10/5/2014 – Respect Life Mass –27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 21:33-43
Each October is set aside by the Bishops of the United States as Respect Life Month. This month gives the Catholic faithful the opportunity to reflect upon life issues facing us as a society and to pray for and promote a greater respect for all human life. This year’s theme is “Each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation,” which was adapted from Pope Francis’ 2013 Day for Life greeting. During his message, Pope Francis stated that ““even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
Picture yourself somewhere where you at a work someone has created. It could be a work of art by Claude Monet or Vincent Van Gogh or Leonardo Da Vinci. It could be a symphony by Mozat or Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. Imagine the wonder and awe you feel by thinking about the human being that created such a masterpiece, thinking about the precision and care that he used to create such a work. We can look at God’s creation in the same way. We have a lot of a parishioners who love to do outdoor activities – to hike or fish or jog or bike or to walk along the beach. Isn’t it amazing to be amongst God’s creation, to marvel at the beauty of nature? I speak often about being a missionary in the rain forest in South America. It is hard to describe the beauty of the rain forest. It is so immense and diverse, and you can travel hours in it, being surrounding by it, feeling as small as a little ant in the middle of the huge jungle. And then you see a little bug or a flower or a plant or bird, this one little living object living in the jungle, and you realize how that little living thing itself is so wonderful and beautiful. Each of us, each human being, is a masterpiece created by God, is a masterpiece created with purpose and tenderness. We are each loved so intensely and are each of such great worth that we cannot even comprehend it, just as I had a hard time comprehending the immensity and complexity of the rain forest jungle.
That we as a Church devote an entire month for Respect for Life should say a lot to us. And it should get us thinking about how we can be a messenger for the Respect for Life that is an essential part of Catholic Social Teaching and an essential part of what we believe in our faith. The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is threatened by embryonic stem cell research and the use of the death penalty. In many ways, the message we have in the Church on the Respect for Life is against the message we hear in the world.
In our parable today, the landowner keeps sending out different messengers to bring his message to the tenants. We have different messengers in our society who are sent by God to bring the Gospel of Life and a Respect for Life to our world. In fact, when I was pastor of St Mary Catholic Church in Yazoo City prior to coming to Tupelo, one of the prominent Evangelical Christian pastors in the community publicly thanked our Catholic bishops and leaders for having the courage to speak out on a respect for life in our society, even to the point of bringing a law suit against the federal government regarding certain provision of health care law that were being implemented. He said that our bishops spoke on behalf of a lot of Christians in our society whose voices were being silenced. But we don’t have to leave all the work to our bishops. We at St James want to show our community how important a Respect for Life is for us. We do so in our words and our actions. I hope that you will come out next Saturday to our Respect Life event at the Monument to the Unborn on our parish grounds. It will start at noon and will end with the praying of the rosary. It will be a good way to commemorate this month and to be a witness to our community. We want to be that messenger that Jesus sends into the world. And we want to bring the message that we respect all human life.