Every Life has Worth

This is not the first time that God has worked a great wonder in Jericho. Today our Lord Jesus heals a blind man outside of Jericho. Many people of that society would have looked upon a man with such a debilitating disability as of significantly less worth than those who could see. But Jesus looks upon him and sees the whole man that he created. He sees his own image in this man who cannot see. Because in this man’s true created human nature, he can see. He is glorified by God. He is created for glory and union with God. Jesus simply puts this to rights. And the man who was blind can see.

While he was yet blind, there is one thing this man could probably see better than most – his own worth – his own right to exist, to live, and to flourish. He knew his own worth well enough to call out to Jesus for healing. He knew it well enough that when he was rebuked by the multitude and told to be silent, he cried out all the more.

Every life has worth. Do we permit the unpopularity of our true belief in the value of every human life to silence us? Or, do we cry out all the more?

It seems that every human society devalues some, even dehumanizes some. It was common in Roman society of the time to expose infants – that is to leave them out in the elements to die or be taken up by whoever came along. And such a choice might have been made all the more readily by a father beholding his son born blind. “Ah, this one is deficient,” he may have exclaimed, “Get rid of it.”

We don’t know the backstory of the blind man begging outside of Jericho for healing or what kind of rejection he may have faced, though we do know that he was reduced to roadside begging. Though he knew his own worth, it’s clear enough that his society did not.

We do know from the gospel of another man born blind. His parents were afraid to confess Jesus lest they be expelled from the synagogue, but they were brave enough to keep and rear their son despite his blindness, and for that they deserve some credit. They did not expose him as their Roman neighbors may have. The leaders of the synagogue disregarded him as one born in sin evidenced by his blindness. They diminished him, did not see his worth, did not see in him the image of God that Jesus sees.

In both cases, Jesus restores sight to the blind. In both cases, he sees the image of God, his own image, in men disregarded by the societies in which they live. Our own society similarly disregards the value of certain of its members. I hope our regard for and respect of the blind has improved since the first century, but we still as a society fail to see the image of God in certain people.

And our prejudices are often just ableist as the prejudices of the first-century.  Ableism is a new word for an old problem. Ableism is in many ways at the heart of our disregard for unborn human life. You see, blind men cannot see and so, what good are they? Likewise, the unborn cannot see – at least at first. They cannot walk. They cannot feed themselves. They cannot speak for themselves. So, what good are they?

I will tell you, they are all good. For the same reason that the blind beggar cast out by his society outside of Jericho is good, they are also good. Just as a blind baby exposed by his Roman father is, in fact, an image of God, so too is an unborn child an image of God. And the Lord sees both. He sees all things. Nothing is done in secret from the Lord. And he sees in each of them, just as he sees in the blind man outside of Jericho, a person of infinite worth, a person worthy of healing. And he will heal them. All who have died, he will raise up. For the victims of abortion and infanticide we hope and pray and trust in the mercy of God.

The unborn are not the only people dehumanized by our society, but in this country we remember them in a special way on this date every year.

At times, certain members of the pro-life movement have become myopic in their focus on outlawing abortion. Make no mistake, this is a good end, but as Christians we must first and foremost seek to prevent abortion and the dehumanization of the unborn through works of charity – through love rather than only through legislation.

And we must love everyone in the painful situations that lead to abortions. Everyone in these situations is in need of mercy and healing.

We must love and provide for the unborn children. Every bit as importantly, we must love and seek to provide for them after they are born. More of us should be open to adopting children whose mothers have found themselves unable to provide. We should support efforts from all quarters to provide for the needs of single mothers and their children.

We must love and help provide for the mothers who find themselves in desperate circumstances that would lead them to consider abortion. There are good efforts throughout the country by members of the pro-life movement to provide ultrasounds, counseling, and other pregnancy services to women in need. This is good and important work that can help women to recognize the humanity and even the image of God they are carrying in their wombs. Having recognized this, many mothers have decided against having an abortion. It is important that we do not abandon them in this moment. They must see and it must be true that we will still be there to help after the baby is born.

We must love the women who have had abortions. We must offer them the mercy and healing of God. We can be certain they are suffering and in need of healing. Jesus is a healer as he demonstrates today outside of Jericho.

Suffering is a mystery. Sometimes it seems we suffer for our sins. Sometimes it seems we suffer for no reason at all. Or we suffer that we might be united to Christ all the more in his suffering. In any case, when we suffer, the church should be with us in our suffering, just as Jesus is on the cross. And the church should offer healing, just as Jesus, the physician of our souls and bodies, offers healing. The holy mystery of repentance, confession, and forgiveness of sins is deeply healing. The life of the church, the sacraments, prayer, spiritual direction, and counseling is and must be open to women who have had abortions. We must receive them with open arms.

And we must also love abortionists. For many of us, this is the hardest part – loving our enemies, loving those who do wrong. In them too we must see the image of God. Neither should we dehumanize them. Rather, we should hope and pray for their salvation, just as we do for their unbaptized victims.

Among the sins, murder of the innocent seems most grievous – and who is more innocent and less deserving of death than a baby – an unborn child? I’ll tell you who – Jesus Christ. He was also murdered.

Remember Longinus. He was a Roman soldier, a member of the culture that exposed infants, and one of those who participated in the murder of Jesus Christ. It was Longinus who thrust the spear into Christ’s side to ensure that he was dead. And, witnessing the blood and water pouring from his side, Longinus repented and became a saint. If we can venerate as a saint one who participated in the murder of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we can love and hope and pray for abortionists. There have been notable abortionists who have repented, giving evidence that there is always reason to hope.

Jesus Christ came that we may have life and have it abundantly. Let us love and respect all life.

image: trabantos / Shutterstock, Inc.

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Fr. John R.P. Russell is a husband, a father of four, and a priest for the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Parma. He is the administrator of St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic Church in Allen Park, Michigan. He is also a lifelong painter, particularly influenced by abstract expressionism and iconography. He has an M.Div. from the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Ss. Cyril and Methodius and a B.A. in art with a minor in religion from Wabash College. He has been blogging since 2007: Blog of the Dormition

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