October is Respect Life Month for the Catholic Church in America. Life is an awesome gift from God. Pope John Paul II wrote the Gospel of Life recognizing the gift.
Life is indeed a gift. Life is more than just existence. We are not just machines. Life is more than the biological existence we know in our human form. We are given an individual soul by God. No two people share a soul. We are unique.
We are also unique individuals in our biological form. Life begins at conception when an egg cell and a sperm cell come together. At that point, a unique individual with a unique combination of genes is formed. At that point in time, we are entirely dependent on our human mothers for existence and nutrition. The fact that we are completely dependent for our physical existence does not mean we do not have rights of our own. Our right to life comes from God and is given at conception. The fetus is a gift, not an inconvenience to be eliminated.
The gift of life begins at birth and continues till our natural death. If we respect life, we never act to cause death even when we are old and weak. That would be euthanasia (check out the paper I wrote on euthanasia). When it doesn’t seem to help we are not obliged to use extraordinary means (cf. “The Ethics of Medical Research”) but we can never act to end life.
Then there is the subject of the death penalty. We punish a person who kills by killing them. Doesn’t make sense to me. Yes, the Old Testament says an eye for an eye but Jesus cautions us against retaliation. Read more at “Social Teaching and the Respect for Life”
When we suffer life may not seem like a gift but it is indeed a precious gift from God. May we always respect and cherish life.