“…whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
We all got up with a little spring in our step this morning because we felt the first chill in the air of autumn. Sure, the temperature only made it down to 70, but as South Floridians that’s a big deal. I walked out the door of my house and saw our beautiful church lit up by the morning sun against a bright blue backdrop of a sky and some wispy clouds off in the back. What a sight! Immediately I thanked God for the gift of the new day, for making each sunrise different, and for personally creating this particular Sunday morning. His day. The Lord’s Day.
God did the same with each of us when we were created. He did it so lovingly, so carefully, so uniquely. We were each created with a purpose. In today’s bulletin I wrote that we were all traced by the very finger of God himself. Since God is the master artist then we are each nothing less than a masterpiece. Pope Francis said so himself in comments during last year’s Day of Life: "even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God's creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the upmost reverence and respect."
Yet the world rejects so many of God’s children like they rejected all those sent into the vineyard in today’s gospel, not realizing that each servant that the owner sent was sent by God himself. So many times we fail to realize that we are all part of God's vineyard and we are each an important vine. Each person has a role to play in God’s plan. But listen to the last three words the Holy Father uses: “respect and reverence.” We are to treat the outcasts of society with reverence. This is a word that we normally associate with the sacred. We are reverent when we walk into Church or in the presence of an important figure, but to be reverent to a homeless person, an Ebola patient, an undocumented immigrant, a dying old person, or the unborn? That’s not the word we usually use. Society would rather forget all those people mentioned above. Case in point: In Oregon two years, ago, a retired bus driver had a recurrence of lung cancer. Her oncologist suggested that she be given an experimental drug that would give her a 45% chance of being alive in a year. “The State of Oregon denied this treatment stating that her prognosis wasn’t good enough to warrant expensive medication to treat her cancer. Yet in the same letter denying coverage for her medication, the State offered full coverage (100%) for her assisted suicide.” (2012 Respect Life Program, “Life Matters: Doctor-Assisted Death by Suicide”; USCCB website) In our own country, we are throwing the elderly and the sick to the side and PAYING for them to kill themselves so that they would be less of a burden on society.
We have become no better than the people in the gospel that beat and reject God's servants. We are called to defend the most vulnerable among us especially the elderly and the unborn (over 50 million lost young lives since 1973, 5 times the number of people killed in the holocaust). On this Respect Life Sunday, we must recognize that we are all “masterpieces of God’s creation” because if we did, we would see each other with the eyes of God as brothers and sisters that are meant to be treasured, not rejected and discarded as the world so callously does. And as a masterpiece, we are called to sing the praises of our Creator at every moment and denounce the culture of death around us. Those silent, rejected voices have so much to teach us, particularly the elderly as Pope Francis reminds us. May we rise up as a Church and protect those voices, protect God’s creation. To discard one of His masterpieces would be akin to burning the Sistine Chapel, except the Sistine Chapel was not made by the loving hand of God.