We expect to pay more for something that will last a long time. We value rare or unique items, and works of great beauty can be extremely expensive.
Yet our society seems to place little value on the one thing that is truly priceless – human life itself. If we compare human beings to things that we prize, by every measure human beings come out on top.
Durability. Human beings last forever. Everything on earth will pass away, the earth itself will pass away. But God offers each of us eternal life.
Uniqueness. Every human being is unique, unrepeatable and irreplaceable. Even identical twins have different fingerprints, facial expressions, personalities. Never in the history of humankind has there been another you, nor will there ever be.
Beauty. Is there anything more beautiful, anything you'd rather look at a dozen times a day, than the face of a loved one?
From the moment of conception, the awesome complexity of a new human life unfolds. Parents provide the 46 chromosomes, but God supplies the human soul to create the person he knew and loved from all eternity. Even before birth, human life is miraculous: the differentiation of cells, the development of organs with highly specialized functions, the maturing of the brain, the memory and the five senses. Every human being shares the same origin, nature and destiny, but our features and physiques, skills, interests, tastes and habits are astonishingly diverse.
What is most miraculous about human life is why we exist at all:
"God created the universe in order to be able to become a human being and pour out his love upon us and to invite us to love him in return" (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger).
God created every human life in his image. You, me, one-celled human embryos in lab dishes, unborn children and their impoverished parents living in the slums of less-developed nations. People who struggle with disabilities, comatose or dying patients. Convicted killers on death row. Each possesses inherent God-given dignity equal to that of every other human.
Life is a gift, ours to take care of – but not to throw away, and never to take from another. God calls each of us to safeguard our own lives, and also the lives of those in need of assistance, attention, prayers. Surely we can do no less than heed his call.
As individuals and as a community we can change the face of our world to reflect the value and dignity of every human life. We can help one person this week (and next). We can expand and publicize programs of service and care – for pregnant women who may think their only "choice" is abortion, and for those suffering because of a past abortion. We can increase the effectiveness of programs for those who are very old or dying, and broaden education and assistance to those who are poor and newcomers to our nation.
But no matter how many compassionate services we provide, no matter how many pro-family economic and social policies are adopted, unless the fundamental right of each human being to live is respected from conception until natural death, the structures of community life have no solid foundation. It's like building a house on shifting sand.
Laws that permit or promote abortion, infanticide, human cloning, destructive embryo research or physician-assisted suicide ignore the sanctity of each human life and undermine the foundation of a just and healthy society. As citizens and people of faith, each of us should actively advance our convictions in the public square in every legitimate and ethical way. We should rededicate ourselves to upholding the sanctity of human life, and hold those elected to represent us to the same standard.
By our Christian example and advocacy for public policies respectful of the human person, we can create a culture which affirms the miracle and glory of every human life.