By the age of 18 most people have seen approximately 3,000 murders on TV, which is a frightening number. It also means that even by 18 we have become largely desensitized to killing and death. When soldiers went to Vietnam and shot the enemy, apparently they expected to see the enemy get up again. Killing wasn’t real for them. A friend of mine who was an army officer but later became a priest told me that killing even one person has a profound effect on us. It is not normal for us to kill and we instinctively know that it is not right. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’
As a priest I worked in a hospital for a few years and also in a hospice for 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. One minute you are looking at a living breathing person, who has 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 if they are someone you know, 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 to us which resembles 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 and the more like him we become, the more beautiful we become. 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’s why God keeps calling us to holiness, because God wants us to be beautiful. He has created us to be beautiful.
We believe that our souls are there from the first moment of conception and this is why hold that life is sacred from conception to natural death, because it comes from God, and returns to God; and God has told us not to kill. God is the only one who can give and take life.
Much of Mother Teresa’s work in India, was taking dying people off the streets and allowing them to die with dignity. She didn’t try to convert them, or try to make them live longer, she and her sisters just helped them to die with people around them who showed them love. Why? because God is in each of us and each life is sacred.
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 from its very beginning at conception to it's natural end.
‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10)