There was a terrific article in the Op-Ed Section of the New York Times on Christmas Day by the ethicist Peter Wehner. He wrote about the Incarnation of God into the mess of humanity with the hope of redemption. In order to prove the point that every person has value and is worth saving, he quotes the theologian Steven Hayner. Hayner believes that every human person has value because God values us first. St. John in his first letter writes that we can only love one another, “because God has loved us first.” And so we have an innate value because God first loved us. We cannot love without God. He makes love possible. He is Love.
Hayner uses the example of gold:
“Gold is valuable not because there is something about gold that is intrinsically of great worth but because someone values it. Similarly, human beings have worth because we are valued by God first, who took on flesh and entered our world and shared our experiences—love, joy, compassion and intimate friendships; anger, sorrow, suffering and tears. God is not distant or detached; He is a God of wounds.”
This month thousands peacefully march to Washington on January 22 to profess a statement that will always and everywhere be true: Life is Sacred–because we are created in the image of God. No exceptions. Not one! In particular the most vulnerable and innocent.
When I was a seminarian I found a holy card that has always stayed with me. It is probably my favorite holy card in my arsenal. I liked it so much that I put it on the back of my mother’s funeral prayer card. It was a prayer written by Servant of God, Terrence Cardinal Cooke, the former archbishop of New York. Long ago Cardinal Cooke wrote of a truth that is eternal “Life is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, physical or mental disease, loneliness or old age.” I told that to an elderly lady I visit. She wrote it down and pinned it to her wall. It has been there for years every time I visit her. She wants to remember that even though she cannot walk or hear, her life has meaning.
Cardinal Cooke knew what Michelangelo knew when he painted Sistine Chapel. He made the face of Adam and the face of God the same. Every human person is created in His image and is lovable and worthy of being saved—because God loved us first. We are created in His image. What is it He sees in us? Perhaps it is the reflection of Himself. Would that we might see it too.
Fr. Gerard Gordon