc. by all persons or things in the
world or in the class concerned, allocable to all cases. 2. Logic (of a
proposition) in which something is asserted of all of a class. • n. 1
Logic a universal
proposition. 2 Philos a a term or concept of general
application. b a nature or essence
signified by a general term.
life human life have value or do only some lives have value? Are some lives matter
more than other lives? If so, Why? How
gets to decide? Who gets to decides who gets to decide? Who is the final
arbiter about which lives matter, have value and deserve protection and care?
Perhaps you’re thinking, It is government
or Supreme Courts? Are governments or Supreme Courts ever wrong?
I remember vividly in 1988 when the Canadian Supreme
Court struck down Canada’s abortion. The next year and later in 1991 the
Supreme Court declared the unborn child is not a person in law and the humanity
of the preborn child irrelevant. Was this decision based upon scientific
knowledge of life before birth? No. Their
arbitrary and oppressive decision was based upon ideology. The simple fact is that human life begins
when sperm fertilizes egg. This is not a philosophical or metaphysical
contention: It has been plainly and clearly established by experimental evidence. We’ve known this for many, many decades long before
the law was struck down.
The world’s foremost authorities in genetics,
medicine and biology have testified to this simple biological fact for years. They
were willing to tell anyone who would listen. They appeared before governments
in Canada and the United States – many under oath – testifying that human life
begins with that spark of life we commonly call conception. You will see the quotes I have provided are old. It’s not that courts and governments did
not know. They did not want to know the facts if they contradicted ideology
This was not the first time Canada’s Supreme Court
would make a morally wrong decision. In 1928, Canada’s Supreme Court declared
that women were not legal persons.
Happily, five courageous women appealed that decision to the Privy Council
in Britain. The oppressive and arbitrary decision was overturned on October 18th
There have been times throughout
history when governments and courts stripped certain groups of people of their
personhood or refused to recognize there humanity.
There was a time when 1st nations people
were not considered persons in order to take their land. There was a place and
time when Jews were considered sub-human. Such are critical defining moments when people
who are called to be about God’s business and stand for what is right
regardless of what any court or legislature or fashion may say.
There is a higher law that exists regardless of what man says. If that were not
so then inalienable human rights could be taken away with a simple stroke of a
legislative pen. Unless the idea of Inalienable and universal human rights are
a hollow lie, there has to be a higher law that exists regardless of what
politicians and corrupt judges say. It
is critically important that Christians and other people of good will have a
clear vision of what that is.
How you view the value of life will directly
influence how you treat life. You work
for Catholic Social Services. Therefore, you work must reflect Catholic
teaching. At times that may run against
the current of popular opinion or government policy.
Your founder, Monsignor Bill Irwin operated
that way. Many years ago (it seems like
an eternity now) I negotiated many federal government contracts with Father
Bill for services of Catholic Social Services.
I knew that under his leadership, and his unwavering belief in the
inherent value and dignity of all people, and his faith were what guided his
behavior more than the fine points, addendums and schedules of any
contract. He always delivered more
service than agreed to.
At a personal level, Fr. Bill was a good
friend. Our friendship was based upon
our mutual commitment to the sanctity of human life. We often met for lunch, or
he would come to my home for supper, and we would discuss ideas or problems in
human service. Do you remember the loss of United Way funding when Catholic
Social Services withdrew from their umbrella because of Planned Parenthood
funding? Father Bill and I talked about his fear about the loss of funding. God made up the difference from other sources.
I remember back in the 1980s when AIDS has
near the height of its public stigma, Fr. Bill talked with me over lunch about starting
Kairos House. He mentioned his concern
that it might hurt CSS donations. I
asked him if he believed this was what he believed God wanted him to do. He
said Yes, and he established Kairos House out on 149 Street. It still operates
Monsignor Bill also encouraged me in my pro-Life
work. In 1997, at his recommendation, I received the inaugural Monsignor Bill
Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence. When he was dying I was ushered into his
hospital room to spend a few minutes alone with him. I thanked Father Bill for
making the world a better place, for always seeing the image of God in every
person. I thanked him for teaching me to look at people as made in the image of
God. I thanked Father Bill for being my mentor
and friend. Looking back, I only hope
that in some small way I was a good friend to him.
I want you to carry Monsignor Bill Irwin’s
perspective and understanding to your staff and volunteers. Help them to see every person they serve as
made in the image of God. This fundamental
spiritual truth is at the very foundation and essence of understanding the
sanctity of human life. There is something sacred about every human life,
regardless of their state, their circumstances, or what they have done.
As you know, this is in keeping with Catholic
teaching dating back to the 1st century. The concept of the sacredness of life goes back to
the beginning human history. In the very first Chapter of the very first book
of the Bible we read:
“Then God said, “Let
us make mankind, in our likeness” (Genesis 1.26) and again in the next
verse we read, “So God created
humankind, in his image. In the image of God he created them; male and female
he created them.” (vrse 27) And immediate after God blesses them.
Do you notice that creation was not a solitary act.
God speaks of “us” and “our image”. God speaks in plural. Who was he addressing? He was speaking of the pre-incarnate Christ,
the second member of the Trinity. The Apostle John tells this. Speaking of Christ in the first chapter of
his Gospel, John says:
the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into
being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of
the world.” (John 1:1-5)
A few verses later the Apostle tells us, “and the Word (Christ) became flesh and
lived among us, and we have seen his glory.” (vrse 14) Why did Christ
become flesh and live among us? Divine
John quoted Jesus in the 3rd chapter of
his Gospel “For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish
but may have eternal life.” (3.16) Salvation.
Pope John Paul II said they these words “express the very essence of Christian
theology of salvation. Salvation means liberation from evil, … God gives his
Son to “the world” to free man from evil, … . At the same time, the very word
“gives” (“gave”) indicates this liberation must be achieved by the
only-begotten Son through his suffering. And in this, love is manifested, the
infinite love both of that only-begotten Son and of the Father who for this
reason “gives” his Son. This is love for man, love for the “world”: it is
What I’m trying to illustrate here in quoting Pope
John Paul is not the salvation and eternal life Christ gained for humanity
through faith (as pivotally important as that is!). I am using it as an example
of the unfathomable divine love God has for humanity, His image bearers. Christ’s
Incarnation, His life, Passion, crucifixion, death and resurrection are
expressions of that love.
In his 1995 Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae “The
Gospel of Life” John Paul II began by saying “The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus message.” Two
paragraphs later the Pontiff wrote “When
he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says, “I came that they
may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10.10). In truth, he is referring
to that “new” and “eternal” which consists in communion with the Father, to
which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the Sanctifying
(the 3rd Member of the Trinity). Pope John Paul told us that it is precisely
this life that Christ spoke of that all aspects and stages of human life
realize their full significance.
At the center of Scripture and Catholic teaching is
the foundational truth of God’s immense love for all humanity: The Creator for
the created, the Sanctifier for the sanctified.
Humanity is called a fullness of life by sharing in
the life of God which reveals dimensions that transcend their earthly
existence. This is an exceedingly marvelous mystery of spiritual transformation
we are all called to. But transformed to what?
The Apostle Paul told us, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love
God, to those who are called according to His
purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image
of His Son, …”
Elsewhere Paul says we are called to a holy purpose for which we were destined
before time began and was revealed by Christ’s appearing.
That takes back to Genesis and God giving us His image.
That image develops by being conformed to image of Christ. We are called to be perfect just as our
Father in heaven is perfect.
The way of perfection is to do the will of God and
to love Him with our whole being (which always works in concert with love for
those around us). I am referring the Greatest commandment which Jesus
identified as this: “You shall love the
Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: You
shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the law
and the prophets.”
Paul tells us that love for our neighbour (humanity)
is the fulfillment of the law.
The Catholic Church teaches that all Christians are called to fullness of
Christian life and to the perfection of love and holiness. There is an underlying theme of salvation that
invokes love and the natural dignity of human life.
The inward expression of this love toward God is a
reflection and spiritual refining of his image within us. The outward
expression toward other people of God’s love can encourage the natural human
dignity that was naturally theirs from their beginning when life began and the
image and likeness of God was endowed upon them.
The dignity of the human person requires the pursuit
of the common good. Everyone should be concerned to create and support
institutions that improve the conditions of human life.
The magisterium of the Catholic Church teaches that “society ensures social justice when it
provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what
is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is
linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.
The common good involves the lives of all from
conception to natural death. The common
good must vigorously affirm the sanctity and inviolability of every human life
and never affirms death.
God is indeed the God of the living and the dead,
but He takes no delight death. Death is the result of Original sin. All that is Catholic must always uphold the
value and inviolability of human. This
begins when human life begins. Human
life must be respected, nurtured and protected from the moment of conception.
From the first moment of its existence every a human being must be recognized
as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every
innocent being to life.
is a moral evil. This has always been
the position of the Catholic Church. It has not changed for 2,000 years. It is
As agents of the Catholic Church you must reflect
the moral integrity of its teachings in this regard. The dignity of the human
person is rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God. Both mother and child are equal sharers in
God’s love envelopes them both. We are to reflect
that love. You must always create
environments and supports that encourage people to reach their fullest
potential in their circumstances and situations. Reaching one person’s fullest
potential must never entail killing another life.
Now you will hearof oft touted refrain, “What about
in cases of rape, incest or risk to the mother’s life?” Well first of all,
taken together abortion for cases of rape, incest and risk to the mother’s
life, put together only account for less than 5% of all abortions. Abortions are performed for reasons of of the
child being inconvenient or unwanted.
Now, let’s take those extreme cases one by one:
Rape: Will abortion take away the violence of the
rape? No. I submit to you it only perpetuates violence. In my
30 years speaking on Life issues across Canada and the U.S., I have encountered
women who said that abortion only complicated and hampered their emotional
healing. It has nothing to do with
justice. What kind of justice makes the child pay for the crime of its father?
I have met many people who were the conceived through rape. Should they not have been here? Our response to rape must be compassion and
the tender embrace in the collective arms of community for mother and child that including support for adoption
services, if that is what the mother chooses.
The same applies to cases of incest. In terms of
risk to the life of the mother, I have asked a number of medical experts about
this. One was professor of obstetrics at a major Canadian university. He told
me that with the exception of ectopic pregnancy, he could not think of one
circumstance where abortion was the only solution to a medical problem. Another OBGYN who worked at a high risk
pregnancy clinic in New York City said something similar. They treat the
mother’s condition until the baby can survive outside the womb then terminated
the pregnancy with the goal to save mother and child.
To hold up the innate value of all human life in
every state and stage from conception to natural death: It’s a pretty daunting
task, but there you have it. You are
called to a profound respect of every human being with the guiding principle that
“everyone should look upon his neighbour (without any exception) as ‘another
self,’ bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living with
dignity.” This becomes more urgent and pressing when our neighbour is
disadvantaged, in their circumstances.
Then we encounter the incurably ill and disabled,
the Church teaches they deserve our special respect. You must help the sick and
disabled to live lives as normally as possible. This
may involve housing, education, recreation, employment assistance, respite
services for families of profoundly disabled people in their care.
With regards to people in comatose states – that
which is commonly referred to as persistent vegetative state, we are called to
special care ministries. I detest the derogatory term describing people as
vegetables or being in persistent vegetative. People are never vegetables any
more than they are fruits: Those terms are meant to demean their humanity. And
Pope John Paul II was also of the same opinion. In his 2004 address to the
INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON “LIFE SUSTAINING TREATMENTS AND VEGETATIVE STATE, the
Pontiff said the term “vegetative” is demeaning to a patient’s value and
personal dignity. In a rebuke to the title of the conference he said,
“I feel the duty to reaffirm strongly that the
intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being do not change, no
matter the concrete circumstances of his or her life. A man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest
functions, is and always will be a man, and he will never become a “vegetable”
or an animal.” [Italics in the original.]
The Pope told
they conference emphatically that the comatose retain their full human dignity
and must be treated as such. They have a right to basic health care that
include nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc. The love gaze of our
God continues to fall upon them. Caregiver must keep that in mind.
The pope said the administration of food and water –
even if provided by artificial means – still represents ordinary care and not
viewed as a medical act. Death by starvation and dehydration is euthanasia by
Regarding euthanasia, the Church teaches that it is
morally unacceptable. Our Catechism says:
“Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia
consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons.
It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act of omission which, of itself or by
intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder
gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to
the living God, his creator.”
This is very important to someone, like me, with a
degenerative and incurable disease. I want to know that my care givers respect
the dignity of my person, even if I have ceased to believe in my own natural
Someone is probably thinking, surely in cases of excruciating
uncontrolled pain! There is no reason to be in excruciating uncontrollable pain
in the 21st Century. If you know someone dying in great pain, they
don’t need suicide, they need a new doctor.
Dr. John Scott is a palliative care physician at the
Ottawa Hospital. He has said,
World Health Organization has demonstrated that access to pain-relieving drugs,
along with a simple educational program, can achieve relief in the vast
majority of patients. Specialists in various parts of the world estimate these
basic approaches can control 85 to 98 percent of cases. The remaining cases
require more careful attention and use of multiple drugs and therapies to
achieve complete relief.”
Those words were written in 1995. How much more
refined has pain relief medications and therapies become in the last 21 years?
A great deal. In fact, a few weeks ago I had a conversation with Dr. Margaret
Cottle, a palliative care specialist in Vancouver. She verified what Dr. Scott
wrote and spoke about the latest dazzling advances in palliative medicine.
People do not need to die in physical pain. But that is only one type of pain,
I have suffered physical, emotional and spiritual
pain. It is my experience the worst suffering is emotional and spiritual. My
physical symptoms were easiest to reach and treat.
Be careful of language. Those who control language shape attitudes
and set agendas. Effective use of words
that disguise evil can muddle good people’s power of thoughtful discernment. Hitler
and Nazi officials knew this. They believed that they could manipulate public
opinion by manipulating language with propaganda including euphemisms, name
calling, fear and creating a bandwagon effect.
We must ask where do euphemisms come from and why
they were coined? Euphemisms are intended to disguise something.
“Medical aid in dying” is meant to give an air of
medical legitimacy killing the incurably ill whereas the word euthanasia still
makes many people recoil. Cloak lethal injection of the sick with clever
euphemisms … and it is still murder.
The phrase Death
with dignity is designed to give the impression of compassion to euthanasia
and assisted suicide.
Death with dignity is not achieved by injecting
someone with poison when they are at their lowest point or starving or
dehydrating them to death. That is abandonment not dignity. Let me tell you
something about death with dignity: It is not an event rather the end of a
process of having lived with dignity.
There is talk about quality of life, or the lack of
it. But standards for quality of life change over time. When I was 25 years
old, I was healthy and able-bodied, with an active family life. I had an
upwardly mobile career that was just beginning to show promise for the future. If
some clairvoyant told me back then that within a few years all that would be
gone. I would be disabled, and ultimately be wheelchair-dependent, that my
career would be over by the time I was thirty-eight, I would have said I don’t
want it! There’s no quality of life in that! And yet today, at the age of
sixty-three my life does have quality. What gives my life quality today is
love: To love and be loved.
Mercy killing is not mercy. Providing pain relief is
mercy. I’ve heard people say that we put a dog out of its misery, why not
people. First of all, I’m not a dog. Secondly we wouldn’t tolerate a dog mean
starved or dehydrated to death, yet we do that to people. The animal-man
analogy is only used to justify killing.
The great Christian thinker, Malcolm Muggeridge, had
this to say about mercy killing:
“Jesus healed the sick, raised Lazarus from the
dead, gave back sanity to the deranged, but never did He practice, or include,
killing as part of the mercy that occupied his heart. His true followers cannot
but adopt the same attitude.”
This is a dangerous time for people like me. Our
lives are being devalued with increasing acceptance of assisted suicide and
euthanasia for the severely disabled and incurably ill.
I’m being told that killing myself is a right.
According to numerous polls nearly 80% of my fellow Canadian citizens even
agree with the idea of me being helped to kill myself if I become suicidal but
am too disabled to do it by my own hand. Thanks to the Supreme Court that will
soon be a reality. At the same time,
they also agree that healthy Canadians who become suicidal should get suicide
prevention counselling. In fact, in
October of 2012, Parliament gave unanimous support to the idea of establishing
a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. The current Prime Minister supported
it, and yet here we are four years later and that the government under Justin
Trudeau is about to legalize assisted suicide for people like me.
(Incidentally, I meet all the criteria for assisted suicide under C-14, the
bill they euphemistically call “Medically assisted dying”. Medically assisted
dying is actually called palliative care not assisted suicide.
So under the new regime, healthy suicidal Canadians
will receive suicide prevention counselling and people like me will get assisted
suicide. Why the difference? Let me tell you bluntly say why Most Canadians
think healthy and able-bodied people are worth more than sick and incurably ill
Quite frankly, our lives are often seen as unworthy
That may be the way of the world, but it must not be
the way of Christ’s followers. We are supposed to change society not society
Society holds up personal autonomy and independence
as the highest right. If you value community they are not the highest right.
The idea of independent personal autonomy is diametrically opposed to the
concept of interdependent community. If
I choose suicide (assisted or otherwise) it will not affect just me. It will
affect my wife, children, and grandchildren. It will affect my doctor because I
will ask her to cease being my healer and become my killer. It will affect my
community, and it will affect my nation by further entrenching the notion there
are some lives unworthy of living.
Assisted suicide kills twice. It kills human
connections of the suicidal person when others agree to help them kill
themselves. The second death is the deed itself. (There is actually a third
death. It is the death of conscience and humanity in the person who assists in
suicide is an affront to justice, hope and charity. It puts in peril vulnerable
people who are yet to come.
No matter how sick I become I still have a
responsibility to the Common Good of society. I have a right to expect the best
palliative care available and those things that will foster life with dignity
even at its end.
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1984. I went from being a healthy and
athletic man to what you see today. In the first ten years with MS, the disease
was horrible and terrifying. I would go to bed at night not knowing what
function I would wake up with or without and no guarantee lost
function would return or how much if it did. Symptoms could last days, months
and even years. It was like a terrifying roller coaster ride.
I would lose the use of my legs, or my
I would lose sensation and be unable to
distinguish hot from cold or sharp from blunt.
My vision was affected and so was my
I would lose my ability to speak and be
reduced to mumbling and drooling.
I would lose bowel or bladder function
and dirty myself.
I had a crippling fatigue and I still
All of these attacks would come with no guarantee I
would get back lost function. I went from being healthy, able-bodied and
athletic to walking on a cane, two canes, then crutches, then a wheelchair or
scooter. It was awful!
the 2-3 year point in my downhill slide with MS, my grief was so profound and
unimaginable, my sorrow so deep, my heartache so sharp, that my judgment was
clouded. If assisted suicide had been available in the mid-1980s, and if I not
had been enveloped in the love of God and my wife, LaRee, I may have taken my
life, at a low point. I am so glad now that did not happen. I would never have
known my 5 grandchildren. (We never know what tomorrow may bring.) I needed to
safely grieve with the freedom to cry out, and not be helped with a death wish
I might have expressed at my lowest point.
tell you from personal experience: People need to grieve a loss.
They need to know that there are people around them who will uncompromisingly
hold up the value of their lives – even if they cease to believe in their own
value. A person grieving catastrophic disability or incurable illnesses needs
help to rediscover their natural human dignity when they have lost sight of it.
My journey through chronic
illness and disability involved a re-discovery of the natural human dignity
that is the possession of every human life beginning when they began.
An individual with a severe
disability or incurable illness must ultimately turn to the spiritual aspect of
life (in as much is cognitively possible) – if they are to discovery meaning of
their anguish. It involves seriously internalizing the source of human dignity
– that which sets humans apart from the rest of creation.
Humanity is not defined by
knowledge or power. We do not get our worth by what we can do, our abilities or
sentience; it comes from merely being.
For those of us who are severely
disabled ― and are able to seek the revelation of God’s divine love ― we must
be open to letting God use our pain, anguish and trials as a vehicle to
spiritually mature us and transform us to be more like Christ. This is
important because, as this transformation as begins to change us, we will
discover our natural human dignity.
It was important for me to resist the temptation to become bitter, not
focus on my predicament, and simply surrender again to that divine love of
Through my Redeemer’s outstretched arms on the cross, he invited me to
unite my suffering with his suffering. Imagine that! I was invited into
Christ’s redemptive suffering. He suffered in my place and here I was invited
into His redemptive act. I was being called to relinquish to Christ ownership
of my pain and understand that I truly poor in spirit. Jesus said “Blessed are
the poor in spirit , for theirs is the kingdom of God. Understanding I was poor
in spirit is a key for it marked a critical transition point in my acceptance
of suffering and stop resisting what I could not control.; it required that a
shift take place in my spiritual mindset in order to realize that in this
earthly life it is more important to understand than to be understood. I was
being called to set aside self-interest, and ego, and follow Christ with
complete abandon. This is the absolute antithesis of my egotistical and
self-absorbed nature. But Christ was calling me, in my sorrow and pain, to
transcend beyond myself by uniting my suffering with His at the Cross (just he
calls you to transcend yourself).
Our response to the suffering of Christ at Calvary removes the ultimate
suffering which the loss of eternal life. He asks you and me to take up our
cross and follow Him.
It is not easy to be willing to take up my cross but it is necessary, if
truth means anything. Perhaps that is why our Lord said we must take up our
cross daily. It requires a daily
recommitment to bear up the weight of my cross and follow Him. But follow Him
where? In my weakness I have been so irrationally afraid to take up my cross
and following Christ because I feared it might lead me to a Golgotha! Yet the
logic of divine love assures me I can rest in His tender embrace as a child of
God. But I am unable to become a child of God without divine intervention;
Saint John said this at the beginning of his Gospel: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become
children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born,
not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
God.” (John 1.12)
If I carry my cross of suffering in union with Christ’s redemptive suffering it
does not lead to a Golgotha: It led to my realization that Christ can use human
suffering to bring us closer to Him, if we will accept it.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy
to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Roman 8.18.) Paul’s comment about the “glory that will be revealed in us” is a reference to the future resurrection of the body (v. 23) and the
subsequent complete Christ-likeness which is the believer’s eternal glory.
It is a mystery to us because we cannot yet see the full picture in our
present state. But we are assured that it
is Jesus Christ who will transform our lowly body to be conformed to His
glorious body. He is able to subdue all things to Himself.
He told us that we were saved for our certain hope of Resurrection of
the body which we do not see but wait for with perseverance (8.23-25). Perhaps
you may think “It’s too hard”. I know that fearful doubt of weakness – but Paul
assured us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and even intercedes
for us (verse 26). Christ’s redemptive suffering at the Cross and death is
completed by the cosmic eloquence and beauty of the Resurrection. We are
invited into that redemptive act for we will be like Christ. This is not
theory. It is reality.
Suffering in unison with Christ helped me see Resurrection in a new
light. My hope in, and anticipation of, the Resurrection helps me go through my
dark days of humiliations, my agonies, my doubts and my fears. Throughout the
ages Christ has opened his sufferings to humanity.
We can, through faith, discover that Christ’s redemptive suffering gives
us insights and meaning in our own suffering.
I am convinced it what Saint Paul meant when he wrote,
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no
longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live
in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave
Himself for me.”
A flood of hope rooted in divine love produces in the sufferer the
marvelous realization that he is mysteriously being transformed for heaven. If
we are open in our suffering to Christ’s love it will inevitable begin a
I have discovered that Christ grants a special grace that transcends my
suffering. Suffering carries the capacity to strip aware all things unnecessary
in life, leaving only that which is essential. Suffering taught me that at the
center of existence rests a heartrending and beautiful mystery. Once that
mystery is glimpsed, everything else becomes an irrelevance, a diversion. That
mystery is the light of Christ. Many people throughout history have discovered
this truth, including Saint Francis of Assisi, John Milton, John Donne,
Alexander Solzhenitsyn and millions of ordinary people.
It is possible to experience an illumination that enables the sufferer
to begin to comprehend the glorious, transforming liberty of the children of
God, even though we are being physically destroyed. I think this is the liberty
Saint Paul referred to in his second letter to the Corinthians:
“Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord,
the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where
the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we
all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by
the Spirit of the Lord.”
People in dire and miserable physical circumstances can and have experienced
shades of this liberty. In any human context they may not appear to experience
But out of their wretched surroundings can come salvation and Joy.
It has been in my sickroom that I began to discover union with Christ’s
Crucifixion and Resurrection. A great light began to push back the inky
darkness of my defeat to reveal to me a renewed hope in Christ. My world gets
smaller each year as my body slowly turns into a living carcass yet my hope in
Isn’t this the essence of what Paul said:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is
perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For
our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the
things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things
which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are
eternal.” For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is
destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal
in the heavens.”
Christ’s truth can (and does) set people free, even today. He said:
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And
you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The truth is Jesus Christ. In Him there is hope. Our eternal hope lies
with nowhere else.
And that brings me to the point
of what I want to say. Our society has turned from its Christian heritage. That
is why our moral foundations are crumbling before our eyes. We must bear
witness to Christ. We must join together with other followers of Jesus Christ,
arm in arm, and strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been
Perhaps someone is thinking that people don’t want to hear about the hope
of our Christian message. Perhaps not. But we still must take that message to
the world around us whether in season or out of season. (see 2Timothy 4.2). It
is better to lose in a cause of life that is right than win in a cause of
killing, which is wrong.
We have a message of Divine love in Jesus Christ. If there is hope for
us, it ultimately lies in Him. Let His love shine through what you do. Pray
that you may always see the image of God in every person you meet and serve.