By the age of 18 most people have seen approximately 30,000 murders on TV. That is quite a staggering number. When soldiers went to Vietnam and shot the enemy, they expected to see the enemy get up again. Killing them wasn’t real. Life has become cheap.
As a priest I worked in a local hospital for a few years and also in the hospice for the last four years. When you see many people die in the hospital it makes you think a lot. People say to me, it must be very depressing; but it’s not, it’s just very real. It can be very beautiful, especially if you have faith, because what you see happening is someone going from this life into the next, and that is a great privilege. It is also a very spiritual experience. One minute you are looking at a living breathing person, with a personality and different characteristics peculiar to them. The next minute you are just looking at a body. Something has changed. It’s not just that the body has stopped working, there is much more to it than that. The spirit has gone, the soul has moved on to the next world; and this is so real. What’s left in front of you is only a body. It’s not the person you knew, only part of that person, because we are body and soul.
If we were just a body, just flesh and bones, then we wouldn’t be able to have ideas, or hope, or faith, and above all, we wouldn’t be able to love. Love is very much a mark of the human soul. It is God given. It tells us that there is something of God in us.
If you didn’t know the patient lying in the bed in a personal way, they could be just anybody. But when you know them then their soul speaks to you and that’s why death hurts so much, because of the separation, the loss of love. This is one of the gifts that God has given us which resemble him: the ability to love. It is this ability to love that makes us beautiful. Even if I don’t have the most beautiful body, it doesn’t matter, because the soul is what is really attractive, not the body. The more we learn to love, the more beautiful we become.
When God creates us he gives us a spirit, which will live forever. Imagine all of us here in this church will live forever. The people you know who have died are still alive in a different world. We will see them again. When God creates us, we are created in his image and this means that we have the potential to become more like him. The more like him we become, the more beautiful we become, because God is beautiful. That’s what holiness is: closeness to God. As we come closer to God our spirit or soul becomes more beautiful because we are becoming more like God. Holy people reflect God best and that is why they attract others like magnets, because they are beautiful. That is also why God keeps calling us to holiness, because God wants us to be beautiful.
We believe that our souls are there since the first moment of conception and this is why life is sacred, because it comes from God, and returns to God.
Much of Mother Teresa’s work in India, was taking dying people off the streets and helping them to die with dignity. She didn’t try to convert them, or try to make them live longer, she just helped them to die with people around them who showed them love. Why? because God is in each of us and so each life is sacred.
Sometimes you will hear it said that protecting life has nothing to do with God or religion, but I would say the opposite. It really only makes full sense when you remember where we come from. If God had nothing to do with it, then it couldn’t really be that sacred. But we believe that life is totally sacred and so we must protect it always, no matter what the arguments are against it. Every life is sacred, since it comes from God.
‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10)