God looked at everything He had made, and found it very good. (Gen. 1:31)
Famous first words from The Book of Genesis. The Book of Wisdom says the same:
For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? (Wis. 11:24)
I remember learning in seminary that to say “very good” in Hebrew, you said, “good, good, good.” Beautiful! I often remind folks of that in Confession; that what God said about creation applies to them too. (You know … since they’re created!) I will say, “Imagine God saying that to you. You’re good, good, good!” How uplifting! But here’s the catch: God says this about all creation—every person and every thing—all that is, was or ever will be. OK, now we get uncomfortable! Because there are many people and circumstances we just can’t stand. We don’t like some things about ourselves, our families and certainly about our enemies. And, oh yes, we have enemies! But to God, they’re all good.
Here’s the achy, breaky heart of what it means to be pro-life. Being pro-life is being like God, in love with all, valuing each and every person. To be open to every part of what it means to live in this world. That is tough! But it brings peace. Perhaps this is something understood intrinsically by all the great spiritual traditions of this world. For example, in Tibetan Buddhism, one of the three great commitments of life is the samaya. In Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, the Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön describes the commitment as “a resolve to embrace the world just as it is, without bias.” “The path to unshakable well-being,” Chödrön says, “lies in being completely present and open to all sights, all sounds, all thoughts—never withdrawing, never hiding, never needing to jazz them up or tone them down.” Our nation and many others need to learn this about the unborn. There’s room for these people whose lives have been prematurely ended! But we have a lot of room for learning in this regard. To quote Cardinal Bernadin: “When we accept violence in any form as commonplace, our sensitivities become dulled. … Violence has many faces: oppression of the poor, deprivation of basic human rights, economic exploitation, sexual exploitation and pornography, neglect or abuse of the aged and the helpless, and innumerable other acts of inhumanity … In a society where the innocent unborn are killed wantonly, how can we expect people to feel righteous revulsion at the act or threat of killing non-combatants in war?”
So, is our pro-life stance actually consistent? Do we work daily to welcome into our own life the lives of others? Those we love, those we know, those we don’t know, those we trust, those we are revolted by and those we disagree with. Will they find a home in me or in you? Do we say with Jesus, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me.” (Jn 6:37)
I’d like to close with a poem by one of our Muslim brothers, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. He certainly did me a favor when he wrote this:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Father Matthew Marshall
Pastor of Saint Mary Parish in Coon Valley and Chaplain at Aquinas Middle School and Chaplain to the Hmong Community in the La Crosse area.
Published January/February 2020 Catholic Life